‘No Malicious Incidents’ : The Concern for Stability in China’s Divorce Law Practice

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-489
Journal / PublicationSocial & Legal Studies
Issue number4
Online published11 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


Based on participant observation and in-depth interviews with judges, this article demonstrates the significant role of concern for social stability in China’s divorce law practice in highly contested and potentially explosive cases. This is evident in the current use of mediation procedures. Since the judge is held responsible for keeping the parties in check, the concern for social stability dominates proceedings. The legal criterion of ‘the breakdown of mutual affection’ is eclipsed by the political principle of ‘no malicious incidents’. This emphasis on maintaining stability, however, paradoxically reproduces social instability because it incentivizes violence in the domestic sphere. It also reinforces gender inequality. This study suggests the need to reflect upon the appropriate role of the judiciary in divorce proceedings and the tenuous boundary between law and politics in contemporary China.

Research Area(s)

  • China, divorce cases, social stability