Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, University of California / Berkeley

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2015
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Sociology, University of California / Berkeley
The New Enemy: Penality and the Political in Post Mao China

My dissertation project examines the connection between the "rule of law" and state coercion by focusing on criminal justice in postsocialist China. After Mao's death, two phenomena have characterized criminal justice in China. First, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) overhauled the legal system, rationalizing the law, replacing personnel, and abandoning formalized class struggle. Second, the CCP launched a series of campaigns to "strike hard blows against crime." In these massive mobilizations of force, the Chinese penal apparatus has executed tens of thousands and imprisoned millions more. According to the dominant liberal view in political thought, legal rationalization and strike-hard campaigns stand in sharp contradiction to one another. In contrast, I argue that they are complementary, and both phenomena result from the CCP's post-1978 transition in the legitimation of its rule—from the dictatorship of the proletariat in the transition to communism, to a modern regime representing the "will of the people" as a whole (albeit through authoritarian institutions). Such a transition required that the CCP perform a rationalizing overhaul of the political and legal system as a project to negate the voluntarist class struggle of the Mao years. However, the transition also required the CCP to reconstruct "the enemy" facing the nation, from a class enemy under Mao to a legal enemy—the criminal—in the reform era. The strike-hard campaigns, then, emphasized the danger that the new enemy posed to society and established the CCP's ability to crush the new enemy. In addition, the campaigns educated the populace in the new legal basis of punishment as against the old political basis of punishment. To investigate these issues, my dissertation uses a mixed-method approach. Using comparative-historical methods, I analyze previously unexamined evidence in Chinese local chronicles and archives. I also carry out interviews of key players in the legal system of the 1980s and 1990s.