Saturday, September 18, 2021

Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law

Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law. New Substance in the Conflict of Systems with China. Moritz Rudolf. Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik Comment #2021/C 28, Apr 22 2021, 8 Seiten.

Abstract: In its first “Plan on Building the Rule of Law in China (2020–2025)”, the leadership in Beijing has set out its vision for a coherent and genuinely Chinese legal system. The focus here is on the term “socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics”. It should “basically take shape” by 2035. Marxist-Leninist legal concepts remain fundamental. The aim is to use the law as a political instrument to make the state more efficient and to reduce the arbitrariness of how the law is applied for the majority of the popu­lation, among other things, with the help of advanced technology. In some areas, for example on procedural issues, Beijing continues to draw inspiration from the West in establishing its Chinese “rule of law”. However, the party-state leadership rejects an independent judiciary and the principle of separation of powers as “erroneous west­ern thought”. Beijing is explicitly interested in propagating China’s conception of law and legal practice internationally, establishing new legal standards and enforcing its interests through the law. Berlin and Brussels should, therefore, pay special attention to the Chinese leadership’s concept of the law. In-depth knowledge on this topic will be imperative in order to grasp the strategic implications of China’s legal policy, to better understand the logic of their actions and respond appropriately.


At the 4th plenary session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC), the term “Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law” appeared six times in the annual work report by Li Zhanshu, Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee. The Chinese leadership had been promoting the term “socialist law with Chinese characteristics” for several months. That the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has now adopted its own five-year plan to establish the rule of law in China illustrates the new quality of these efforts and how strategically embedded they have now become. The Xi administration has understood that law is an important lever in achieving greater international influence. This plan represents the most concrete expression of Xi Jinping’s vision of how the law should be interpreted and applied in China and in the international context.

Defining the Terms

The terms “socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics” and “Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law” are key to understanding China’s current judicial reforms. But they require explanation.

The Chinese leadership always adds “with Chinese characteristics” to point out the special connection between the political fields and China’s circumstances, such as in the formulation, “Human rights with Chi­nese characteristics”. According to Article 1 of the Chinese Constitution, “the defining feature of socialism with Chinese charac­teristics is the leadership of the CPC”. The term “socialist law with Chinese characteristics” ties in with this. The CPC’s leadership is propagated as the most fundamental guar­antee of the rule of law in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). According to Marxist legal tradition, Beijing sees law pri­marily as an instrument of the CPC. After the communist revolution, the law was sub­jected to “the People”, and only the CPC has the legitimacy to interpret their will. Con­sequently, it is not appropriate to translate the Chinese term “Fǎzhì” (法治), which was officially introduced in 1997 by the then President Jiang Zemin, as rule of law in Western discourse. The CPC does not accept the intrinsic value of the law. The translation “rule by law” is more appropriate. The suffix “with Chinese characteristics” under­lines Beijing’s intention to create its own Chinese legal system that also draws on traditional Chinese legal concepts. To what extent this goes beyond mere rhetoric is disputed. Nevertheless, the CPC’s behaviour derives on the one hand from China’s legal­istic tradition, which demands the strict application of rules by a strong centralised state. On the other hand, it is not only rule by law that should apply. The population and party cadres are also expected to cul­tivate moral and virtuous behaviour which resembles the teachings of Confucius. Xi Jinping regularly invokes key aspects of Con­fucianism when they serve the interests of the CPC.

A much more concrete aspect of the Chinese rule of law is the inclusion of advanced technology. For one thing, it is comprehensively regulated by laws. While in Europe digitalisation is discussed pri­marily in terms of its general effects on personal rights, in China it is mostly about regulating the private sector and Internet companies, in particular. For the CPC, the issue of fundamental rights, such as the right to informational self-determination, is irrelevant. In addition, the party relies on advanced technology in the search for justice, for example in digitalised court pro­ceedings and via Internet Courts.

“Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law” is another term that the CPC is promoting in China’s discourse on the rule of law. There are a number of these abstract “Xi-deologies” such as “Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy”. The most important of these is “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chi­nese Characteristics for a New Era”, which was added to the Preamble of the PRC’s Con­stitution in 2018. This doctrine includes 14 agenda items which outline the political direction of the Xi administration. In the five-year plan, “Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law” is summarised as follows: Strengthening the CPC’s centralised and unified leadership, “scientific legislation”, strict law enforcement, fair trials, a law-abiding population.

