Contrary to the prevailing view in the literature that Chinese courts have been notoriously incompetent in enforcement, this article contends that the situation may not be so bad. Based on in-depth fieldwork investigations of 60 debt collection cases at a basic-level court in the less developed hinterland region of China, this study finds that the majority of plaintiffs recover most of their debts through the court. Local protectionism persists, but seems to be contained within legal rules. Nevertheless, the underdeveloped economy of the region has limited the effectiveness of several core judicial reform measures. Unlike the situation in more developed regions, the forces of economic development outside the court have not been significant enough to reshape the power structure inside the court. The overall situation suggests, however, that China's efforts in the field of legal reform, including the promulgation of substantive laws as well as strengthened institution-building have, in general, been conducive to the effective processing of routine debt collection cases.
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