From Dispute to Decision: Suing Polluters in China

China Quarterly, No. 206, pp. 294-312, June 2011

19 Pages Posted: 23 Jun 2011

See all articles by Rachel E. Stern

Rachel E. Stern

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Jurisprudence & Social Policy; University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law

Date Written: June 22, 2011

Abstract

This article traces a civil environmental lawsuit from dispute to decision to explore how environmental law works, as well as how lawyers and litigants try to work the law. Detailing ground-level encounters with a legal system promoted and carefully watched by political elites offers a fresh perspective on the ways the past 30 years of legal reforms have affected the experience of China’s court users. Amid accounts of financial stress, lawyer–client tensions and the hunt for elite allies, what emerges is a story of variation. Although plaintiffs and lawyers agree that environmental cases are hard and wringing concessions out of polluters requires remarkable persistence, the process sometimes creaks forward so that appraisals are conducted on time, help is solicited and compensation won. How Chinese courts work (and how well they work) depends on local circumstances, an insight that suggests that disaggregating expansive concepts like rule of law is a helpful way to explore complexity instead of glossing over it.

Keywords: China, law, environment

Suggested Citation

Stern, Rachel E., From Dispute to Decision: Suing Polluters in China (June 22, 2011). China Quarterly, No. 206, pp. 294-312, June 2011, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1869457

Rachel E. Stern (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Jurisprudence & Social Policy ( email )

School of Law
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-2150
United States

University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law

Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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