Chinese arbitration has its own development track. Riding high on the goals and undertakings of making home-grown arbitration practices more international, the country also charts its course of introducing “China’s experience” and “Oriental wisdom” onto the international arbitration stage. Such trends corresponding to and enhancing each other essentially bolster China’s vision of being a reliable country for domestic and international arbitration proceedings.

As flagship domestic arbitration institutions spearhead efforts to help China establish a reputation as an arbitration-friendly jurisdiction, and internationally renowned counterparts bet big on ramping up their presence in the mainland arbitration market, how will the ambitious top-tier arbitral centres at home and abroad embrace these trends? And how will this change dynamics in China and reshape its role in the international arbitration landscape?

Looking ahead, where may Chinese and Western conventional wisdoms meet in arbitration, and what does the pioneering Singapore Convention on Mediation mean for arbitration and the future of international dispute resolution?

We asked six leaders of some of the region’s major players for their views − and their wisdom.


A meeting of the ways

Chen Fuyong, the deputy secretary-general of the Beijing Arbitration Commission/Beijing International Arbitration Centre

In China, arbitration is something transplanted from other countries. Bringing the arbitration rules in line with international practice has long been a mainstream topic in the field. However, if we look at all the proposals so far to improve the “widely accepted” norms in international arbitration, we may find that some of the international norms that China is trying to learn may be in the process of evolving towards the domestic norms that China currently follows.

A basic mode

Arbitration
Chen Fuyong

Beyond the differences between civil and common law. The continual efforts in encouraging the internationalization of Chinese arbitration have made it possible for foreign lawyers to argue arbitration cases in Beijing in a similar fashion to the way they do before tribunals in other leading arbitration centres such as Hong Kong, Singapore, London and Paris. According to GAR’s Guide to Regional Arbitration 2018, the BAC rules are the most flexible of those offered in China in terms of party autonomy, where they approach the international norm. You are very likely able to arbitrate a dispute pretty much in any way you want, even when it comes to the vexed topic of which laws should apply.

It is not, however, safe to assume that all relevant procedural matters are the same, or that they are simply a complete transplantation of international norms. Although China is seen as a civil law jurisdiction, this does not mean that Chinese arbitration proceedings will necessarily always apply the core civil law principles, such as the inquisitorial approach and a focus on documents, which are often referred to as some of the key features of Chinese litigation practice.

Rather, the BAC Arbitration Rules clearly state that, in respect of any matters not expressly provided for in the rules, the BAC may administer, and the arbitral tribunal may conduct, the arbitration in such manner as they consider appropriate to ensure the efficient and fair resolution of the dispute between the parties.

This does not mean that common law procedures will automatically be adopted by the tribunal either. For users who prefer common law procedures, it is advisable to put in a special agreement on the specific procedures that will make sure that common law procedures or international arbitration practices are adopted in the Chinese arbitration.

Style of pleading

There is a tendency for the tribunal in international arbitration to require the parties to limit their submissions to a certain number of pages (as appropriate), and focus their pleadings on the key issues. The style and approach to pleading in China is generally shorter and more concise than equivalents in international arbitration outside China. A party is expected to serve supporting witness statements along with its pleading and the documentary evidence that supports its case.

Unless as a matter of procedure already agreed upon by the parties or decided upon by the arbitral tribunal, there is no specific provision or limitation on the rounds of pleadings. However, the usual expectation in practice is not only to set out the basics, but also to include the content of a full statement of the case/statement of defence in the request for arbitration/defence and the answer.

Document production

There are many complaints concerning the abuse of document production in international arbitration. In China, if parties want specific document production, it is advisable for them to agree to the use of the International Bar Association (IBA) Rules on the Taking of Evidence in International Arbitration in advance in their arbitration agreement.

If parties do not specify a set of rules, the rules of evidence that arbitrators in Chinese arbitrations will apply include the evidence rules from the Arbitration Law and institutional arbitration rules. Under these rules, there is no express power for a tribunal to make orders for the specific production of documents. However, if a party submits an issue in a case, and can show that the relevant evidence is only in the possession of the other party, the other party is expected to disclose the evidence. If it refuses to disclose the evidence without any justifiable reason, and the evidence would have had an adverse impact on the case of the party possessing the evidence, adverse inferences may be drawn from the refusal to disclose.

The hearing

There are more and more tribunals in international arbitration that try to limit the evidentiary hearing and rely more on documents. Normally, hearings in China last for only a half day or one day, which is substantially shorter than the hearings before major international arbitration institutions.

