The petitioning system in China

The petitions in China (信访, xinfang, literally “letters and visits”) represent a traditional instrument for seeking justice from levels of the government superior to those who gave rise to grievances. As of today, the xinfang system is the primary tool for dispute resolution of the country.

More than a judicial instrument it can be considered a governance tool, rooted in ancient Chinese history and then re-elaborated by the Communist Party. It was used - yesterday by the emperor and today by the new ruling class – with the same fundamental purposes: facing the principal-agent problem and give a hope to people whose grievances were ignored by local governments. For a large part of the Chinese history it constituted the only channel of information to the central authorities about the real situation of the country.

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