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System of Justice and the Concept of Human Nature in the People's Republic of China

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 2 Issue: 1 Dated: (March 1985) Pages: 139-144
D H Bracey
Date Published
6 pages
Beijing's Reform-Through-Education Farm (China) is based on the belief that human nature is basically good but corruptible, that education is the best tool for both systemic and individual reform, and that people are malleable throughout their lives. This view of human nature underlies all of China's social control efforts.
The farm houses 2,750 inmates who are undergoing 'administrative punishment' for periods of up to 3 years; they have neither had a trial nor been sentenced by a judge. They spend their days doing agricultural work and their evenings studying Chinese history, politics, and party ideology. Evening study sessions provide offenders with a recognition of the nature and cause of their misdeeds and create a sincere desire not to repeat them. The residents have been urged to learn 'from the good performers' and to act as models of neatness, productiveness, helpfulness, or some other virtue. The belief that all people have at least the potential for good explains the wide variety of social control devices available to Chinese society. These range from informal and formal criticisms during neighborhood committee mediation to prison and reform-through-labor camps. However, the view that human nature is innately without defects and therefore has at least the potential for reform and perfectibility may dictate a less tolerant attitude toward shortcomings than a view that regards human corruption as inevitable. Seven references are included.