This is largely a result of the fact that Chinese parties in arbitrations seldom introduce witnesses in the proceedings if they believe that the documentary evidence they have submitted will be sufficient to prove their claims. However, more complex disputes can have oral hearings lasting several days, or have several hearings in non-consecutive days.

Role of case-handling secretary

Traditionally, Chinese arbitral institutions will assign to each individual case a case-handling secretary, who plays a much more important role than those of the case manager in international arbitration. Usually the secretary will directly handle most logistical and even procedural matters in arbitration, for instance, the service of documents and the issuing of procedural notices, and allow arbitrators to focus on substantive issues.

Some experts in China advocate limiting the role of the case-handling secretary and encourage the tribunal to assume more work. However, the growing practice in international arbitration of introducing a secretary to tribunal in recent years seems to justify the Chinese practice of allowing a case-handling secretary to take broader duties than those of a case manager.

In conclusion, compared with lawyer-driven and lengthy Western conventional practice, the Chinese conventional wisdom is to allow the arbitral tribunal and the arbitration institution to play more active roles, so that the arbitration proceeding can be run in an efficient and cost-effective way and be tailored as appropriate for each dispute.

Although it is not yet clear when Chinese and Western conventional wisdom will meet, they definitely will meet at some point in the future.


Adding a little China wisdom

Wang Chengjie, the vice chairman and secretary-general of the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC)

Arbitration
Wang Chengjie

I think the concept of “Sinicization of international arbitration” should be understood in a way that, during the course of integrating with international arbitration and moving onto the global stage, while learning from the advanced practices in other countries, Chinese arbitration unreservedly exports its unique experience, formed and developed in line with the fundamental reality of the country, to share, exchange and improve with counterparts in the international arbitration community, carving out a path for the joint development of international arbitration with China’s wisdom.

In the past decades of development, based on the fundamental reality of the country, Chinese arbitration has formed and developed several unique practices and experiences in the following aspects:

(1) The combination of arbitration and conciliation. The China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC) first put forward such an idea and took the lead to put it into practice. With full respect to the principle of party autonomy, that is, under the premise of express consent by both parties, the efficient and fair resolution of the dispute is given top priority.

A conciliation procedure is introduced during the arbitration, allowing the arbitral tribunal to conciliate the case during the arbitral proceedings. If a settlement agreement has been reached, the parties may request the arbitral tribunal to make an award or conciliation statement based on the settlement agreement, or withdraw the case. Both parties may also agree on a settlement during or outside the arbitration, and apply to the arbitral tribunal for an award or conciliation statement, based on the settlement agreement or withdrawal of the case.

If no settlement agreement can be reached, arbitration proceedings will resume. Such practice greatly enhances the autonomy and engagement of the parties in the dispute resolution, further increases the flexibility of the arbitration proceedings, largely reduces the time, and cuts down on the monetary cost.

In the meantime, such practice takes both the confidentiality of procedures and independence of judgment into account. The conciliation statement, consent award and award are equally enforceable, ensuring that the legitimate interests of the parties can be effectively protected.

Over more than 60 years of arbitration, such a practice has been adopted by most arbitral institutions in mainland China, and quite a few internationally renowned arbitration bodies, standing as the widely recognized and accepted the “China experience” and “Oriental wisdom”. Apart from combining traditional commercial arbitration and conciliation, CIETAC seeks to promote the experience to the field of investment arbitration via the newly launched investment arbitration rules, hoping to offer a new idea to solve the issue concerning the rigid mechanism of investor-state dispute settlement.

(2) Institutional assistance to push forward the arbitral proceedings and realize high efficiency of arbitration. Institutional arbitration marks one of the most remarkable characteristics of Chinese arbitration. As the number of cases increases tremendously, and domestic and international parties cry out for more highly efficient dispute resolution, Chinese arbitral institutions have adopted several practices, such as designating a case-handling secretary to assist the arbitral tribunal in pushing forward arbitration proceedings, applying expedited or simplified procedures to simple cases with a small monetary value of claims, and clearly stipulating all kinds of deadlines in arbitration rules, including the deadline for making an award.

This introduces a set of experiences with Chinese characteristics in pushing forward the institutional arbitral proceedings, generally shortening the time of handling the arbitration cases, and winning praise from a wide range of arbitration participants for high efficiency and high quality. The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) is pushing forward with the formulation of a unified set of rules on expedited procedures, and has consulted the CIETAC for the relevant experiences.

