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We are witnessing a global turn towards populist and illiberal governance. Authoritarian leaders often embrace international legal norms symbolically and rhetorically while subverting them in practice through various means of local political control and interference. This course uses the case of China to explore the functions and behavior of legal systems in authoritarian political contexts because China overwhelmingly dominates scholarship on the topic. Despite a burgeoning scholarly literature chronicling the reconstruction, expansion, and proliferation of laws, courts, and lawyers in China since 1979, scholars disagree about the significance and implications of these developments. Does the Chinese legal system offer meaningful redress to people with grievances, or should it be understood as ornamental "window dressing"? Does it do more to limit or to strengthen the power of the government and its ruling party? Does it do more to help people challenge or to prevent people from challenging the state? In this interdisciplinary course we will not only explore and debate these questions, but will also (re)consider conventional scholarly notions about authoritarianism and popular political participation, single-party rule and judicial governance, democracy and political legitimacy, and legal professionals and their fights for legal and political freedoms. In the process we will scrutinize recent developments in China, including the so-called "turn from law," the rise of "stability maintenance," and a crackdown on lawyers. Our inquiry will be heavily empirical and evidence-based. When we attempt to reconcile, adjudicate, or explain scholarly disagreements, we will scrutinize available data on the issue at hand. Our approach will be not only empirical, but also comparative. Throughout the semester we will endeavor to situate China in comparative global perspective.