East Asian Languages and Cultures | Law and Society in Contemporary China
E350 | 15723 | Michelson, E.
This course explores conflict and conflict resolution in post-Mao
China (1949-present). Only in recent years has the legal system
begun to play a significant role in the lives of ordinary Chinese
citizens. We will begin our journey in the Mao era. Focusing
particular attention on the Great Leap Famine (1959-61) and the
Cultural Revolution (1966-76), we will learn about the volume and
composition of conflict and violence prior to the beginning of the
legal reforms in 1979. This background will help us appreciate the
significance of the revival of lawyers and the reform and expansion
of courts in the early 1980s, the next topic of the course. We will
then turn to a thorough exploration of important sources of conflict
since this time: in the cities, layoffs, unpaid wages, unpaid
pensions, and housing demolition; in the countryside, “land grabs,”
excessive taxation, family planning, and pollution. Along the way,
we will consider how often and under what circumstances people turn
to lawyers and courts for help. When they do not seek justice
through the legal system, where do aggrieved citizens turn for help?
In answering this question we will learn about protest strategies
and petitioning in China. Depending on how many students enroll,
class time will be split between lecture and discussion, and
students will be graded in part on class participation. Students
will be required to take two exams and write a final research paper.