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Sida Liu Assistant Professor of Sociology and Law, University of Wisconsin-Madison
China’s contemporary legal reform is characterized by the coexistence of two ideologies, professionalism and populism, in legal discourses and law practice. The conflicts between the two ideologies are best characterized in the trial of Li Zhuang during the anti-crime campaign in Chongqing in 2009-2011. In this case, the fate of an individual criminal defense lawyer was linked with the broadest legal policies and the highest-level political struggles in the Chinese state. By a scholarly analysis of the Li Zhuang case, this study demonstrates that, although populism remains an intimidating force in China’s legal practice, professionalism has gained the support from a wider range of legal professionals, state officials, and the public through the media and professional mobilization.
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