Currently, the Chinese arbitration industry is facing development opportunities and major challenges. On the one hand, with the in-depth promotion of the Belt and Road initiative, the pace of Chinese enterprises’ “going global” has accelerated, and arbitration is becoming an important mechanism for Chinese enterprises to guard against risks in their operations, and for both Chinese and foreign parties to protect their lawful rights and interests. The Chinese arbitration cause is on the threshold of historic development opportunities.
On the other hand, with the further opening up of the domestic arbitration market, foreign arbitration institutions are increasing their publicity efforts in China, intensifying the competition in China’s arbitration service industry. Additionally, the more than 250 arbitration institutions on the mainland are furiously developing, and arbitration cases are continuously increasing. China’s arbitration institutions accepted in excess of 300,000 cases in 2017.
However, there are impediments in the arbitration practice, such as unbalanced development, a relatively weak public awareness of arbitration, defects in the arbitration system, a lack of international arbitration experts, and an urgent need to expand the voice on international arbitration, etc. These issues fetter the development of arbitration to a certain extent. The Chinese arbitration cause is still facing major challenges.
In the face of the new situation, the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC) pursues a development orientation of professionalism, internationalization and informatization, and strives to enhance the credibility and influence of arbitration internationally.
In terms of professionalism, in the past 60 years, CIETAC has, by itself, accepted a vast number of foreign-related arbitration cases. In 2017, CIETAC accepted 476 foreign-related cases with a total dispute amount reaching RMB35.024 billion, an increase of 127.11% over the previous year. The average dispute amount reached RMB73.5 million. The parties involved were from 60 countries and regions, with English or a combination of Chinese and English being the language of arbitration in 57 cases.
In September 2017, CIETAC issued the International Investment Arbitration Rules (For Trial Implementation), erecting a mechanism and platform for resolving international investment disputes. The next step will be for CIETAC to implement those investment arbitration rules to provide professional services to assist Chinese and foreign enterprises in guarding against investment risks. Additionally, we propose to establish a CIETAC investment arbitration research centre to follow up with and conduct in-depth research on topical issues in investment arbitration.
In terms of internationalization, CIETAC actively promotes internationalized reform of the means of conducting oral hearings, with international arbitration practice as its reference and encourages arbitrators to adopt various means to examine cases, such as procedural orders, terms of reference, etc. CIETAC also issued and implemented the CIETAC Hong Kong Arbitration Center Rules as Appointing Authority in Ad Hoc Arbitrations to provide non-institutional arbitration services. It has also issued the Guidelines for Third Party Funding in Arbitration.
The committee is ctively participating in legislative and amendment research relating to the Arbitration Law, providing useful reference for arbitration law practice in China. As an NGO observer to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, CIETAC also sends representatives each year to attend CMC meetings, endeavoring to change China’s role as “bystander” to the international rules, and to contribute “Chinese wisdom” to the formulation of international arbitration rules.
In terms of informatization, CIETAC is strengthening information platform development and enhances the informatization level of institutional management. It vigorously promotes the application of such technologies as online case management, smart services, etc. and applies artificial intelligence informatization means to improve the standardized and detailed management of arbitration proceedings. Meanwhile, it also promotes the application of voice recognition systems in hearings.
In terms of institutional development, CIETAC has established nine sub-commissions in China to facilitate the resolution of local foreign-related economic and trade disputes. In 2017, the commission established a public-private partnership (PPP) dispute resolution centre, expanding its scope of arbitration services. In an effort to provide morer diversified dispute resolution services, CIETAC plans to establish a mediation center in the first half of this year to set up a mediation-arbitration and mediation-litigation coordinating mechanism.
CIETAC continuously communicates and cooperates with domestic courts, endeavoring to create a more amicable judicial supervision environment for arbitration in China. It has cohosted the China Arbitration Summit with the Supreme People’s Court during China Arbitration Week for three years running. It has actively cooperated in the Supreme People’s Court’s work of reforming the alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, and has strengthened communication with courts at every level to jointly safeguard the credibility of arbitration. It has also lawfully cooperated in court’s judicial supervision and review of arbitration awards.
Wang Chengjie is the vice chairman and secretary-general of the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission