chapter  4
31 Pages

Judicial professionalism in China: From discourse to reality


In July 2002 the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) issued its Several Opinions on Strengthening the Professionalization of the Judicial Corps (Opinions), formally ushering in a judicial professionalization drive to achieve fair and efficient administration of justice (Supreme People’s Court 2002b). Scholars, judges, and government officials have expressed high expectations as well as serious doubts about the possibility of a happy marriage between judicial professionalism and Chinese reality (L. Wang 2004; Y. Wang 2004; Yan 2004; Xu 2004; Lu 2008).1 What could judicial professionalism possibly mean for a judicial system still largely controlled by political forces, structurally resembles an administrative hierarchy, and is financially dependent on local governments (Liu 2003: 206-65)? What could it possibly mean to the elevation of professional competence of a judicial corps, most of whose members do not have much legal education due to various reasons, historical or otherwise?2 What kind of judicial professionalism do Chinese officials and scholars have in mind in the present judicial professionalization drive?3 Is the Chinese version of judicial professionalism a mere replica of the liberal model embraced by American judges or an alternative to it? These and other important issues deserve a careful analysis, however preliminary it may be.