Political Science

Politics, law, and policing in reform era China

Document Type

Book Chapter


Throughout the reform era, policing in China has undergone significant institutional changes to undergird the emerging market economy and bring frontline forces in line through a process of legal institutionalization. Simultaneously, the political role of the police has continued to develop, most notably through the role of the police as frontline enforcers of China’s stability maintenance system. This chapter examines the relationship of policing to politics and law by using text analysis to parse the language of police reform documents made available to the public between 1993 and 2021. The study finds that the use of legal language spikes during times of political uncertainty such as leadership transitions or crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. During the same time periods, however, political language remains low or even drops. Conversely, the use of legal and political language rises in tandem during times of police reform, as police leaders marshal resources to convey information about upcoming changes to the institution.

Publication Title

Chinese Legality: Ideology, Law, and Institutions

Publication Date