Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


The Chinese government's reaction to the fallout from the 2008-2009 tainted milk scandal paints a vivid picture of modem Chinese legal culture and the development of the rule of law. Quick to institute criminal prosecutions but barring affected families from bringing civil suits, the government continues to maintain a firm grip on the courts, preferring to resolve disputes through mediation and settlement. Meanwhile, the Sanlu case marks a turning point in dispute resolution in China, testing the limits of access to justice for private litigants who bring tort law claims in Chinese courts. As China becomes a major global economic player, the government's capacity to regulate product quality and food safety will face increased scrutiny.

This note argues that giving private plaintiffs access to courts will provide an outlet for their voices to be heard, result in greater justice to victims and accountability for wrongdoers, and shift the incentive structure to induce manufacturers to self-regulate their product quality standards.