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Criminal Justice in China: A History Hardcover – May 30, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0674033238 ISBN-10: 067403323X

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Editorial Reviews


In this ambitious work of prodigious research and thoughtful analysis, Mühlhahn takes readers beyond a simple account of legal and institutional development to offer a more nuanced interpretive framework. This is an important contribution that significantly advances our knowledge of twentieth-century Chinese criminal justice. (Jonathan K. Ocko, North Carolina State University and Duke Law School)

This book rewards readers with the first comprehensive description of twentieth-century Chinese legal punishment as discourse, norm, and experience. Mühlhahn offers images of human dignity even in the most dehumanizing circumstances. He argues that in China a civic legal tradition has taken root and survived despite the interventions of totalitarian regimes and revolutionary struggles. A must-read for anyone with a serious interest in human rights in China. (Wen-hsin Yeh, University of California, Berkeley)

In an outstanding study that stretches from imperial times up to the present, Mühlhahn takes punishment, not rights, to be at the core of the Chinese criminal justice system. In doing so, he changes the way we think about Chinese social control and deepens our understanding not just of the criminal justice system but of China more generally. This is an erudite work with a big argument. It is also exciting and novel, and I recommend it highly. (Michael Dutton, author of Policing Chinese Politics)

This is the most important work in a generation on criminal justice in China, past and present. Mühlhahn explores the theories, values, politics, and personal experiences that have defined crime and punishment in modern Chinese states. He puts forth compelling and chilling new research on communist "reform through labor" concentration camps--a vast system that within a decade of the founding of Mao's "New China" had enslaved tens of millions of Chinese. This is a book, then, not only on criminal justice, but also on criminals in power. (William C. Kirby, Harvard University)

Here is an example of the best kind of Sinological scholarship together with the blackest possible indictment of the Chinese criminal-justice system...Mühlhahn shows that China's criminal-justice system today has arisen from political violence, and the result is "suffering that for millions [has] encompassed pain, anguish, fear, loss, grief, and the destruction of a coherent and meaningful reality." (Jonathan Mirsky Far Eastern Economic Review 2009-07-03)

About the Author

Klaus Mühlhahn is Professor of History, Indiana University.

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