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Empirical work consistently finds that Chinese courts resolve civil cases by finding a compromise solution. But beyond this split-it-down-the-middle tendency, when and how do Chinese courts arrive at decisions that feel “fair and just” in cases in which they invoke those ideas? Drawing on a data set of 9,485 tort cases, we find that Chinese courts impose liability on two types of parties with ethical, but not legal, obligation to victims: (1) participants in a shared activity and (2) those who control a physical space. In these cases, Chinese courts stretch the law to spread losses through communities and to acknowledge traumatic harm. Considering fairness, then, returns Chinese courts to their longstanding role as managers of communities who respond to misfortune by assigning legal responsibility to relationships that range from intimate to surprisingly tenuous.


Comparative and Foreign Law | Courts | Law | Torts

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