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The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way people around the world work and live. The judiciaries of many countries were caught off guard and their litigation activities have now been in a state of paralysis for a long time. In contrast, litigation in China’s judiciary has been like grass waving in the wind, showing tenacity without collapse. The main reason for this distinction is China’s active implementation of online trials before the coronavirus outbreak. Upon this foundation, courts in China have been carrying out flexible, adaptative, extensive, and in-depth promotion of online trials across the country since the beginning of the pandemic. In just one year, China has accumulated valuable experience in conducting online trials.
Given the importance of online trials, the author of this commentary draws on his practical experience and research on this topic to discuss four new trends in the development of online trials in China. Then, the author examines the prospects of online trials in China by analyzing the trends that these trials will likely display in the post-pandemic era. The trajectory along which online trials in China are progressing will provide a valuable reference point during the world’s exploration of online dispute resolution methods.
New Trends in the Development of Online Trials in China
1. “Improving the Rules for Electronic Litigation” Has Been Identified as Part of the “Pilot Reform of the Separation of Complex and Simple Civil Procedures”
2. The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Accelerated the Development of Online Trials Across China
“[…] because of the need to prevent and control the pandemic, online litigation can be promoted in courts all over the country, and the types of cases covered are no longer limited to civil cases.”
3. Litigation Participants’ Acceptance of Online Trials Has Increased
“The […] survey results reflect that judges, lawyers, and parties generally support online litigation. This lays the foundation for having widespread recognition of a large-scale development of online litigation in China’s judiciary in the future.”
4. New Technologies and Online Trials Have Promoted Each Other’s Development
(1) The Use of “Mobile Mini Courts” and “Virtual Tribunals”
(2) The Exploration of the “Blockchains + Judiciary” Model
Future Prospects of Online Trials in China
1. Some Online Trials Will Advance While Others Will Recede in the Post-Pandemic Era
(1) Types of Courts
(2) Types of Cases
2. The “People-Oriented” Concept and the Concepts of Differentiation, Systematization, and Sharing Will be Strengthened in Online Trials
(1) The “People-Oriented” Concept
(2) The Concept of Differentiation
(3) The Concept of Systematization
(4) The Concept of Sharing
3. Internet Courts Will Continue Playing a Leading Role in Online Trials
“In light of these active developments, the special court status of these three Internet courts is expected to be consolidated and strengthened in the future, and their leading roles in online trials will continue.”
Appendix: Implementing Measures for the Pilot Reform of the Separation of Complex and Simple Civil Procedures
Ph.D. Candidate, Beijing Normal University
Former Judge, Chaoyang District People’s Court of Beijing Municipality
Mr. DONG Yiming recently served as a judge of the Chaoyang District People’s Court of Beijing Municipality. Since October 2018, he has been pursuing a Doctor of Civil and Commercial Law at the Law School of Beijing Normal University. Mr. Dong has extensive experiences in adjudicating civil cases and is currently dedicated to research on marriage and family law as well as on the theory and judicial practice of modern judicial systems. Mr. Dong has for a long time followed the development of China’s online dispute resolution mechanisms and has, on multiple occasions, been selected by the China Law Society as an expert reviewer to participate in the online review of outstanding court cases across the country.
* The citation of this Commentary is: DONG Yiming, Online Trials in China: New Development Trends and Future Prospects, 11 China Law Connect 1 (Dec. 2020), also available at Stanford Law School China Guiding Cases Project, Dec. 2020, http://cgc.law.stanford.edu/commentaries/clc-11-202012-33-dong-yiming. The original, Chinese version of this Commentary was edited by Dr. Mei Gechlik. The English version was prepared by Lisha Huang, Qi Lei, Haiyun Zhang, and David Wei Zhao, and was finalized by Cami Elyse Katz, Jennifer Ingram, Nathan Harpainter, and Dr. Mei Gechlik. The information and views set out in this Commentary are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the work or views of the China Guiding Cases Project.