The legal and business landscape in China continued to evolve this past year, and many of the best deals demonstrate the changing times. Richard Li reports on the ones we judged to be outstanding in 2012

If one characteristic could sum up China-related transactions in 2012, it would be the sheer diversification.

Times are changing in our legal community. Politically, a new leadership promises further reform, while the legal service industry’s frenetic consolidation activity suggests preparations for a new era in transparency and internationalisation.

A mood of change can also be detected in the flavour of some of our deals of the year. Traditionally inactive industries saw significant activity. In China’s tightly controlled internet sector, for example, the top two players in the online video market merged, while world-leading online trading platform Alibaba initiated a huge buyback of its shares held by Yahoo!.

The Oriental DreamWorks joint venture signals that the government is opening the door to foreign participation in the media industry, which has until now been zealously guarded by Chinese authorities.

Still in the realm of entertainment, Chinese private company Dalian Wanda impressed us with its huge expansion and the purchase of the largest movie theatre chains in the US.

Deals in the capital market put Hong Kong under the spotlight, as a good measure of Chinese companies chose this international city to make their IPO listings in 2012, perhaps driven by the tougher regulatory climates overseas. With the central government’s support for Hong Kong’s development as an offshore RMB business centre, the city has also become a popular location for issuing RMB bonds.

In the international arena, Chinese banks have been involved in big financing deals, preferring either developing countries or debt-ridden developed markets. Meanwhile, China has improved in its handling of international trade disputes, and even managed to supervise the EU’s implementation of a WTO ruling against EU anti-dumping measures against China.

The winning deals have, as last year, been chosen based on a number of factors, not just large monetary values. The overall significance, complexity and innovative nature of the deals were also considered, as well as the deal size and broader interests. China Business Law Journal’s independent editorial team made its own choices on the deals that we felt were the best of the best.

All winning deals and law firms chosen are listed in alphabetical order to avoid presumptions of ranking.

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