A hot potato: The Chinese complaint systems from early times to the present
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The dissertation analyzes what we may call the Chinese complaint systems. In the People's Republic of China today, the systems usually go under the name of shangfang (literally "going up to visit"). Since the 1990s, these systems have been a hot topic in the Chinese public media and discussion. In the early twentieth century, there was a national debate on whether to preserve the Mail and Visit system in the PRC. But most scholarship focuses mainly on the systems in contemporary China and pays little attention to complaint systems in earlier periods of Chinese history. But, only after we know the development and role of the complaint systems in Chinese history can we better solve the debate and problems in the current PRC complaint systems. Through a comprehensive historical study, I find that the Chinese complaint systems started informally in the Zhou period (about 1029-256BCE). From the Jin (265-420CE) and especially from the Tang (618-907), several complaint systems gradually became a part of the formal judicial system. In the 20 th century, as a clear distinction between criminal and civil law appeared, various complaint systems developed more or less independently of the rest of the judicial system. In the early PRC, such a distinction between judicial and complaint system blurred. More recently, as part of the effort to enhance the rule of law, the complaint systems have become more distinct from the rest of judicial system. While this is to some extent a return to the Republican period, it is not a complete return and there are echoes of how the systems worked in earlier periods.