Against the background of the growing effort in the Xi Jinping era to sinicize democracy and rule of law, much critical attention has surrounded Chinese models of governance variously conceived as “humane authority” and “political meritocracy.” What is missing from the literature on the export of the so-called “Chinese solution,” however, is the consideration of popular cultural products. This article takes as its case study the state-sponsored film 12 Citizens, the 2014 remake of the classic 12 Angry Men, most famously known in its 1957 version directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Henry Fonda. As there is no jury system in China, 12 Citizens instead presents the scenario as a law school mock trial on Anglo-American law, with crucial elements indigenized to the local setting. In one masterly maneuver after another, the remake overturns the democratic tenor of the original. Yet as a metanarrative about adaptation, the film reveals ambivalent attitudes not only toward the jury system and the West but also toward adaptation itself, open to an alternative interpretation in which the figure of the citizen, as a member of a political community actively engaged in public matters, precisely takes center stage. This ambivalence challenges the very concept of “Chinese characteristics.”

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