Restoring Justice or Maintaining Control? Revolutionary Roots and Conservative Fruits in Chinese Police Mediation

Jeffrey T Martin, Lingxiao Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines the use of mediation as a police technique in China. Our focus is the “Fengqiao Model” (Fengqiao Jingyan) reforms presently being implemented through the new Social Governance Scheme. Based on 1 year of ethnographic participant-observation, we propose that the overarching practical goal of contemporary Fengqiao Model mediation conferences is to engineer a “good faith/sincere” (chengyi) reconciliation on the part of individual participants in a manner that consolidates the overall hegemony of the market order. To evaluate the substantive qualities of justice generated by this marketized mode of production, we focus on the way it uses techniques of psychic coercion to foreclose non-marketized avenues to political justice. This evidences an illiberal ideal of legitimate force which, we argue, renders these practices inconsistent with ideal–typical definitions of “restorative justice" predicated on a liberal ideal of mediation as a space of free expression. This is a technology of mediation designed to produce revolutionary rather than restorative justice. We further substantiate our argument by locating contemporary practices in the broader history of policing in the PRC, focusing on the enduring significance of “emotion work” as a canonically illiberal technology forged in the context of Mass Line administration. Where Mao-era Fengqiao Model policing utilized reintegrative shaming to deal with political contradictions among the people, Market era Fengqiao Model policing repairs grass root conflict through a mode of producing depoliticized “good faith/sincerity” within the terms of the cash nexus, repurposing revolutionary techniques to uphold a market order.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-153
Number of pages21
JournalAsian Journal of Criminology
Issue number2
Early online dateSep 22 2022
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • Mediation
  • Policing
  • Restorative justice
  • Revolutionary Justice
  • Fengqiao Model
  • Grassroots governance
  • Revolutionary justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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