(3) National-level strong support on arbitration. Chinese arbitration has always enjoyed judicial and policy support at a national level. Courts take a clear and positive attitude towards judicial review and support on arbitration. Especially with regard to the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards concerning foreign matters, specific provisions have stipulated that the withdrawal of arbitral awards concerning foreign affairs, non-enforcement, and declaration of nullity of arbitration agreements need to be reported level by level to the Supreme People’s Court (SPC). This shows great respect to and a thorough implementation of the New York Convention.

The fourth plenary session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China has pointed in particular to perfecting the diversified dispute resolution mechanism, improving the arbitration system, and enhancing the credibility of arbitration. The SPC, China’s highest court, is devoting great efforts towards: establishing a one-stop, diversified dispute resolution mechanism; issuing judicial interpretations to clearly define the international commercial courts; joining hands with eligible international commercial arbitration agencies to set up a one-stop dispute resolution platform with access to mediation, arbitration and litigation; and supporting the parties in selecting a dispute resolution method considered to be the most suitable via such a platform. These national-level initiatives create fertile ground for the development of Chinese arbitration.

(4) Application of internet technology in arbitration. In recent years, with the explosive growth of internet technology, China has been committed to pressing ahead with the “smart court” initiative to innovate its traditional court system. Riding high on such a golden opportunity, China’s arbitration community is capitalizing on the boom in internet technology as a big push for the development of arbitration from multiple angles and levels, including innovations in forms, improvement in efficiency, and evidence fixing.

By doing so, it has rolled out new procedures and opened up new frontiers, cases in point including online arbitration and expedited arbitration procedures in the area of financial services. This greatly improves professional standards and convenience of arbitration, and achievements that have been made can also be used as a reference.


Arbitration practice keeps evolving

Joe Liu, the deputy secretary-general of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC)

While the chinese arbitration law has not been amended for 24 years, arbitration practice in mainland China has not stopped evolving. Changes in practice are usually reflected in rulings and notifications issued by the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) and new rules promulgated by mainland arbitral institutions.

Arbitration
Joe Liu

Arbitration practice in mainland China evolves in a way that reflects its local characteristics, and develops carefully within the ambit of the Chinese Arbitration Law. This is how I understand the concept of “localization of international arbitration law and practice in China”.

Over the decades-long course of development of Chinese commercial arbitration, the new “China experience” has come into focus in the arbitration community. There appears to be a growing tendency in mainland China to apply legislative text and related practice in a manner that aligns with international practice in the closest possible way, provided that mandatory provisions under Chinese law are complied with.

This is what I understand to be the new “China experience” in international arbitration. One example is the conclusion of the Arrangement Concerning Mutual Assistance in Court-Ordered Interim Measures in Aid of Arbitral Proceedings by the Courts of the Mainland and of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in April 2019. The arrangement came into force on 1 October 2019, and for the first time provides a legal basis for the Chinese courts to issue interim relief in support of arbitral proceedings in a jurisdiction outside of mainland China.

Hong Kong is the only such jurisdiction that benefits from this arrangement. As Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region that operates under China’s “one country, two systems” framework, the issuance of interim relief by the mainland courts in support of Hong Kong arbitrations brings the mainland arbitration regime one step closer to international norms, while not contravening any provisions of the Chinese Arbitration Law.

As China charts the course of internationalizing its arbitration law and practice, some arbitration-related practices in mainland China are worth adopting in some cases seated outside of mainland China. The combination of mediation and arbitration (known as “Med-Arb” or “Arb-Med-Arb”) is one such practice that has been used to resolve disputes effectively on the mainland for decades.

Parties may refer their dispute to mediation first. If they are not able to reach a settlement, they can then submit the dispute to arbitration. Alternatively, a party may commence an arbitration first, and seek the other party’s agreement to refer the dispute to mediation during the arbitration. Depending on the outcome of the mediation, the parties may either terminate the arbitration or resume it to turn any settlement agreement into an arbitral award so it becomes enforceable in 161 countries under the New York Convention.

The use of Med-Arb or Arb-Med-Arb can help parties narrow down their areas of disagreement and focus on those areas, as well as preserve their commercial relationship. However, such practice also carries some risks, particularly where the same individual acts as both mediator and arbitrator. It is considered that his or her knowledge of confidential and possibly privileged information during mediation may affect his or her impartiality and independence as arbitrator.

