Dispute Resolution in Transitional China

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:30
Location: Hörsaal 24 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Wenjie LIAO, North Carolina State University, USA
This paper addresses the questions of when and how Chinese people bring inter-personal conflicts to various dispute-resolving revenues. I combine a representative social survey of 560 individuals in a major Chinese city with in-depth interviews and ethnographic observation in a court-affiliated mediation office in the same city. Analyses of the survey data focus on how Chinese peoples’ perception of law’s legitimacy relates to their tendency to resort to formal and informal mechanisms as conflict-solving strategies. I find that both the perceived level of law’s legitimacy and reported tendency to litigate vary across different types of laws. The decision of whether to moblizing formal legal resources appears to be a combination of the invidual's perception of the legitimacy of the law, her evaluation of the nature of the conflict, and the material, social, and cultural captial at her disposal. 

Analyses of interviews and ethnographic observation shed light on how Chinese people make the decisions of (not) going to court and how they navigate the system with either help from or obstacles set up by legal professionals.I find that, similar to what happens in lower level courts in other parts of the world, ordinary Chinese citizens often seek redress from formal legal institutions in the hope of being acknowledged and empowered while not having in mind the likely outcome of further loosing control over the processes in which their conflicts unfold.