The impact of culture on Chinese Judges’ decision-making in contractual damages cases

Zihan Niu*, Gijs van Dijck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This research examines the impact of Chinese cultural values on the application of law on contractual damages. Following an experimental design, 43 in-depth interviews were conducted with Chinese judges in 13 cities and provinces across China. The data reveal two patterns. First, the judges took the cultural values into account when determining the amount of damages. Second, the consideration of cultural value factors reduced the judges’ consideration of legal factors. The local cultural values did not change the Chinese judges’ understanding of law. Instead, the judges compromised the legal requirements and cultural desires by using the discretion offered to them or by recommending mediation. The consideration of cultural values is not only the result of judges’ personal preferences, but also of judges seeking social approval. The motivation of Chinese judges to obtain social approval may be enhanced by the assessment criteria and the institutional constraints of Chinese courts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAsian Journal of Law and Society
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • decision-making of judges
  • Chinese cultural values
  • Contract law
  • Damages
  • Interviews
  • Empirical legal research
  • Empirical Research

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