Xi Jinping’s Judicial Reforms – More Power for the Party, Less Everyday Arbitrariness

The plan to establish the rule of law in China is the latest chapter in a series of judicial reforms launched by President Xi in 2012. Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao created incentives for corruption within the PRC with his doctrine of the “harmonious soci­ety”. In order to maintain social harmony, legal disputes were widely resolved through face-saving mediation. This risked encour­aging the rise of informal justice. Bribery-prone party cadres in the “Political and Legal Affairs Commissions” played a key role as mediators in legal findings. As a result, cor­ruption became rampant as many tried to influence the mediation mecha­nism.

Xi’s policy was initially shaped by meas­ures to consolidate his power, which were focussed on a massive anti-corruption cam­paign. Judicial reform promoted mecha­nisms to strengthen the local judiciary over local party cadres, for example through the establishment of Circuit Courts of the Supreme People's Court and measures to professionalise judges.

In 2014, the 18th Central Committee of the CPC formulated its vision of building a “socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics” and “law-based governance”. This made it clear that the aims of the judicial reform were to strengthen the CPC over the state and to professionalise the running of the state. In 2018, the constitution was amended significantly. Accordingly, the re­vised Article 1 constitutionalised party lead­ership in China for the first time since the short-lived constitutions of 1975 and 1978.

There has also been a clear trend since President Xi came to power: the state is becoming more efficient, especially when it comes to applying the law, and everyday arbitrariness is decreasing, especially at the local level. But this has nothing to do with establishing the rule of law as it is under­stood in Western countries because the party remains above the state and controls itself. The party decides what is part of the state legal system and what is “sensitive”. Sensitive matters are defined by the CPC and assessed outside the law and are there­fore not under the control of the state judiciary.

Since Xi took office, the CPC’s influence over the state has increased. The area of application of rules that previously only ap­plied within the party is increasingly being expanded to include matters that were for­merly assigned to the state. This applies in part to environmental protection, for exam­ple, or matters of national security. The share of documents that the State Council and the CPC adopt jointly has also increas­ed, such as a number relating to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). These documents are generally treated as party rules, but are in­creasingly cited as a legal basis in the legis­lative process. The CPC is also increasingly exerting its influence on the application of the law. In the National Security Law of 2015, for example, the CPC’s National Security Commission was granted state authority – the first time since the Cul­tural Revolution that a party organisation has been allowed to do so. Numerous state and party organisations were merged during structural reforms in 2018. In sen­sitive areas (related to security policy), it was the party that benefited most from these reforms, at the expense of the state.

In the past few years, however, there have been considerable efficiency gains in resolving non-sensitive legal disputes – those faced by the majority of the Chinese population. They have primarily been achieved with faster and more clearly defined processes in civil and criminal pro­ceedings. For most Chinese people, this means less arbitrariness.

Furthermore, the Chinese leadership is not interested in adopting the West’s core requirements for the rule of law. Instead, judicial reform is more about pragmatically adopting from the West what can be em­bedded in the Chinese context of one-party rule. This applies above all to civil law, questions of jurisdiction and improving pro­cesses. In the past, the President of the Supreme People’s Court pointed out that Western “aberrations”, such as the sepa­ration of powers and an independent judi­ciary, were out of the question in the PRC.

China’s First Five-Year Plan on Establishing the Rule of Law (2020–2025)

The internal dimension

On 10 January 2021, the CPC Central Com­mittee adopted China’s first five-year plan on establishing the rule of law. This was preceded by a speech in November 2020 by President Xi during the first “central con­ference on work related to overall law-based governance”. In that speech he called for a coordinated approach to promoting “socialist law with Chinese characteristics”.

This plan underlines the Chinese leadership’s understanding of the law as a politi­cal instrument. The document states that rule through law is to help the state gain strength and prosperity. It states that the promotion of rule through law is necessary in order to ensure the resurgence of the PRC in the long term and to realise the so‑called “Chinese Dream” of once again becoming a world power. To this end, the document contains the following guiding principles:

. maintaining the centralised and unified leadership of the CPC as the most fundamental guarantee of the rule of law in China,

. prioritising the interests of the people in establishing the rule of law,

. promoting law as an integral part of the CPC, the Chinese state and Chinese society; adhering to a combination of rule of law and rule of virtue,

. taking account of national circumstances in establishing the rule of law.

The Chinese leadership also defined general goals in the plan. By 2025, it aims to:

. further develop the institutional frame­work for the rule of law in China,

. establish a more complete socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics (in which the constitution plays a central role), a more solid governance system with clear administrative responsibilities defined by law and a more efficient judi­cial system,

. make progress on the formation of a “rule of law society” and

. improve the application of internal party regulations.

