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Court mediation in China : time for reform Xin, Jianhong

Abstract

This thesis focuses on the current court mediation institution in China against the worldwide movement of alternative dispute resolution in searching for more consensual and more efficient ways of resolving disputes. When the West is seeking more informality-oriented forms of dispute resolution, China, on the other side of the world, is making great efforts to improve its formal justice system rather than conventional means of dispute resolution like mediation. This thesis attempts to identify the role court mediation has played in Chinese legal history, to explore its current functions, to examine the rationale underlying the system, and to suggest its future reform. The economic analysis of law, particularly Posner's economic analysis of civil procedure and the Coase Theorem, and the ideas of Rawls' theory of justice provide theoretical underpinnings for this study. A review of these classical theories is conducted from the perspectives of efficiency and fairness. Although it is generally understood that both efficiency and fairness cannot be equally achieved by a legal policy, a good one should be concerned with both efficiency and fairness. The article concludes that the balance between efficiency and fairness should be presented in an optimal court mediation form. China's court mediation has remained an important means of dispute resolution, but left much to be improved. The author argues that the current court mediation is not as successful as it declares; it is, in fact, neither efficient nor just. The existing law governing court mediation does not provide a clear function and purpose for court mediation, nor does it consider the efficiency and fairness of court mediation. In practice, although it remains the dominant position in resolving disputes, it is merely a substitute for adjudication rather than a substantive alternative dispute resolution. By analyzing the current allocation of cases for different dispute resolutions, the author suggests that considering the overloaded court caseloads and the lack of a variety of alternative dispute resolutions in today's China, court mediation should be preserved, but thoroughly reformed, as a more acceptable and efficient means of resolving disputes. Upon its reform, this conventional means of dispute resolution with Chinese characteristics will play a positive role in the future.

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