The Judicial Cadre Evaluation System in China: From Quantification to Intra-state Legibility

Jonathan J. Kinkel, William Hurst

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Performance evaluation systems fundamentally shape the behaviour of Chinese judges, but scholarship on the concrete implementation of these institutions is scarce. Relying on nearly 15 months of fieldwork in six cities in China, we explain how the judicial cadre evaluation system, as unified by the 2011 "Guiding opinion of the Supreme People's Court," has been implemented. Over 30 indices quantitatively measure Chinese courts' "fairness" (gongzheng), "efficiency" (xiaolu) and "impact" (xiaoguo), incentivizing court leaders to pressure their subordinate judges to resolve disputes as quickly as possible without unduly angering litigants or other actors. Under the hyper-quantified conditions of cadre evaluation, systemic praising and shaming bring about what we call "intra-state legibility," which leads to a variety of informal worker reactions to these tactics. This study not only uses interviews and new documentary evidence to add necessary detail to our understanding of cadre evaluation systems, it also engages debates in comparative law and politics regarding bureaucratic influence on authoritarian judicial behaviour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)933-954
Number of pages22
JournalChina Quarterly
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • China
  • Judicial behaviour
  • cadre evaluation
  • institutional incentives
  • judicialization
  • legibility
  • quantification
  • rulebylaw

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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