Grassroots mediation in China

Mediation has and continues to be, a very popular form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) used within the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

China has a historical cultural preference for the use of mediation (调解) as a tool to resolve disputes. It is recognized that this preference originates from Confucian thought which encourages a constant drive towards a harmonious society. The idea be­ing that a legal dispute might disrupt the natural harmony, which was thought to exist around human affairs and the community as a whole.[1] These ideals are seen through the astonishing number of civil mediations which take place in China every year. For example, according to the China Statistical Yearbook (CSY), the figure for the number of civil disputes mediated in 2017 was 8,740.000, as compiled by the National Bureau of Statistics of China. The CSY also found that the number of recorded mediators in 2017 was 3,620,000.[2] In terms of success rate, the number of successful mediations in China is high, with data indicating that the years 2007-2012 saw a mediation success rate of approximately 96%’.[4]

The tremendous number of annual mediations in China can be attributed to the Chinese government’s policy of a ‘Grand Mediation’ (大调解)system, which was launched in the White Paper on Judicial Reform in 2012. This policy was adopted to encourage mediation to lower the number of civil disputes proceeding to court determination. The Grand Mediation system was a clear response to China’s rapid economic development attempting to highlight ‘the role of the people’s mediation organisations, social groups, lawyers and experts’[5] whilst establishing a mediation system which integrates civil, commercial and administrative disputes’.[6] China’s Grand Mediation system has helped to promote the use of mediation and ADR more generally, by promoting the work of the People’s Mediation Committees (PMC’s), something I will expand upon in the following section.

Grassroots Mediation

The PRC has a multitiered system of government with s