By 2035, it aims to:

. have basically completed a state, a government and a society under the rule of law,

. have basically formed a socialist rule of law system with Chinese characteristics,

. fully guarantee the people’s right to equal participation and equal development and

. modernise the national governance system and governance capabilities.

The five-year plan sets out how the actions of the state and the CPC are to be formalised in order to reduce arbitrariness in the PRC and secure the rule of the CPC. It is the first publicly available official docu­ment laying down the principles, contents and procedures of a constitutional review by the NPC Standing Committee. This, how­ever, has nothing to do with the separation of powers, as the NPC formally controls itself. Nevertheless, the constitution as it stands has become increasingly important for state action.

In addition, all people’s congresses are to be given more power in the legislative pro­cess, for instance increasing the frequency with which their standing committees meet and by requiring them to consider legis­la­tion at every plenary session. More laws are to be passed and fewer administrative regula­tions enacted. This is important because people’s congresses usually play a subordinate role in the Chinese legislative process.

There is to be more legislation, especially on information technology, for example by regulating the digital economy, Internet finance, artificial intelligence, big data, the “social credit system” and cloud computing. [...]

Beijing also aims to use the plan to har­mo­nise laws at the central and local levels. It will lay down clear competences for state action. It is also the first public document calling for the enactment of a unified Chi­nese Administrative Procedure Law. The law enforcement system is also to be made more efficient, mainly by clearly defining the different competencies among the law enforcement authorities. Also on the agenda is the improvement of criminal procedural law, for example with regard to the admis­sion of evidence. There are to be standard­ised, legally codified control mechanisms and rules of jurisdiction for state actors (administrative and judicial bodies, super­visory and law enforcement authorities, courts, public prosecutor’s office) at various levels (provinces, cities, counties and town­ships). The document also promises to strengthen the rights of the parties to the proceedings, for instance through a system for recording accountability of interroga­tion cases by judicial personnel.

It also calls for the judiciary to be pro­fessionalised. A new generation of “revo­lutionary regularised, specialised, and professional” legal teams is to be formed, who are not only loyal to the party, the state, the people and the law, but also act virtuously. Supporting the CPC is a pre­requisite for working in the judiciary.

The entire Chinese population is to be taught the meaning of “socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics” and of “Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law”. With­in the CPC, these issues are to play a key role in the party schools. But they are also to become an integral part of the curricula at schools and universities.

[...] China’s rulers are aiming for national laws and internal party regulations to be complementary, mutually reinforcing and mutually guar­anteed.

International dimension

One chapter of the plan is devoted to the outside world. It concerns the “preservation of national sovereignty, security and devel­op­mental interests” through the law. It con­tains explanations of the principle of “one country, two systems”. A “high degree of autonomy” is to be guaranteed to Hong Kong and Macau. Interventions by “foreign forces” should be opposed and prevented. Communications and legal exchanges in jurisprudence and legal circles are to be supported with Taiwan. With the help of the law, steps are to be taken towards peace­ful reunification and against aspi­rations of independence. This is fuelling speculation about a Taiwan-specific “anti-secession law”. Beijing also wants more co­operation on law enforcement and bilateral legal assis­tance between the mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. This chap­ter also sets out the goal of strengthening the regu­latory framework of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in order to cement the absolute rule of the CPC over the PLA.

Section 25 of the plan reveals the international dimensions of China’s endeavours, which are:

. expanding Chinese international law expertise,

. the conception of an international law theory on “socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics”,

. active participation in the formulationof international rules in order to establish a “fair” and “reasonable” inter­nation­al legal system,

. promoting the Chinese concept of the "rule of law" internationally,

. establishing a mechanism to identify laws from other states with extraterri­torial effect,

. more protection for the rights of Chinese nationals and legal entities abroad,

. promoting international legal coopera­tion within the framework of the BRI, for example by creating international com­mercial courts,

. establishing new mechanisms for inter­national arbitration,

. cooperation between arbitration tribu­nals from China and from BRI countries,

. strengthening bilateral and multilateral dialogue on the rule of law and exchange programmes, especially within the frame­work of the BRI,

. promoting China’s institutional judicial assistance system and mechanism and expanding international cooperation of judicial assistance in the field of extra­dition and repatriation of criminal sus­pects and transfer of sentenced persons,

. international law enforcement cooperat­ing in the fight against violent terrorism, ethnic separatism, religious extremism, drug trafficking and transnational crime,

. strengthening international cooperation in the fight against corruption and in the detection and return of stolen goods.

