Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Choice of dispute resolution mechanisms in China

I've just been reading an interesting article that reports the results of a 2008 study of dispute resolution mechanisms and preferences sponsored by the Supreme People's Court. The investigators distributed 5,518 questionnaires and got back 5,508 effective responses. The distribution covered urban, suburban, and rural areas. No doubt there are many problems with the data; the article doesn't report how the respondents were chosen, and I doubt very much that it was done truly randomly. Such a high response rate, if nothing else, would be quite unusual, I think, among a truly random group of respondents. Anyway, the data are still interesting, even though we shouldn't put more weight on them than they can bear.

One interesting feature is the relatively strong preference for courts over other dispute resolution mechanisms. All respondents expressed a strong preference for trying first to work a dispute out bilaterally or with the aid of an intermediary; quite sensible, and no surprises there. As a second choice, urban and suburban respondents clearly preferred courts over other options; rural residents picked mediation via the villagers' committee.

There's a common-sense explanation for the villagers' stronger preference for mediation relative to urban and suburban respondents: the village is a more stable community where people know each other, and thus mediation is more coercive (and therefore more effective) than it would be in an urban setting. Anyway, here's a chart I worked up using the data. Click on it for the full-size version.

Choice of dispute resolution mechanisms

1st choice on left, 2nd choice on right. Y axis shows percentages.


Source: Liang Ping 梁平, "Duoyuanhua jiufen jiejue jizhi de zhidu goujian 多元化纠纷解决机制的制度构建," Dangdai Faxue 当代法学, No. 3, 2001, pp. 118-127

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Nice graphs. Your explanation brings to mind Bob Ellickson's 1986 Stanford Law Review article "Of Coase and Cattle." The rural/urban disparity seems more universal than distinctively Chinese.

Just one question: What do the secondary bars (grouped following the bars for each category) represent?

Posted by: markh | Aug 25, 2011 8:54:40 PM

@markh: The first set of bars in each category (urban, suburban, rural) represents respondents' first choice of dispute resolution mechanism. The second set of bars represents their second choice. (That's what I meant by the language immediately above the graph. I'm not sufficiently sophisticated in Excel to put the labels directly into the graph.)

Posted by: Don | Aug 30, 2011 8:38:44 AM

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