As reported by the Supreme People’s Court, China is implementing international commercial dispute resolution procedures to provide legal services to litigants from countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) (also known as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road) is a development strategy proposed by the Chinese government which focuses on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries, primarily the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the ocean-going Maritime Silk Road (MSR). The initiative was formerly known in English as the One-Belt-One-Road Initiative (OBOR), but the Chinese government changed the project’s name in 2016, considering the emphasis on the word “One” as misleading.
The BRI’s initial focus has been on infrastructure investment, education, construction materials, railway and highway, automobile, real estate, power grid, and iron and steel. Some estimates list the BRI as one of the largest infrastructure and investment projects in history, covering more than 68 countries, including 65% of the world’s population and 40% of the global GDP as of 2017, with an estimated cost of USD $4–8 trillion.
Commercial Dispute Resolution
A project of this magnitude, and the massive amount of international trade it will bolster, will most certainly be accompanied by a significant increase in international commercial disputes.
Accordingly, China is seeking to not only establish procedures for improving international judicial cooperation among BRI countries, but also to provide professional legal services in China for investors and businesses from BRI countries.
International Commercial Courts
The Supreme People’s Court announced the creation of two international commercial courts, one in Shenzhen and one in Xi’an, which will specialize in resolving large international commercial disputes (e.g., where the amount in controversy exceeds RMB 300 million (USD $45 million). The courts will allow more efficient and professional resolution for BRI litigants seeking to resolve their disputes in China.
In addition to litigation, the Court may also establish specialized mediation and arbitration procedures to resolve BRI disputes.
Commercial Expert Committee
In addition, the Supreme People’s Court announced that it will establish an international commercial expert committee to help mediate and advise on how to apply foreign laws in Chinese courts. Experts may be selected from throughout the international legal community (i.e., not only China), and will help to ensure the fair and uniform application of the law.
Court statistics showed that Chinese courts decided nearly 26,000 foreign-related cases in 2016, and that BRI-related disputes had already increased markedly.