We have launched E-mail Alert service,subscribers can receive the latest catalogues free of charge

You Are Here: Home > Focus

Can Petition Resolve Grassroots Conflicts?


Zhao Shukai, Development Research Center of the State Council

With a review of the history of farmers' petition through letters and visits, it could be found that China's rural conflicts have taken on some new features after China's entry into the 21st century, which are as follows. 1. The main entities of conflicts are between farmers and grassroots governments rather than between farmer households or village communities relating to disputes over resources or benefits. 2. The forms of farmers' organization pertinent to conflicts have taken on more modern traits. New organizations and channels for farmers to express concerns have gradually replaced the traditional forms. 3. Resistance made by farmers to follow government instructions is in most cases within the system, but similar instances have occurred and are increasing even beyond the system. Although petition is rather effective in addressing some issues, it is not a fundamental way to solve problems and seems to be hard to move ahead. If responsible members of the Party and governments at grassroots levels spend most time receiving visitors and dealing with their complaints, it would turn the Party secretaries and county heads into "commissioners for receiving letters and petitions", which is an abnormal situation. To change such a condition, several issues have to be figured out. First, we need to understand why there are so many complaints raised by the people through letters or visits. The root cause lies in the governmental system characterized respectively by government centralization and individual centralization. Viewing from power distribution between governments at different levels, governments of higher levels enjoy highly centralized power. Viewing from the power structure of the leadership system, a prominent feature is that certain individuals have centralized power with the major share of power controlled by Party secretaries. The governmental system characterized by centralized and individualized power is the basic reason why there are so many complaints and disputes expressed by the people through petitions. Within the current governmental system, petition is an effective means for addressing disputes and contradictions. However, some of the thorny problems that could not be properly dealt with would be submitted to governments of higher levels. Second, how could grassroots units gain political trust. To realize smooth political stability, the important work at present is to build political trust. Third, we should maintain open and regular channels for people to voice their demands. The departments for handling letters and visits have played a major role in resolving conflicts and maintaining stability and contributed remarkably to stabilizing social order in rural areas. Nevertheless, such a role has to be further brought into play. Due to relevant restraints imposed on governmental system, people have cherished much hope on media to express their demands, but this is an abnormal phenomenon which suggests the incapability of administrative and judicial departments. The current system for handling letters and visits seems to be supervised by the masses but is actually self-supervised by organs of power themselves. Letters and visits should give essential expression to people's right of supervision and effective supervision should be one that is supervised by those who have empowered the right of supervision over current system.

Can Petition Resolve Grassroots Conflicts?