Do "Haves" Come Out Ahead in Chinese Courts?

Project: Research

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Existing empirical research on Chinese courts has normally employed public surveys or fieldwork interviews as its method. We propose to develop a quantitative data set to study China’s court system, based on newly available court judgments. The project is an application of the well-established research program originated from Marc Galanter’s 1974 seminal paper “Why the ‘Haves’ Come out Ahead: Speculations on the Limits of Legal Change.” We will compile and then computerize 5,000 court judgments, covering litigation cases across time, issues, regions, social-economic status of the litigants, size of the organizational party and so on. This data set will make it possible to measure the winning probabilities of the opposing parties involved, and to estimate their values as predicted by a host of independent variables. Supplementary data will also be collected through fieldwork research involving interviews with judges and litigation parties, to fresh out and corroborate the insights from the quantitative data. We will test three sets of hypotheses that are in tune of the Chinese reality of the legal system and judicial reform. We will be able to identify significant predictors as to who is more likely to come out ahead in litigation in contemporary China. This study will thus uncover to what extent that the Chinese legal system is equal to all, what social variables may hinder or facilitate redistributive justice, and how to achieve it in a system under transition. This proposal is built on our preliminary data collections, which have indicated the feasibility of the project and shown great promise of findings.


Project number9041591
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/1131/03/14