Trial of Modernity: Judicial Reform in Early Twentieth-Century China, 1901-1937

Trial of Modernity: Judicial Reform in Early Twentieth-Century China, 1901-1937

Trial of Modernity: Judicial Reform in Early Twentieth-Century China, 1901-1937

Trial of Modernity: Judicial Reform in Early Twentieth-Century China, 1901-1937

Synopsis

This is the first book in English on the Chinese judicial system and its operations in the Republican era, filling a large gap in the scholarship on modern China, Chinese law, Chinese legal history, and comparative law. It offers a richly-textured analysis of how judicial reform initiatives were envisioned and pursued by the central government from 1901 through 1937, how the various initiatives were, or failed to be, implemented at the provincial and county levels, and how the reform impacted judicial practices and power relationships in local society. Xu sheds new light on the reach of the Chinese state and on the complex interactions between the judicial field and administrative field within the state system, and between them and local society. In that context, he illuminates what judicial modernity actually meant for the Chinese state and society and why irregularities, abuses, corruption, and informal practices continued in spite of the reform.

Excerpt

This book grew out of a study on the issue of judicial independence in Republican China, which in turn arose from a study on the Chinese legal profession in that era. in the course of researching those issues, I noticed that there were virtually no studies on the Chinese judicial system in the Republican era. Most published scholarly works on Chinese laws and judicial practices focused either on the imperial era (221 BCE–1911 CE) or on the People's Republic of China (PRC) (1949–present), leaving the Republican period (1912–1949) largely unexplored. That “state of the art” in China studies prompted me to take up the research that has resulted in this book.

Between then and now, a few studies have appeared that shed some light on the subject. Books by Kathryn Bernhardt and Philip Huang on civil justice in China compared laws and judicial practices in the imperial era and the Republican era. Huang's book briefly sketched the development of judicial institutions from the late Qing to the early Republican period, as did my article on judicial independence in Republican China. Frank Dikötter studied the development of Chinese prisons during 1895–1949. Generally speaking, however, the evolution of the Chinese judiciary and judicial practices or the unfolding of the Chinese judicial reform in the early twentieth century has yet to be fully documented and analyzed, which in my view belongs to what may be called “basic research” in China studies. This book aims to fill that gap in China scholarship with an overview of the judicial reform during 1901–1937 and a closer examination of its results in Jiangsu province . . .

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