The final chapter points to the central role of the CPC in establishing a “rule of law with Chinese characteristics”. Party lead­ership is to be further anchored in law, and a theory about the rule of law with Chinese characteristics to be developed. This is to contain aspects of the “excellent traditional Chinese legal culture” without further details being specified. All depart­ments of the CPC in all provinces are in­structed to fully implement the spirit and requirements of the plan and create imple­mentation plans that take into account local circumstances.


The document summarises Beijing’s stra­tegic efforts to establish its own Chinese version of the “rule of law” as a coherent future-proof model. Primarily, it is about making the state more efficient and shoring up the absolute dominance of the CPC. These aspirations could outlast Xi Jinping’s presidency and become a legacy of his policies. One example would be establish­ing a formalised mechanism for deter­mining leadership succession.

Where it serves one-party rule, the docu­ment draws on Western aspects of the rule of law, especially when it comes to regu­lating civil law matters, jurisdiction and procedural matters. Nevertheless, the five-year plan bears no resemblance to the Western understanding of the rule of law. Its objective is for the law to better control state actions, but without limiting the power of the party in any way. Instead, the law is to become a more efficient instrument of rule for the party.

China could create a mechanism that reduces arbitrariness for the majority of its population and creates a degree of legal certainty with the aid of advanced technol­ogy to determine, apply and enforce the law. Millions of Chinese are already using apps (e.g. WeChat or the China Mobile Micro Court) to file lawsuits or submit motions for evidence, without corrupt party cadres at the local level being able to exert influence. Beijing is promoting the use of digital technology as an alternative to the separation of powers, since they are alleg­edly objective and not corruptible. The CPC’s view is that, in an authoritarian con­text, digital tools can produce the same effect as a functioning separation of pow­ers, without questioning one-party rule. The political will to further develop the use of advanced technology in law should not be underestimated. Despite there still being significant obstacles to implementation, some approaches to an objective, albeit dys­topian “Chinese” way of determining the law already exist. These include the social credit system. [...]

Viewed objectively, the Chinese approach to integrating digital technology into the judicial process is also avant-garde. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Chinese courts went online overnight. [...]

One can assume that Chinese negotiators, diplomats and entrepreneurs will soon be making arguments that include the phrase “Chinese rule of law”. In future, Bei­jing’s use of the law as an instrument to en­force political interests will become increas­ingly efficient as lawyers become better trained in its use.

For political decision-makers in Germany and Europe, it is first important to take seriously the fact that the Chinese leadership is developing its own, fundamentally different “rule-of-law” concept and pro­moting it internationally. More translation and contextualisation of the terms being used by Beijing is essential. Without a his­torical and political classification of the phrases translated strategically into English by the CPC, such as “rule of law”, it is im­possible to adequately understand Chinese behaviour and respond to it appropriately. It might result in false expectations and political costs, such as misinterpretations of mutual obligations.

In addition to expertise and legal knowl­edge about China, specific knowledge of socialist legal concepts is also helpful. Fur­thermore, it is necessary to tap into the knowledge of Chinese legal concepts that exists in universities and bring it into the mainstream. This knowledge should be included in discussions about functional political decisions and in intergovernmen­tal negotiations with China in a bilateral and multilateral framework.

Political decision-makers in Germany and Europe should prepare specifically for Chinese argumentation patterns and scenarios. The following aspects are par­ticularly affected:

The rights of foreigners and foreign companies in China: there is a legal grey area in to which it is increasingly easy to fall as a foreigner, especially because China attaches great importance to national secu­rity. As a result, legal certainty in China is suffering, as evidenced by the recent sanc­tions against EU citizens and institutions. Anyone “associated” with sanctioned insti­tutions or persons is prohibited from “doing business” in China. The terms “associated” and “doing business” are not explained in detail. The wording of the sanctions against British persons and organisations, for ex­ample, is much clearer. At the same time, how­ever, there is more legal certainty for for­eigners and foreign companies in “non-sensitive” areas.

International treaties: it is essential to set effective incentives and to introduce effective control mechanisms in inter­national agreements with China, due to the Chinese leadership’s understanding of the law as a tool. Otherwise, a contractual agreement such as the comprehensive agree­ment on investment between the EU and China (CAI) from December 2020 is worth little more than the paper it’s written on. In such cases, the actual negotiations only start after the contract has been signed.

Chinese core interests: the core interests of the PRC include Beijing’s interpre­tation of the “one country, two systems” principle regarding Taiwan or Hong Kong, the Chinese leadership’s view of its terri­torial integrity, for example with regard to the South China Sea and the border con­flicts with India and Japan, as well as inter­nal affairs and especially human rights issues regarding Tibet or Xinjiang. China will be better prepared to defend these inter­ests based on its own understanding of the law. Europe can expect to encounter more headwinds here. Beijing is also forg­ing strategic alliances and using United Nations organisations as a mouthpiece, such as the UN Human Rights Council.

