Between Justice and Harmony: Some Features and Trends of Chinese A.D.R. from a Western Perspective

Authors: Renzo Cavalieri


For the last couple of years, many people, in China and abroad, have reported a change of attitude in the communist leadership of the PRC towards the law and legal policy.

The emphasis on the “government by the law” or fazhi that had characterized Chinese political communication since the mid-nineties seems to have been abandoned in favour of a more traditional discourse on the principle of the “government of man” or renzhi.

ADR, and mediation in particular, is a perfect litmus test of this phenomenon. Since the early 2000, the entire legal system has been directed with great determination and consistency towards the ADR through regulatory and policy documents, propaganda bombardment, judicial incentive policies, but when necessary also by informal conditioning methods and coercion on individual cases.

The trend of the leadership of over-emphasizing harmony and putting it even before the law raises many concerns. As it is very well known, ADR practices may be easily used to weaken people’s insistence on subjective rights and to reduce the annoyances arising from a strict adherence to the principle of legality.

The strengthening of the ADR system in China can be seen as part of a new strategy of social control which, by slowing down the fazhi may also slow down the protection of rights and legitimate interests of the weakest parts of Chinese society, so difficultly acquired in the last decades.