Skip to content

John Zhuang Liu, Lars Klöhn & Holger Spamann, Precedent and Chinese Judges: An Experiment, 69 Am. J. Comp. L. 93 (2021).

Abstract: We experimentally study the decision-making process of judges in China, where judges are specifically prohibited to cite prior decisions as the basis for their judgments, and where, in past surveys, most judges explicitly stated that precedent played at most a marginal role in their decisions. In an experiment resembling real-world judicial decision making, we find, however, that precedent seems to have a significant influence on the decisions of the participating Chinese judges. Indeed, judges spend more time reading prior cases than statutes, and they typically read precedents before they access the statutes. On the other hand, judges rarely mention the precedent in their reasons. Our findings suggest that the Chinese judiciary operates much more similarly to its homologues in the U.S. and elsewhere than their written opinions and much folklore would suggest.