Extra-territorial dimension: international law enforcement cooperation is the area Beijing is pushing hardest when it comes to international legal partnerships. This could have serious consequences for Europeans in countries that have concluded mutual legal assistance or law enforcement agreements with Beijing. They may even be extradited to China.

International discourse power regard­ing the concept of the rule of law: Beijing will increasingly promote its own definition of the rule of law internationally. For the CPC leadership, it is a matter of questioning established definitions and then countering them with Chinese terms. The Chinese side argues that the existing international legal system reflects the balance of power from the period immediately after the Second World War. Beijing is calling for a general over­haul of the world order because the inter­national power structure has changed fundamentally.


Moritz Rudolf is an Associate in the Asia Research Division at SWP.

© Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, 2021

From 2017... Endocrine Treatment of Gender-Dysphoric/Gender-Incongruent Persons: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline

From 2017... Wylie C Hembree, Peggy T Cohen-Kettenis, Louis Gooren, Sabine E Hannema, Walter J Meyer, M Hassan Murad, Stephen M Rosenthal, Joshua D Safer, Vin Tangpricha, Guy G T’Sjoen, Endocrine Treatment of Gender-Dysphoric/Gender-Incongruent Persons: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 102, Issue 11, 1 November 2017, Pages 3869–3903,


Objective: To update the “Endocrine Treatment of Transsexual Persons: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline,” published by the Endocrine Society in 2009.

Participants: The participants include an Endocrine Society–appointed task force of nine experts, a methodologist, and a medical writer.

Evidence: This evidence-based guideline was developed using the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation approach to describe the strength of recommendations and the quality of evidence. The task force commissioned two systematic reviews and used the best available evidence from other published systematic reviews and individual studies.

Consensus Process: Group meetings, conference calls, and e-mail communications enabled consensus. Endocrine Society committees, members and cosponsoring organizations reviewed and commented on preliminary drafts of the guidelines.

Conclusion: Gender affirmation is multidisciplinary treatment in which endocrinologists play an important role. Gender-dysphoric/gender-incongruent persons seek and/or are referred to endocrinologists to develop the physical characteristics of the affirmed gender. They require a safe and effective hormone regimen that will (1) suppress endogenous sex hormone secretion determined by the person’s genetic/gonadal sex and (2) maintain sex hormone levels within the normal range for the person’s affirmed gender. Hormone treatment is not recommended for prepubertal gender-dysphoric/gender-incongruent persons. Those clinicians who recommend gender-affirming endocrine treatments—appropriately trained diagnosing clinicians (required), a mental health provider for adolescents (required) and mental health professional for adults (recommended)—should be knowledgeable about the diagnostic criteria and criteria for gender-affirming treatment, have sufficient training and experience in assessing psychopathology, and be willing to participate in the ongoing care throughout the endocrine transition. We recommend treating gender-dysphoric/gender-incongruent adolescents who have entered puberty at Tanner Stage G2/B2 by suppression with gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists. Clinicians may add gender-affirming hormones after a multidisciplinary team has confirmed the persistence of gender dysphoria/gender incongruence and sufficient mental capacity to give informed consent to this partially irreversible treatment. Most adolescents have this capacity by age 16 years old. We recognize that there may be compelling reasons to initiate sex hormone treatment prior to age 16 years, although there is minimal published experience treating prior to 13.5 to 14 years of age. For the care of peripubertal youths and older adolescents, we recommend that an expert multidisciplinary team comprised of medical professionals and mental health professionals manage this treatment. The treating physician must confirm the criteria for treatment used by the referring mental health practitioner and collaborate with them in decisions about gender-affirming surgery in older adolescents. For adult gender-dysphoric/gender-incongruent persons, the treating clinicians (collectively) should have expertise in transgender-specific diagnostic criteria, mental health, primary care, hormone treatment, and surgery, as needed by the patient. We suggest maintaining physiologic levels of gender-appropriate hormones and monitoring for known risks and complications. When high doses of sex steroids are required to suppress endogenous sex steroids and/or in advanced age, clinicians may consider surgically removing natal gonads along with reducing sex steroid treatment. Clinicians should monitor both transgender males (female to male) and transgender females (male to female) for reproductive organ cancer risk when surgical removal is incomplete. Additionally, clinicians should persistently monitor adverse effects of sex steroids. For gender-affirming surgeries in adults, the treating physician must collaborate with and confirm the criteria for treatment used by the referring physician. Clinicians should avoid harming individuals (via hormone treatment) who have conditions other than gender dysphoria/gender incongruence and who may not benefit from the physical changes associated with this treatment.

