Criminal Justice Reform in the Xi Jinping Era

In: China Law and Society Review
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  • 1 Melbourne Law School
  • 2 Australian National University
  • 3 Griffith University

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This paper reviews current criminal justice reforms that have been initiated in recent years under the governance platform Governing the Nation in Accordance with the Law [yifa zhiguo]. These initiatives are helping to reframe criminal justice processes to correspond with the broad governance intentions of President Xi Jinping: finessing center-local power relations, making the authorities in the justice system more accountable for their decision-making, and improving procedures that aim to bring about greater fairness and efficiency. We examine these ongoing reforms in two main areas: the handling of minor crimes and the punishment of serious offenses. We find that yifa zhiguo and the reforms made in its name continue to reflect a highly legalist and instrumentalist vision of law whose goal is to enhance Party-state governance to control dissent and crime more effectively through criminal law, to enhance politico-legal institutional credibility, and, ultimately, to sustain Party supremacy and social stability.

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