Judicialization in Authoritarian Regimes: The Expansion of Powers of the Chinese Supreme People's Court
International Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 17, 2019, 252-277
36 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2018 Last revised: 12 May 2019
Date Written: February 6, 2018
Over the past two decades courts in China have undergone tremendous changes as they developed into more professional and efficient institutions for solving legal disputes. Whereas the literature has described the empowerment of Chinese courts as ‘intrinsically local’, we turn to the national level and explore how the development of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) relates to the global phenomenon of a ‘judicialization of authoritarian politics’. Drawing on legal documents and secondary literature, the study argues that the SPC has extended its powers gradually and in a non-confrontational manner into the realms of other constitutional actors. The court has expanded its competences primarily through its legislative function and its substantial input into procedural law reforms. As the court serves core interests of the party, the empowerment appears rather instrumentalist and reversible. However, the SPC is in a position to promote its own agenda by indicating deference to core party goals and is in exchange granted certain leeway to pursue its institutional interests.
Keywords: Chinese constitutional law, Supreme People's Court, judicialization
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