Born this Way–or Not? Relative to lesbian and gay individuals, bisexuals viewed sexual orientation as less natural, in turn reporting lower levels of belonging and identification to the LGBT group

Born this Way–or Not? The Relationship Between Essentialism and Sexual Minorities’ LGBTQ+ Identification and Belonging. Thekla Morgenroth, Teri A. Kirby, Isabel A. Gee & Thomas A. Ovett. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Sep 13 2021.

Abstract: Bisexual people experience lower levels of belonging in the LGBTQ+ community than gay and lesbian people. We investigated one of the factors that may reduce bisexual individuals’ feelings of belonging in and identification with the LGBTQ+ community: Sexual orientation essentialism. Across two online studies with participants recruited through Prolific, we tested whether bisexual people endorsed sexual orientation essentialism less than lesbian and gay individuals and, in turn, feel lower levels of identification and belonging with the LGBTQ+ community. Essentialism separated into three dimensions in Study 1 (N = 375): Entitativity, naturalness, and discreteness. Relative to lesbian and gay individuals, bisexual individuals viewed sexual orientation as less natural, in turn reporting lower levels of belonging and identification. They also viewed sexual orientation groups as less discrete, which instead translated to higher levels of belonging and identification. Sexual orientation groups did not differ in their endorsement of entitativity beliefs. In Study 2 (N = 390), we focused on naturalness and replicated findings from Study 1. In addition, lower naturalness beliefs were associated with the belief that one’s own views were different from those held by the LGBTQ+ community, which also contributed to lower levels of belonging and identification. Together, these studies contribute to understanding the role of essentialism in intragroup processes and paint a nuanced picture of essentialism in different sexual minority groups.

Genome-Wide Linkage and Association Study of Childhood Gender Nonconformity in Males

Genome-Wide Linkage and Association Study of Childhood Gender Nonconformity in Males. Alan R. Sanders, Gary W. Beecham, Shengru Guo, Khytam Dawood, Gerulf Rieger, Ritesha S. Krishnappa, Alana B. Kolundzija, J. Michael Bailey & Eden R. Martin. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Sep 13 2021.

Abstract: Male sexual orientation is influenced by environmental and complex genetic factors. Childhood gender nonconformity (CGN) is one of the strongest correlates of homosexuality with substantial familiality. We studied brothers in families with two or more homosexual brothers (409 concordant sibling pairs in 384 families, as well as their heterosexual brothers), who self-recalled their CGN. To map loci for CGN, we conducted a genome-wide linkage scan (GWLS) using SNP genotypes. The strongest linkage peaks, each with significant or suggestive two-point LOD scores and multipoint LOD score support, were on chromosomes 5q31 (maximum two-point LOD = 4.45), 6q12 (maximum two-point LOD = 3.64), 7q33 (maximum two-point LOD = 3.09), and 8q24 (maximum two-point LOD = 3.67), with the latter not overlapping with previously reported strongest linkage region for male sexual orientation on pericentromeric chromosome 8. Family-based association analyses were used to identify associated variants in the linkage regions, with a cluster of SNPs (minimum association p = 1.3 × 10–8) found at the 5q31 linkage peak. Genome-wide, clusters of multiple SNPs in the 10–6 to 10–8 p-value range were found at chromosomes 5p13, 5q31, 7q32, 8p22, and 10q23, highlighting glutamate-related genes. This is the first reported GWLS and genome-wide association study on CGN. Further increasing genetic knowledge about CGN and its relationships to male sexual orientation should help advance our understanding of the biology of these associated traits.


In this first GWLS on CGN in males, we found genome-wide significant linkage with multipoint support for several linkage regions, most notably at chromosomes 5q31 and 8q24 (Fig. 2, Supplementary Table 1). The strongest multipoint linkage peaks for CGN (Fig. 2) did not align with the strongest such signals from earlier GWLS on male sexual orientation (Sanders et al., 2015). This was not unexpected since while CGN and sexual orientation are associated phenotypes, they are far from being the same and both are traits with complex genetics, and thus, one would not necessarily expect largely overlapping linkage or association patterns. We note that one of the top multipoint peaks from the GWLS (chromosome 5q31, Supplementary Fig. 2) also contains a cluster of 10 associated (10–6 < p < 10–8 p value) SNPs from the GWAS, 2 of which are genome-wide significant associations, thus with both linkage and association positional evidence. However, none of the genes in the immediate region of this cluster have obvious putative connections to CGN.