The practice of Med-Arb or Arb-Med-Arb was initially viewed with scepticism by the Hong Kong judiciary, but have now been recognized in sections 32 and 33 of the Hong Kong Arbitration Ordinance, with some caveats. The 2018 HKIAC Administered Arbitration Rules have also introduced a new provision to expressly allow the parties to pursue alternative means of settling disputes after the arbitration commences.

If the parties agree to do so, the arbitral tribunal or emergency arbitrator may, at the request of any party, suspend the arbitration or emergency arbitrator procedure. The arbitration or emergency arbitrator procedure shall resume at the request of any party.


‘Them and us’, or ‘all of us’?

Fan Mingchao, director of arbitration and ADR forNorth Asia at International Chamber of Commerce

Arbitration in the modern sense is an imported product for China. It has always been international. Therefore, there is inherently no issue or need for China to “internationalize” its arbitration system.

Arbitration
Fan Mingchao

It is often seen that the difference between ambiguous foreign practices (there is actually no country called “foreign country” in the world, not to mention a unified set of international practices. There is at most a certain degree of commonness. So they are the “ambiguous foreign practices”) and domestic practices is perhaps, under certain circumstances, where some foreign practices sharing certain common characteristics are more efficient and more professional than certain domestic practices that have something in common.

Therefore, the domestic arbitration community learns these practices in order to improve efficiency and professional standards, and essentially satisfy the market demand.

This is a horizontal, borderless process of communication, learning and self-improvement among the professional community. In other words, the driving force behind the learning process is the desire to be more professional, rather than to be more “international”.

Hence, such a phenomenon of how Chinese arbitration is changing itself, which we have noticed in recent years, is not a manifestation of efforts to be what is called “international”, but efforts to be “professional” and “market-driven”.

Therefore, a statement like: “Chinese arbitration becomes more professional and market-driven than before” is perhaps more accurate than a statement like: “Chinese arbitration becomes more international than before”.

Secondly, international arbitration must conform to local laws in any single country across the world. Hence, a certain degree of localization and adjustment is much needed.

However, this does not mean that international arbitration will be made more “Chinese” in China, more “Indian” in India, or more “Brazilian” in Brazil. Therefore, the localization of international arbitration in China is not equivalent to the “Sinicization of international arbitration”.

Only when part, or even the majority, of a fundamental system of international arbitration has its current standards replaced by those standards originally developed in China can it be regarded as the “Sinicization of international arbitration”. Apparently, so far, this has not happened.

Finally, it can be seen that the so-called “internationalization of Chinese arbitration” and the “Sinicization of international arbitration” are not a pair of concepts corresponding to each other, despite the wording making it appear that way. The so-called phenomenon of “internationalizing Chinese arbitration”, in essence, is a process of improving the professional standards and the level of marketization via professional exchanges, in order to provide the parties with better services. The so-called phenomenon of “Sinicization of international arbitration” is just a misconception of how international arbitration adjusts itself in different countries to meet the compliance requirements from local laws.

With the decades-long development of Chinese arbitration, the “China experience”, which conforms to international practices and fits in well with the fundamental reality of the country, has come into existence. The most typical case comes from the expedited arbitration procedure, which goes by the name of “simplified procedure” in China.

Compared with the leading international arbitral institutions, Chinese arbitration bodies have adopted all along the expedited procedure to resolve lower-value disputes by analogy to the use of expedited rules for lawsuits. Although the specific approach is slightly different from those of the leading international arbitration agencies, it indeed marks the practice adopted by Chinese arbitral institutions far earlier than the leading international arbitration bodies.

This is the result of the fact that the arbitration community in China had begun to handle small claims cases since the 1990s. Compared with the disputes with monetary values of up to hundreds of millions of dollars in international arbitration, there was an urgent need to put the expedited procedure into use in Chinese arbitration. Apparently, such procedure places an aggressive curb on lengthy proceedings and hefty costs over the recent development of international arbitration. Hence, it is gradually becoming the latest trend of international arbitration.

However, I personally still have reservations about issues like how to export the “China experience”.

International arbitration traces its roots to the autonomy of merchants. Businesses have no national boundary, with the free flow of capital. They have never carried the excessively prominent characteristic of any single country. It is the same with international arbitration.

Rather than attaching a country-of-origin label to successful experience, it might as well be recognized that this is the outcome of international collaboration and concerted effort. This is the wisdom and intelligence contributed by China via its proactive participation in international activities.

