Law's Location in China's Countryside

31 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2012 Last revised: 27 Jun 2012

See all articles by Margaret Woo

Margaret Woo

Northeastern University - School of Law

Date Written: 2011


The following article traces the steps taken by Chinese rural residents in one lawsuit and analyses how the choices made were dictated both by the constraints of market legal reforms and the resilience of customary norms. It posits that while the language of rights is easy to transport, the process of rights assertion is less so. Rather, efforts to establish legal formality in China may have led to the dominance of technocracy and a continuing reliance on the developmental state for resolution. The response from the Chinese state is the development of a multi-tracked civil dispute resolution system, with the Chinese state heavily involved in major litigation apart from the litigants’ preferences, formal procedures and party autonomy working in the “run of the mill” commercial litigation, but simplified procedures, informal mediation and petitioning the government as the preferred methods for residents in the countryside. Such a multi-tracked system, while borne of necessity, will instead serve to diffuse the potential of courts to serve democratic reforms.

Suggested Citation

Woo, Margaret, Law's Location in China's Countryside (2011). Wisconsin International Law Journal, Vol. 29, No. 2, Fall 2011; Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 88-2012. Available at SSRN:

Margaret Woo (Contact Author)

Northeastern University - School of Law ( email )

416 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States
617-373-3309 (Phone)

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