A Peak Inside the World’s Biggest Supreme Court

19 June 2018

The Supreme People's Court, or Chinese Supreme Court, is the world’s biggest supreme court. Although the exercise of judicial power in China is not an exact fit with western conceptions of the separation of powers, the Chinese Supreme Court has displayed “unique wisdom”, according to doctoral candidate Ding Qi. Qi will obtain her doctorate on 21 June 2018 in the Agnietenkapel.

In her thesis, Ding Qi attempts to shed light on the Supreme People's Court, or Chinese Supreme Court. She has researched how the Court wields its power both in theory and in practice in the current Chinese political and constitutional climate. Qi has also investigated how the experience of the Court contributes to an understanding of how a supreme court operates under an authoritarian regime.

Progress

Her most important finding: the ability of this supreme court to exert far-reaching influence on the development of the law is far greater than had generally been assumed. Western academia has for the most part failed to pick up on the meaningful progress the Court has made toward greater competence, accountability, and authority.

In her thesis, Qi describes this as 'unique wisdom' of the Supreme People's Court. This is referring to the fact that in addition to its adjudicative role as the court of last resort in China, the Court also engages in many activities outside the courtroom, dedicating itself to semi-judicial functions and non-adjudicative functions including promulgating judicial policies, leading the judicial reform, responding to political needs and public concerns, etc.

Superiority

The attitude of the justices themselves is largely responsible for this.  Justification of the legitimacy of the dictatorship is not at issue simply because the judiciary recognises the superiority of the authorities. It therefore frequently tends to investigate whether and under which circumstances openings for the development of the law present themselves. With a clear understanding of its inherent limitations in the exercise of power, the Court mostly tends to focuses on making solid progress in developing the law and strategically responding to political and social needs.

Doctorate

Ding Qi will obtain her doctorate on 21 June 2018 in the Agnietenkapel. Her supervisors are Leonard Besselink and Benjamin de Rooij. 

Published by  Amsterdam Law School