Political Ideology, the Party, and Politicking: Justice System Reform in China
In November 2008, the Politburo issued a new justice system reform plan that it hailed as emblematic of China's new approach to harmonious society building. This reform plan is an exemplar of how politics works in the Hu Jintao era. It represents an attempt-using ideology, party leadership, and "politicking"-to change the way both social and organizational problems are handled. Looking at one facet of justice administration-criminal justice- reveals how these three political aspects intertwine to produce a path to reform that relies on a strong authoritarian hand. A new emphasis on balance, heralded as a key to the reform, provides a way of navigating the problem of how to achieve social stability in China within the broad state objective of building a harmonious society. The approach in the 2008 plan uses the discourse of harmonious society to attempt to maneuver out of some longstanding stalemates in both institutional management and the punitive culture of justice administration. This new reform path has less to do with creating the conditions for judicial independence and more to do with generating the conditions for greater uniformity in judicial practice across the nation.