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Order of Power in China’s Courts

Ling Li

This article presents a theory of the order of power to explain the dynamics and interaction between the political and legal orders in China’s courts. This theory posits that the political order is embodied in the extensive administrative ranking system (ARS) of the People’s Republic of China and has a systematic impact on the legal order regardless of the subject matter. The ARS is a system that regulates power relations between various institutional and personal actors in all key power fields, including courts. According to this theory, power, as stratified by the ARS, relativizes law during the processes of legal implementation, application, and enforcement. This theory provides a coherent explanation of judicial behavioural patterns in different subject matters, such as the centralization of criminal investigations in some crimes but not others, the distribution of corruption in China’s courts, and the outcome patterns of administrative litigation. Whilst the conventional wisdom sees that the political and the legal orders in China’s courts are partitioned based on the subject matter, this theory asserts the opposite: the impact of the political order is systemic, comprehensive, and applicable to the entire legal field. This article fills a knowledge gap in Chinese law and politics, where the ARS has received little attention except for recent studies on administrative litigation. The article also identifies two overlooked but distinctive features of the ARS—its multidimensionality and interconnectivity—our understanding of which is disproportionately poor in relation to their significance.

Institut für Ostasienwissenschaften
Asian Journal of Law and Society
Anzahl der Seiten
ÖFOS 2012
505016 Rechtstheorie, 505026 Verfassungsrecht, 505017 Rechtsvergleichung, 505012 Öffentliches Recht
ASJC Scopus Sachgebiete
Law, Sociology and Political Science
Sustainable Development Goals
SDG 16 – Frieden, Gerechtigkeit und starke Institutionen
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