The politics of numbers

Crime statistics in China

Authored by: Phil He

The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Criminology

Print publication date:  July  2013
Online publication date:  July  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415500401
eBook ISBN: 9780203766774
Adobe ISBN: 9781135021467


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Crime statistics remain essential in the studies of criminology and criminal justice policy. The production, use, misuse, abuse, and usefulness of crime statistics have long been topics of critical discourse. Although rare, two previous studies have been published in the late 1990s that focused on making sense of Chinese official crime data (i.e., He and Marshall 1997; Yu and Zhang 1999). Unfortunately, the conclusions were so dire that the authors successfully prevented themselves from using Chinese official crime statistics over the past 15 years. More optimistically, the questionable Chinese official crime statistics are no longer the only data source for criminological studies. This chapter is an attempt to update earlier studies on Chinese crime statistics with newer developments from China. It offers a comprehensive critique in order to better explain the changing status of Chinese crime statistics and their uses for future criminological studies. Juxtaposed with historical reviews and recent scholarships from the Western nations, this study places a China-specific inquiry on the roles of statistics in general and crime statistics in particular in a broader context. We go beyond the limitations of Chinese official crime statistics to explore promising alternatives that are based on recent developments in investigator-initiated criminological research in China. We discuss how Chinese criminology can benefit from scientific research including collection and utilization of original crime and justice data.

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