For instance, a series of arbitration cases handled by a certain foreign arbitral institution has formed a set of effective practices. However, from both the parties to the lawyers and arbitrators, two-thirds of the people hold Chinese passports. So here is the question: Should the experience, formed and developed at this moment, be defined as the so-called “China experience”, or “foreign country’s experience”?

Or, the other way round, a series of arbitration cases handled by a certain Chinese arbitration body has formed a set of effective practices, but none of the parties, lawyers or arbitrators has Chinese nationality. So the question is: Should the experience, formed and developed at this moment, be defined as the “China experience” or the “foreign country experience”?

The nature of arbitration itself decides that it possesses all kinds of complex factors, and does not belong to a certain country or countries, be it China, the US or the UK. Every practitioner in every single country is contributing their wisdom and strength. But the ultimate outcomes belong to the whole international arbitration community, with no distinction between “them” and “us”.


China’s arbitration quid pro quo

Dr Ma Yi, vice-chairman and secretary general of Shanghai International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (Shanghai International Arbitration Centre, or SHIAC)

Arbitration
Ma Yi

In recent years, as Chinese companies embark on an overseas journey and the national policy of the Belt and Road Initiative gets off the ground, more and more Chinese enterprises are going global to engage in investments abroad.

According to statistics, Chinese parties rank third in terms of the number of parties involved in cases commenced at the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and fourth in terms of the number of parties involved in cases commenced at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC). In the past three years, parties from the Chinese mainland have come in second in terms of the number of parties participated in the arbitrations commenced at the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC), next only to parties from Hong Kong.

The growing demand from Chinese parties for international arbitration, on the one hand, promotes the fine-tuned international arbitration practices to be better accepted by Chinese practitioners. On the other hand, it also increases the chances of “Chinese elements”, including Chinese law, language, lawyers and arbitrators, appearing on the international arbitration stage.

This can be said to be how the concept of “Sinicization of international arbitration” manifests itself externally. As arbitration is known to be a dispute resolution mechanism, whether it could be given full play relies on how the design of this mechanism integrates with legal culture accepted by the parties to the dispute. From this point of view, for arbitral institutions in mainland China, the goal of the Sinicization of international arbitration is to make the case management practices and dispute resolution culture of our own gradually accepted by the international arbitration community.

In fact, with years-long arbitration practices and external exchanges, some arbitral institutions in mainland China with a higher degree of internationalization, such as the Shanghai International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (also known as Shanghai International Arbitration Centre, or SHIAC), have already shared their sophisticated ideas and experience on how to strike a balance between quality and efficiency.

This also has an impact on the recent practices of their global counterparts, to a certain extent. For example, arbitral institutions like the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) and the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) have successively taken a leaf from mainland arbitration institutions’ books in terms of case management, beginning to allow the parties to select and employ the tribunal secretary.

In terms of legal culture in arbitration, “arbitration-mediation” is being increasingly accepted by the international arbitration community. In Asia, apart from mainland China, arbitration legislation in Hong Kong and Singapore both allow an arbitrator to act as a mediator if all parties consent in writing. Arbitral institutions in European countries like Germany, Switzerland and Austria also stipulate that arbitrators have the obligation to actively assist the parties in reaching an amicable settlement of the dispute.

The International Bar Association’s Guidelines on Conflicts of Interest in International Arbitration also clearly state that the arbitrator may qualify to act as mediator in the arbitration proceedings with the express agreement of the parties. Such agreement shall be considered to be an effective waiver of any potential conflict of interest.

The Sinicization of international arbitration is, in effect, at the same time the internationalization of Chinese arbitration. In recent years, by exercising the institutional functions of designating arbitrators, the SHIAC has consistently increased the proportion of arbitrators from Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and foreign countries attending the hearings.

In these cases, the SHIAC has worked with international arbitral tribunals to: adopt the procedural rules of Chinese arbitration institutions and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Arbitration Rules (UNCITRAL); employ methods like a combination of the adversarial and the inquisitorial approach in hearing the cases; and apply international conventions such as United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, and laws already agreed upon by the parties, to decide the cases.

This enables these experts to gain knowledge of the Chinese arbitration system and legal culture in arbitration through their own experiences. By amending the arbitration rules, the SHIAC seeks to break down barriers between the legal ideas of international arbitration and Chinese arbitration practices. For example, the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone Arbitration Rules of SHIAC, implemented in 2014, set out a separate mediation procedure, available before the composition of the arbitral tribunal, to avoid bias or the appearance of bias, which may arise from the conflicting dual roles as mediator and arbitrator – effectively solving the issue that has worried the international arbitration community for quite a time.

