context: Stability maintenance–the phrase of note during the Hu Jintao 胡锦涛 years–focused on eliminating threats to Party rule through pre-emptive force. The Xi leadership, for all of its emphasis on social control at the local level, clearly sees the value of early intervention as well, but appears at ease with experiments aimed at addressing grassroots conflict in a far less adversarial manner.

People’s Daily argues that rural revitalisation cannot do without a secure rural environment. To this end, Huainan city, Anhui province has initiated several conflict resolution mechanisms, including establishing a mediation network, lawyer visits and police–public coordinators.

Shanwang town, Huainan, selected 16 widely respected cadres to form mediation teams covering 11 administrative village units, four communities and one street. Dealing with disputes arising from mine closures and disagreements over land, mediators encouraged parties to file cases at district court to ensure mediation agreements once reached were legally binding. The article notes that when small disputes are not resolved in a timely manner, they tend to intensify and turn into petitions. Mediation reduces litigation costs, court workload and serves as a model for society. Since 2010, 260 disputes were resolved satisfactorily, 35 of which were serious and involved petitions.

The article also describes how cadres in Tianjiatun district, Huainan, hand over disputes to lawyers that visit once a month. In last year’s village relocation project, lawyers were involved in the whole process. Three or four years ago, the article notes, residents would often misinterpret or ignore the law but now they have greater legal awareness.

Huainan has also established a ‘one village, one policeman’ mechanism for rural areas where residents tend to make police stations their first port of call. Old cadres, policemen and teachers were selected to serve full or part-time police–public coordinators, serving over 8,500 people, resolving over 2,000 disputes and investigating over 900 cases.

A predominantly agricultural town inhabited by three large family clans, Gaohuang was once a high-crime area fraught with land disputes, notes the article. The local police chief integrated several members of prominent families as coordinators which resulted in criminal cases dropping from 27 to 6 annually. The article states that local cadres said that many rural issues were due to trivial matters left unattended or handled poorly. Based on this view, Caojing town established a discussion hall in which locals can bring their families and discuss issues.