Beyond Global Convergence: Conflicts of Legitimacy in a Chinese Lower Court – Sida Liu

From Law & Social Inquiry (link):

Abstract: This article examines the localization of global legal institutions by the case study of a lower court in China’s Hebei Province. Using data on the changes in the formal organizational structure, the composition of personnel, the case docket, and case dispositions in this court between 1978 and 2000, the author demonstrates that global legal institutions have survived in China’s judicial practice by adapting to indigenous social and political demands and becoming localized. The day-to-day judicial work of Chinese lower court judges is only loosely coupled with their formal roles, and the judicial decision-making process is contingent upon the historical origin of the judiciary, administrative influence, and the legal consciousness of local communities. The underlying reason for the localization process is the complexity of legitimacy at the local level. Global prescription, economic pressure, political influence, and local social order all require certain types of legitimacy from the legal institutions. As a result, beyond the symbolic functions of global convergence, the practical meanings of the legal institutions are socially constructed in the judicial practice to reconcile the conflicts between global and local sources of legitimacy.

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