Furthermore, under the structures of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India China and South Africa) Legal Forum, and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Legal Forum, the SHIAC has established BRICS Dispute Resolution Centre Shanghai, and China-Africa Joint Arbitration Centre Shanghai, respectively, to set up a new mode of co-operation on international arbitration that integrates the mixed characteristics of legal cultures at home and abroad.

Based on the experience above, while learning from advanced international notions and experiences, arbitration institutions in mainland China should also seek to introduce the “China experience”, which conforms to international practices and fits in well with the fundamental realities of the country, to their global counterparts, essentially promoting the integration of the “internationalization of Chinese arbitration” and “Sinicization of international arbitration” via dialogues and exchanges.


The road to broader engagement

Lim Seok Hui,the CEO of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre

On 7 august 2019, 46 members of the UN signed the Singapore Convention on Mediation (Singapore Convention). The Singapore Convention is a treaty that seeks to increase the enforceability of mediated settlement agreements across countries. It is named after the city that hosted the signing ceremony, and whose delegates played a key role in the negotiations and drafting of the treaty.

Arbitration
Lim Seok Hui

As of 14 October 2019, Singapore, China and 49 other countries had signed the Singapore Convention. By improving the enforceability of mediated settlement agreements across countries, the Singapore Convention will encourage parties involved in cross-border projects and transactions to use mediation as a time and cost-efficient process as part of their dispute resolution toolkit.

Arbitration and mediation are complementary forms of alternative dispute resolution that give parties greater flexibility for the efficient, expert and enforceable resolution of their international disputes. Recognizing this, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) and the Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC) introduced the SIAC-SIMC Arb-Med-Arb Protocol in 2014 to allow parties to formally consider mediation as part of their dispute resolution process. In the event that parties are able to settle their dispute, the mediated settlement agreement can be recorded as a consent award to benefit from the New York Convention for arbitration.

The signing of the Singapore Convention is a strong starting point towards increasing the enforceability of mediated settlement agreements across countries. As with the 1958 New York Convention for arbitration, the ratification process by states may take some time. The SIAC will therefore continue to work with the SIMC to jointly promote the SIAC-SIMC Arb-Med-Arb Protocol to support this process. These initiatives will further cement Singapore’s status as a leading dispute resolution hub.

Following China’s State Council announcement to allow internationally renowned commercial dispute resolution institutions to establish a formal presence in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (FTZ), back in April 2015, the SIAC lost no time in setting up its representative office in the Shanghai FTZ, in March 2016.

Chinese parties are a valued top foreign user of the SIAC, which seeks to deepen and broaden engagement with key stakeholders in the Chinese arbitration community through the following measures:

  • In 2018 and 2019, the SIAC signed memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with the Shenzhen Court of International Arbitration, Xi’an Arbitration Commission, China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC), Shanghai International Arbitration Centre (SHIAC), and Beijing International Arbitration Centre (BAC) to promote international arbitration as a preferred method of dispute resolution for resolving international disputes in China, in order to better support the needs of companies, businesses and investors in Belt and Road projects all over the world.
  • In 2018 and 2019, the SIAC signed MOUs with Peking University (PKU) law school and the East China University of Political Science and Law to offer internships to law students from these universities. Pursuant to these MOUs, the law schools and the SIAC will also explore the incorporation of the “SIAC and institutional arbitration” module into the law programmes of these universities. These partnerships will, it is hoped, enable the SIAC to play a role in nurturing and developing future generations of China’s international arbitration experts.
  • The SIAC Academy, “Time and Cost Savers at SIAC: Emergency Arbitration, Expedited Procedure and Early Dismissal”, was held in Beijing in October 2018 at PKU law school. We are planning to hold the SIAC Academy in other Chinese cities.
  • Through the SIAC’s representative office in Shanghai, we work closely with PRC arbitration commissions, law firms, in-house counsel organizations, bar associations and industry associations to promote international arbitration by conducting training programmes and workshops all over China.

The SIAC’s people offer the twin advantages of language and cultural fluency. The SIAC’s board of directors, Court of Arbitration and panel of arbitrators include many eminent Chinese arbitration experts and leading Singaporean practitioners who are fluent in Chinese. The SIAC secretariat has PRC counsel and Singaporean counsel who are fluent Chinese speakers.

Through its various partnerships and initiatives, the SIAC will continue to enhance and innovate its services to ensure that it is well-positioned at all times to support the commercial needs of Chinese companies, businesses and investors in Belt and Road projects around the world.