Over the past decade, Chinese media has become one of the most influential players in the Chinese legal system. As media commercialization and increased editorial discretion are accompanied by increasing attention to social and legal issues, the media are being pushed to expand their traditional advocacy roles in new directions. As a result, the media has become one of the most effective and important means of protecting civil rights. But its role in the legal system has also led it to increasingly come into conflict with Chinese courts. Media commercialization could reinforce traditional norms of state interference in courts, while media control increasingly highlights the problems of China`s judicial system. Despite significant reforms and a growing number of cases, the authority of Chinese courts remains limited. But the media`s ability to enjoy considerable autonomy within the confines of Party oversight also suggests that a similar model of autonomy for Chinese courts may be possible and may already be emerging. This article examines the impact of the role of the media in the Chinese legal system on China`s legal development. It shows how media commercialization has prompted media outlets to expand the scope of critical reporting, challenge the propaganda department`s content regulations, and influence decision-making in court. This article describes four different mechanisms by which the media influence Chinese courts and shows that the effectiveness and influence of the media stems from a combination of their continued position as an arm of the party-state and their ability to reflect and create public opinion. Watchdog or demagogue? The media in the Chinese legal system.