Dispute Resolution in China: Patterns, Causes and Prognosis

41 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2008

See all articles by Randall Peerenboom

Randall Peerenboom

La Trobe University - Faculty of Law and Management; Oxford University - Centre for Socio-Legal Studies

Xin He

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: January 28, 2008


Since the reform era began in China in 1978, there have been significant changes in the nature and incidence of disputes, conflicts and social disturbances, and the mechanisms for addressing them. As with economic and governance reforms, the government has adopted a pragmatic, problem-solving approach as it has attempted to meet the broad and at times conflicting goals of justice and efficiency while maintaining socio-political stability and rapid economic growth. The result has been continuous experimentation leading to the creation of new mechanisms, the reform of existing mechanisms, and the return to older mechanisms in some cases when newer ones proved disappointing. This is generally true across areas: commercial disputes, constitutional and administrative law, socio-economic issues (pension, welfare and medical claims, labor disputes, land takings and environmental issues), criminal law, and civil and political rights. However, reforms have been more active, progress has been more noticeable, and the path of reforms has been more consistent and direct in some areas than others.

We begin with a brief overview of significant developments in the handling of commercial disputes, socio-economic claims and public law (administrative and constitutional law) disputes. Three general patterns stand out: first, the much better performance of institutions for handling disputes in urban areas compared to rural areas; second, the significantly greater progress in handling commercial law disputes compared to socio-economic claims; and third, the more advanced state of development of administrative law compared to constitutional law.

We then summarize some of the key factors underlying these patterns and the dynamics of reform, providing an account of why the government has opted for a particular mix of mechanisms to handle a certain type of dispute at any given time, why that mix has changed over time, and why there has been more progress in some areas than other areas. We conclude with some thoughts on what can be expected in the future, and some policy recommendations to help overcome some of the existing problems.

Suggested Citation

Peerenboom, Randall and He, Xin, Dispute Resolution in China: Patterns, Causes and Prognosis (January 28, 2008). La Trobe Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008/9, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1265116 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1265116

Randall Peerenboom

La Trobe University - Faculty of Law and Management ( email )

Department of Economics and Finance
Victoria 3552, 3086

Oxford University - Centre for Socio-Legal Studies

St. Cross Building
St. Cross Road
Oxford, OX1 3UJ
United Kingdom

Xin He (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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