China’s Penal Change and Development

ANU China Seminar Series

China’s Penal Change and Development: An Examination of Neoliberal Penality Thesis in the Chinese Context
Enshen Li

16:00 – 17:30, Thursday, 23 March 2017
Seminar Room A, China in the World Building (188), Fellows Lane, ANU, Canberra

The neoliberal penality thesis links recent penal shifts toward punitiveness and managerialism to market liberalisation that has swept western societies since the 1980s. While this paradigm has been largely examined in the western context, less is known about how it may be applicable to the eastern context. This speech aims to explore the possible conceptual limitation of the neoliberal penality thesis for understanding modern penal practices in contemporary China (‘reform China’), where economic reform has also significantly altered the state’s social landscape over the last several decades. Through an examination of the penal evolution in reform China, it is argued that punishment in China over the last thirty years has not increased in its severity, as has occurred in many western states. Rather, the growing need to maintain a harmonious society has enabled China’s penal practices to be more lenient and managerial in orientation, analogous to the development of actuarial justice in western states.

Li Enshen is a lecturer at the TC Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland. Dr Li’s research focuses on comparative criminal justice, theoretical criminology, socio-legal studies of punishment and society. He specializes in the Chinese criminal justice and penal system and their implications for culture and society. Dr Li has published about twenty articles in leading law and criminology journals, including Columbia Journal of Asian Law, Criminology & Criminal Justice and British Journal of Criminology. He has also taught criminal law and criminology courses at La Trobe University and the University of Queensland since 2009.

The ANU China Seminar Series is supported by the China Institute, the Research School of Asia and the Pacific, and the Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National University.