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The Next FrontierNational Development, Political Change, and the Death Penalty in Asia$
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David T. Johnson and Franklin E. Zimring

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195337402

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195337402.001.0001

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The Political Origins of China's Death Penalty Exceptionalism

The Political Origins of China's Death Penalty Exceptionalism

(p.225) 7 The Political Origins of China's Death Penalty Exceptionalism
The Next Frontier

David T. Johnson (Contributor Webpage)

Franklin E. Zimring (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins by providing a context for Chinese capital punishment through descriptions of the scale of criminal justice in the PRC and of the political organization of its criminal justice system. The second section estimates execution incidence in the post-Mao reform period, 1976 to the present. The third section contrasts two explanations for the high rates of execution in recent years: Chinese history as an influence on contemporary penal culture, and the political legacy of the past half century. The chapter argues that the proximate causes of China's death penalty exceptionalism are more rooted in the nation's recent history—and in the PRC's founding fathers, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Deng Xiaoping. The fourth section of this case study analyzes the 2007 reinstitution of death sentence review by the Supreme People's Court. The fifth section describes the likely impact of the 2007 reform, the administrative character and costs of the PRC's death penalty system, and the types of reform proposals that may emerge from China's renewed experience with Supreme People's Court review. The sixth and final section of this chapter focuses on the long-term future of capital punishment in China.

Keywords:   death penalty, China, executions, founding fathers, reforms, Supreme People's Court

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