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Authoritarian policing with Chinese characteristics: A case study of motorcycle bans in the Pearl River Delta

Crime, Law and Social Change

Published online on


Despite unprecedented economic and social changes over the past three decades, China remains an authoritarian regime. However, the current authoritarian regime differs in many ways from that under Mao. Since the nature of a police force reflects the character of the political regime within which it operates, this paper explores current police practices in China. It argues that policing in China is neither completely authoritarian nor democratic, but best understood as soft-authoritarian. The case study examines policing of a motorcycle ban that was implemented to prevent motorcycle snatch theft in the Pearl River Delta. The police remained authoritarian and used many coercive strategies to push for the motorcycle ban. However, their hard-line strategies were matched by some soft-line persuasive tactics. I argue that changing state-society relations are leading to resistance to hard-authoritarian policing and contributing to soft-authoritarian policing in China.