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Knowing Chinese Courts through CIAJ

Sun, 15 Dec 2019
Categories: Insights
Contributors: Liu Qiang 刘强


Researchers at China Institute of Applied Jurisprudence (中国应用法学研究所, "CIAJ") are probably those who know Chinese courts best.

CIAJ is an institution in charge of applied jurisprudence research established by China's Supreme People's Court ("SPC") in 1991. [1]As a think tank directly affiliated to the SPC, CIAJ provides intellectual support for the SPC and courts at all levels nationwide.

CIAJ studies real cases handled by Chinese judges, and it provides the research results to the SPC and the judges throughout the country for reference. Therefore, in China, CIAJ researchers are probably the ones who know Chinese courts and litigation best.

The current director-general of CIAJ is Cao Shibing (曹士兵), who was previously the vice president of the National Judges College and was a judge of the SPC. CIAJ's former director-general Jiang Huiling (蒋慧岭) has talked about judicial reform of Chinese courts in many media, such as his article "China Grants Courts Greater Autonomy on Limited Matters" in New York Times. [2]Besides, Justice Luo Dongchuan (罗东川) (the SPC's current vice president) and Justice Hu Yunteng (胡云腾) (a former permanent member of the SPC’s judicial committee) had both served as director-general of CIAJ once.

We will briefly introduce the work of CIAJ.

I. Carrying out special research on “Similar Judgments for Similar Cases”(类案同判)

In the ongoing judicial reform of Chinese courts, Justice Zhou Qiang (周强) (the SPC's president) has been calling for the establishment of “Similar Judgments for Similar Cases” mechanism, and CIAJ is responsible for the implementation of the mechanism. That is, CIAJ will select typical cases with reference and index value from China Judgments database, and it will compile the "Chinese Courts' Similar Cases Index and Rules of Similar Judgments for Similar Cases" (中国法院类案索引与类判规则) based on the trial standards extracted from those cases. [3]

The rules will be made available to the judges across the country for reference.

II. Compiling “Case Selection of the Supreme People’s Court (Chinese and English version)” (最高人民法院案例选(中英文版))

From the judgments of the SPC, CIAJ screens out examples that have had a major impact on the process of rule of law in China, have made creative contributions to legislation, or have clarified the rules for application of new laws, translates them into English, and compiles the “Case Selection of the Supreme People’s Court (Chinese and English version)”. This book series publishes two volumes every year, reaching both domestic and overseas audiences.

This series is mainly intended for overseas readers and is designed to provide them with an understanding of China's judiciary and the SPC.

III. Compiling the "Case Selection of the People’s Court" (人民法院案例选, or "China Law Reports" as its official English translation )

Founded in 1991, CIAJ's "Case Selection of the People’s Court" has become the first comprehensive case study publication of Chinese courts, as well as the earliest and longest-running case study book series since China's reform and opening up. Therefore, it has a wide-ranging impact and has become a flagship product of CIAJ and even of the SPC.

In this series of books, CIAJ collects all the typical cases published by the SPC on various media and selects excellent examples from local courts. It also presents a collection of three to five classic cases of a certain judge in a series to showcase his/her image. [4]

It is worth noting that in recent years, CIAJ has held "Seminars on Excellent Cases in National Court System(全国法院系统优秀案例分析讨论会)” to discover more excellent cases and outstanding judges.

The "Case Selection of the People's Court" is published monthly, targeted at judges, but also available to lawyers, scholars and the public. Although the cases on these books are not legally binding, they are highly persuasive. Thus, many judges and lawyers often look up cases from this series of books for direction.

IV. Editing and publishing "China Journal of Applied Jurisprudence" (中国应用法学)

In 2017, CIAJ founded the bimonthly journal "China Journal of Applied Jurisprudence". The journal focuses on academic research to provide theories for the SPC's judicial reform and the SPC's judicial interpretations. [5]

The contributors of the journal include judges from the SPC and local courts, as well as academics. Under most circumstances, their views generally reflect the attitude of the SPC. Therefore, we can predict the views of the SPC on certain issues and what will happen in the future from its articles.

V. Compiling the "Judicial Decision Reference" (司法决策参考)

As a think tank of the SPC, CIAJ mainly provides advice to the SPC by compiling the “Judicial Decision Reference”, through which the SPC can plan things and make decisions more easily. The recently established “Mechanism to Resolve the Inconsistency in Application of Law(法律适用分歧解决机制)” was inspired by an article in the “Judicial Decision Reference”.

VI. Operating the Judicial Theory Institute of China Law Society(Judicial Theory Institute of China Law Society)  

This institute is one of the research institutions affiliated to China Law Society and its secretariat is established in CIAJ. CIAJ operates this institute to study issues in the fields of civil, criminal, intellectual property, judicial management and judicial reform. The institute is the most extensive research platform in China's court system and has now established 18 specialized committees in cooperation with various high people's courts.

VII. Operating postdoctoral research station

The CIAJ's postdoctoral research station has been independently recruiting postdoctoral fellows since 2016 and has dozens of postdoctoral researchers currently. These researchers provide intellectual support for the SPC to formulate judicial reform plans and make judicial interpretations.

VIII. Operating three research centers

CIAJ operates three research centers, including:

1.Gender and Law Research Center(性别与法律研究中心)

This center mainly focuses on gender-related cases and their litigation procedures, such as cases involving domestic violence, sexual assault, and gender discrimination. [6]

2.Internet Judicial Research Center(互联网司法研究中心)

This center mainly concentrates on how Internet-related cases are heard, how the courts use Internet technology and artificial intelligence, and other Internet-related frontier issues. [7]

3.Minor Protection Research Center(未成年人保护研究中心)

This center mainly conducts research related to the protection of minors, such as participating in the revision of the “Law on the Protection of Minors” (未成年人保护法), the formulation of the “Family Education Promotion Law” (家庭教育促进法), the “Child Welfare Regulations” (儿童福利条例) and the study of cases on minor protection. [8]


[1] 中国应用法学研究所简介,

[2] China Grants Courts Greater Autonomy on Limited Matters,

[3] “中国法院类案检索与类判规则”专项研究简介,

[4] 《人民法院案例选》简介,

[5] 《中国应用法学》期刊简介,

[6] 性别与法律研究中心简介,

[7] 互联网司法研究中心简介,

[8] 未成年人保护研究中心简介,

Contributors: Liu Qiang 刘强

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