Two Paths Leading to the Same End? A Discussion of Development and Regulation of Online Mediation under the COVID-19 Pandemic in the People’s Republic of China and the United States - WAMR 2019 Vol. 13, No. 1
Carrie Shu Shang, Assistant Professor of Business Law, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
Wenli Guo, Assistant President and President of Internet Nomocracy Institute, Beiming Software Co., Ltd., China.
Charles Ho Wang Mak, PhD Candidate in International Law, University of Glasgow, Glasgow.
COVID-19 related-restrictions on travel and personal interactions have caused a surge of interest in Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) in a form generally referred to as online dispute resolution or “ODR.” Under worldwide country lockdowns and/or social distancing orders, behaviors have drastically adjusted. As the pandemic has brought about expanded uses of online technology in areas such as medicine and distance learning, so too has ODR received unprecedented interest and attention in dispute resolution.
In its broadest definition, ODR refers to the coupling of technology with ADR. It has been a growing force in the ADR movement for several decades. Compared to the offline world, cyberspace is a much more self-contained and self-governed space, posing stronger barriers for any external regulator to enter. Idealists and optimists of the Internet usually believe that it is possible for online disputes to be completely resolved online. Further, their beliefs are bolstered during times of a global pandemic such as COVID-19. Given this surge of interest in online mediation across jurisdictions, this article will provide a detailed analysis of two different developmental paths of online mediation post-COVID-19 in China and the United States—the world’s two largest economies. These differences arise due to the different maturity levels of ODR markets in both countries, the drastically different roles played by the U.S. and Chinese governments, and the different roles played by leading professional organizations in facilitating dispute resolution processes. Our discussion below will help the reader to forecast the full trajectory of ODR development in the post-COVID-19 world and to understand any pre-fixed approach and preference in dispute resolution discourse that overlay bolstering state-led or private interest-driven initiatives.
To that end, Part II will provide a brief background on the development of online mediation in China, particularly with the passage of the newest judicial and administrative directives mandating a state-wide experiment of online dispute resolution methods. Part III will focus on professional and self-initiated efforts leading to the continued surge in supply and demand of online mediation services in the United States. Building on this comparative analysis, Part IV will focus on unpacking the different roles of public and private stakeholders and their role in the promotion of the wider acceptance of online mediation initiatives.