Washington International Law Journal


Peter D. Nestor


Economic property crime in China has soared since the country enacted market reforms in the early 1980s. Robbery rates are rising faster than most economic property crimes, such as larceny and fraud, and violent crimes, such as rape, murder, and assault. China’s strategy for deterrence is to raise the “price” of the crime by increasing the severity of the penalty. Since 1979, China’s criminal law has permitted the use of the death penalty for robbers in nearly all cases, and courts have applied it regularly and in many different types of robbery cases. Since 1983, China has formally engaged in “strike-hard” campaigns, in which the government dedicates massive law enforcement resources to fight a particular crime. The campaigns have targeted robbery and have resulted in mass arrests, swift trials, and severe sentences—including mass executions. Despite these efforts, China has failed to deter individuals from committing more robberies. This Comment argues that China should reform its deterrence strategy by revising its criminal law and “strike-hard” campaigns. China should adopt new deterrence strategies that combine law with sociology, economics, and psychology. Not only will these strategies deter more robbery, they will also deter the more serious crimes often committed during robberies. The new strategies will also provide incentives for individuals to commit less violent crime.

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