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.