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Recursivity in Legal Change: Lawyers and Reforms of China's Criminal Procedure Law

  • Sida Liu and Terence C. Halliday

Abstract

This article employs a new framework for legal change, the recursivity of law, to explain why China's criminal procedure law has cycled through numerous reforms between 1979 and 2008 without improving the conditions of lawyers' criminal defense work. The authors argue that Chinese lawyers' difficulties in criminal defense have deep roots in the recursive nature of the criminal procedure reforms. In particular, those difficulties were produced by interactions of the four mechanisms of recursivity (indeterminacy of law, contradictions, diagnostic struggles, and actor mismatch) in both lawmaking and implementation. The empirical analysis shows that these mechanisms are linked in pairs and in sequence. This logic of change offers an integrated interdisciplinary approach to the enactment and implementation of law in other times, places, and areas of law.

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Law & Social Inquiry
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