Social Change and Capital Punishment in China: A Comparative Historical Approach

Terance D. Miethe, University of Nevada - Las Vegas
Hong Lu, University of Nevada - Las Vegas

The current study uses a comparative historical approach to examine capital punishment in China. Using various historical documents, secondary sources, and data collected on 500 capital cases and a 500 non-capital felonies in China, we explore the use of the death penalty as a mechanism of social control, as a tool for social change and the control of dissent, and the symbolic value of the ritualism surrounding the imposition of the death sentence. China's experience with the death penalty is compared with various Western countries (e.g., U.S., England, France). Multivariate statistical analyses are conducted to evaluate how offender and offense characteristics differentiate between capital and no-capital convictions in China over the last two decades. The results of this study are then discussed in terms of their implications for future research on social and legal change.

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Updated 05/20/2006