Judicial documents as a robust basis for judicial decision-making by China’s courts

This article is to examine why and how judicial documents have been playing an auxiliary but crucial role in adjudication by China’s courts. This leads to proposing a grey theory of judicial documents that explains why the judicial document, which exists in a grey area without an explicit legal basis, is suitable for China’s legal regime, and how it is able to be referred to effectively by judges in adjudication. Moreover, it investigates the extent to which the judicial document enables the court, under the dual leadership of the next higher level court and the local Party committee, to respond to the higher-up political authorities swiftly and efficiently, and in particular how this resolves subnational diversity and political differences between localities. Finally, given the CCP’s effort to build up an instrumentalist legal system, the judicial document has been able to adapt well to China’s authoritarian regime and has demonstrated great political resilience.