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55 Law & Soc'y Rev. 104 (2021)
Unfamiliarity and Procedural Justice: Litigants' Attitudes toward Civil Justice in Southern China

handle is hein.journals/lwsocrw55 and id is 104 raw text is: 104
Unfamiliarity and Procedural Justice: Litigants'
Attitudes Toward Civil Justice in Southern China
Xin He                                                      Jing Feng
While procedural justice has been regarded as a distinct and essential factor
shaping litigants' views on civil justice, few studies have focused on China, a
country with a unique legal tradition and frequent legal reforms. Drawing
on surveys and interviews with litigants in a basic-level court in Southern
China, this study examines attitudes toward the civil justice system. Echoing
several existing studies from China, our mixed methods analysis confirms
that their views are dominated by outcomes-litigants with favorable out-
comes are more likely to be satisfied, while those with unfavorable outcomes
are more likely to be dissatisfied. Their unfamiliarity with the operation of
the system constitutes a major reason for the dominance of substantive out-
comes in their evaluations of the system. Many cannot distinguish between
process and outcomes, nor do they feel control over the process. Moreover,
they are dissatisfied with the process because it fails to meet their often-
erroneous expectations. Our results do not necessarily challenge the impor-
tance of procedural justice, but they do suggest that China may be different.
Litigants' perceptions of justice and fairness are situated and shaped by
specific contexts.
W hy do people obey laws and accept court decisions?
Decades of studies have pointed to the importance of procedural
justice  (Easton    1965; Lind     and   Tyler   1988; Thibaut and
Walker 1975; Tyler 1984; 1990; Walker et al. 1972). Procedural
justice can promote satisfaction, belief in the legitimacy of author-
ity, and willingness to comply and cooperate with the law
(Creutzfeldt and Bradford 2016; Lind and Tyler 1988; Paternos-
ter et al. 1997; Sunshine and Tyler 2003; Tyler 1984, 1988; 1990).
Scholars generally believe that procedural justice can play the role
of a cushion of support, alleviating the negative emotions
elicited by unfavorable outcomes (Jonathan-Zamir et al. 2016;
Lind and Tyler 1988; Tyler 1984, 1990; Tyler et al. 1997; Tyler
and Allan Lind 1992). People view bad distributive outcomes
more positively if they result from a fair procedure they
The editor and anonymous reviewers of the review provided invaluable suggestions
for improvement. We also benefited from comments from Fen Lin, Kwai Hang Ng, and
Jianhua Zhu. Lastly, we are grateful for the court officials who helped arrange and the lit-
igants who kindly accepted our interviews.
Please direct all correspondence to Jing Feng, Department of Law, Southwestern
University of Political Science and Law, Chongqing, China; e-mail: jingfeng2@swupl.
Law & Society Review, Volume 55, Number 1 (2021): 104-138
© 2021 Law and Society Association. All rights reserved.

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