This initial GWAS report on CGN had some interesting findings as well. Compared to the previous GWAS on male sexual orientation on the same dataset (Sanders et al., 2017), the current CGN GWAS had substantially more regions with SNPs associated at a level of 10–6 < p < 10–8, including two loci (5q31, 10q23) breaching genome-wide significance (Fig. 3, Supplementary Table 2). Possible explanations include a potentially stronger genetic contribution for CGN (versus sexual orientation) and enhanced statistical power for a quantitative measure with CGN (versus a categorical approach for sexual orientation). A recent large association meta-analysis of same-sex sexual behavior found five genome-wide significant loci (Ganna et al., 2019); however, none of those loci overlap with the top GWLS or GWAS findings for CGN in the current study.

We found two loci (5q31, 10q23) with SNPs reaching genome-wide significance (p < 5 × 10–8) for association with CGN and detected several additional regions (Fig. 3, Supplementary Table 2) with promising findings (10–6 < p < 10–8 association p-values). These regions contain a number of genes of putative relevance to the trait, some of which we highlight next. At the 5p13 SNP cluster, the nearest gene is SLC1A3, a brain expressed glutamate transporter which has been implicated in some behavioral phenotypes, e.g., attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, mood disorders, cortico-limbic connectivity during affective regulation (Huang et al., 2019; Medina et al., 2016; Poletti et al., 2018; van Amen-Hellebrekers et al., 2016). The 10q23 SNP cluster overlaps with GRID1, which encodes a glutamate receptor channel subunit, and has also been implicated in various behavioral phenotypes (e.g., mood disorders; Fallin et al., 2005; Zhang et al., 2018) and when deleted in the mouse leads to changes in emotional and social behaviors (Yadav et al., 2012). The SNPs in the 7q32 cluster fall within (3’UTR, synonymous coding) and near LRRC4, which has been implicated in autism spectrum disorders (Du et al., 2020; Um et al., 2018). When deleted (Lrrc4−/−) in the mouse, N-Methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR, an ionotropic glutamate receptor)-dependent synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus was decreased, and these mice displayed mild social interaction deficits, increased self-grooming, and modest anxiety-like behaviors, which were reversed by pharmacological NMDAR activation (Um et al., 2018). Thus, three of the top associated SNP clusters involve glutamate-related genes which have separate evidence of relevance to other behavioral traits, some of which vary in prevalence by gender (e.g., mood disorder; (Sanders et al., 2010) and references therein) in the general population.

Gene mapping challenges include those inherent to GWLS and GWAS of traits manifesting complex genetics such as CGN, as well as limitations in statistical power given the sample size. We discuss power limitations further in the supplementary text but note here that for traits manifesting complex genetics (such as CGN), contributory genetic variants generally have individually small effects, leading to challenges in generating replicable findings. Other limitations include the current study being on a predominantly European ancestry sample and only on males, using retrospective recall of CGN rather than prospective ratings, and not including a replication sample. Replication and extension efforts are somewhat hampered in that relevant survey questions are often not included in large biobank samples such as for CGN; however, there are more sexuality data-points becoming available in some instances (e.g., sexual orientation and gender identity questions in Additional and larger studies in the future should provide further insight into genetic contributions to CGN and also to its relationship with sexual orientation.

95 replications conducted in the context of the Reproducibility Project: Psychology... I found little evidence for an adjustment of citation patterns in response to the publication of these independent replication attempts

The Effect of Replications on Citation Patterns: Evidence From a Large-Scale Reproducibility Project. Felix Schafmeister. Psychological Science, September 17, 2021.

Abstract: Replication of existing research is often referred to as one of the cornerstones of modern science. In this study, I tested whether the publication of independent replication attempts affects the citation patterns of the original studies. Investigating 95 replications conducted in the context of the Reproducibility Project: Psychology, I found little evidence for an adjustment of citation patterns in response to the publication of these independent replication attempts. This finding was robust to the choice of replication criterion, various model specifications, and the composition of the contrast group. I further present some suggestive evidence that shifts in the underlying composition of supporting and disputing citations have likely been small. I conclude with a review of the evidence in favor of the remaining explanations and discuss the potential consequences of these findings for the workings of the scientific process.

