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Since 2014, Chinese courts have placed tens of millions of court judgments online. We analyze the promise and pitfalls of using this new data source, highlighting takeaways for readers facing similar issues using other collections of legal texts. Drawing on 1,058,986 documents from Henan Province, we identify problems with missing data and call on scholars to treat variation in court disclosure rates as an urgent research question. We also outline strategies for learning from a corpus that is vast and incomplete. Using a topic model of administrative litigation in Henan, we complicate conventional wisdom that administrative lawsuits are an extension of contentious politics that give Chinese citizens an opportunity to challenge the state. Instead, we find a high prevalence of administrative cases that reflect an underlying dispute between two private parties, suggesting that administrative lawsuits are often an attempt to enlist help from the state in resolving an underlying civil dispute.


Courts | Law

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License


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