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Criminal Justice Reform in the Xi Jinping Era

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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].1 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.

Affiliations: 1: Melbourne Law School, ; 2: Australian National University, ; 3: Griffith University,


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