Keywords: scientific communication, statistical analysis, open data, preregistered

The failure of my analyses to reject the null hypothesis that there was no effect of RP:P replications on yearly citation counts ran counter to my hypothesis that citation patterns should change as researchers adjust their beliefs about the validity of an existing research result. In the following, I outline a number of contending explanations for this null result and discuss the extent to which they are in line with the data.

First, a necessary condition for belief updating in response to replication attempts is researchers’ awareness of the replication results. Previous findings of Simkin and Roychowdhury (2005) suggest that a large number of citations are merely copied from existing reference lists and not actually read by the citing authors, making it likely that at least some researchers remain unaware of existing replications for the studies they cite.

Such inattention is likely exacerbated by the general difficulty of acquiring information about replication results. Unpublished replications are often difficult to find, but even if replication results are published, finding and evaluating them requires a substantial time investment from citing researchers. This concern carries particular weight in my setting because the RP:P was designed with the intention to draw conclusions about replicability on an aggregate level rather than to scrutinize individual research results. As a consequence, the outcomes of individual replication attempts were neither discussed in detail by the Open Science Collaboration (2015), nor were citations to the original studies included in their article, requiring researchers interested in the results of individual replication attempts to delve into the supplemental materials.

This factor substantially qualifies the external validity of my findings because other replication studies might discuss individual replication outcomes in more detail and are more easily picked up by search engines if they are similar in title and include direct references to the original study. This increased visibility has the potential to alter the citation impact of a replication attempt compared with the effects that I uncovered in the context of the RP:P; indeed, the case studies by Hardwicke et al. (2021) suggest that somewhat more marked effects might arise in other settings.

Second, even among researchers aware of the replication attempts, belief updating might have been limited. Although McDiarmid et al. (2021) show that researchers updated their beliefs about the strength of a research finding in reaction to replications conducted in a number of large-scale replication projects (not including the RP:P), it is unclear to what extent these findings can be extrapolated to my setting. In particular, the authors note the possibility that experimenter demand and observer effects could have resulted in inflated estimates of researchers’ true belief updating. Moreover, some authors of original studies that were replicated in the RP:P voiced concerns regarding the fidelity of the replication attempts (e.g., Bressan, 2019Gilbert et al., 2016; and replies to the RP:P published on OSF by the original authors). Although Ebersole et al. (2020) show that the results of the RP:P replications were not sensitive to using peer-reviewed protocols, if citing researchers were nonetheless convinced that the replication attempts were not true to the original study, this might have weakened belief updating.

Other potential explanations could lie in articles gaining additional citations by being cited in the context of replications rather than for their content or in the citation count not taking into account citation content. Regarding the first argument, if this factor were to play a large role, one would expect to find an increase in citation rates for successful and inconclusive replications. In particular, because inconclusive replications were largely considered failures by the main criterion, these replications were likely among the most controversial and thus should have received the largest number of citations through this channel, a hypothesis that is not borne out by the present results.

Further, the second concern suggests that even if one cannot detect changes in total citation counts, the composition of supporting and disputing citations might have shifted. The analyses above are unable to directly shed light on the importance of this explanation because I am missing a reliable measure of citation content. Recently, a large-scale source of citation content classifications has become available through the website, which uses deep learning to determine whether a citation supports, disputes, or merely mentions an existing research result. However, at the time of writing, the service is still in its beta stage and has only limited coverage. Hence, rather than subjecting these noisy measures to a formal statistical analysis, I present some suggestive evidence on the role of this channel.

According to the classifications, only a small minority of citations are disputing or supporting existing findings. In the 10 years between 2010 and 2019, the average article in the RP:P sample has been subject to merely 0.83 disputing and 4.39 supporting citations, and 46% of the sample was never disputed. Moreover, investigating the timing of citations, I found little evidence that the frequency of disputing citations has been affected by the replication results. When the main replication criterion was used, studies that were replicated successfully received on average 0.4 disputing citations between 2015 and 2019, compared with 0.66 in the 5 years prior to replication, and studies that were replicated unsuccessfully received on average 0.38 disputing citations between 2015 and 2019, compared with 0.32 in the 5 years prior to replication. These numbers suggest that even if the RP:P replications shifted citation content, the size of these effects would likely be small.

In conclusion, my analyses fail to support the hypothesis that citation patterns adjust in response to the release of replication results. Among the potential reasons underlying these findings, a lack of attention to and the limited communication of replication results stand out as particularly important. These factors therefore have the potential to slow down the self-corrective ability of the scientific process and addressing them could represent an important step in maximizing the impact of recent advances to improve the quality and reliability of academic research. I am hopeful that technological advances such as, with their potential to greatly improve the accessibility of the body of knowledge, can help to alleviate these issues in the future.