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Internal Contradictions of Judicial Mediation in China

  • Kwai Hang Ng and Xin He


Judicial mediation in China represents an extreme case of integration between adjudication and mediation. Based on ethnographic work and extensive interviews, this article studies how judicial mediation actually works in China. It finds that the incorporation of mediation as part of the official trial process creates a set of internal contradictions. In addition to the role conflict inherent in a judge's acting also as a mediator, adjudication and mediation stages are organized by different principles. When the rather rigid format of adjudication is carried over to in‐trial mediation, it curtails the flexible, nonlegalistic approach that mediation is meant to promote. Challenged authority, an uncontrolled process, narrowed issues, and weakened norms all make a settled outcome difficult to achieve. In comparison with judicial mediation in other jurisdictions, this case study from China has important theoretical implications for understanding the limits of informal justice.


Corresponding author

Please address all correspondence to Kwai Hang Ng, Department of Sociology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093‐0533 (email: or Xin He, School of Law, City University of Hong Kong, Tat Chee Ave, Kowloon, Hong Kong (email:


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This research is funded by the Chiang Ching‐kuo Foundation Research Grant and the UC Pacific Rim Research Grant. Xin He also acknowledges the financial support from a GRF grant from the Hong Kong government. Special thanks go to the Chinese judges who helped arrange our fieldwork investigations and those who kindly agreed to be interviewed. We are also grateful for the comments of the anonymous reviewers of Law & Social Inquiry.



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Internal Contradictions of Judicial Mediation in China

  • Kwai Hang Ng and Xin He


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