A look back at the past two decades of arbitration in China and what lies ahead


The Arbitration Law took effect in 1995, marking the formalization of China’s modern arbitration system. In the two decades since, arbitration has developed consistently and rapidly. Chinese arbitration has attracted international attention in recent years, as China has consistently advanced its status and become further integrated into the global economy.

This article will offer four perspectives of the changes in Chinese arbitration over the past two decades. It will also analyse what these changes mean to domestic and foreign arbitration service providers and users. Finally, it will briefly discuss how arbitration may develop in China in the future.

Chen Fuyong
Chen Fuyong

Institutional boom

Presently the Arbitration Law allows institutional arbitration only, with ad hoc arbitration unavailable as an option. For this reason, the most noteworthy change in Chinese arbitration has been the amazing development of its institutional arbitration. As of the end of 2014, China has 235 arbitral institutions nationwide which have accepted 919,814 arbitration cases in total.

Under the Arbitration Law, parties are free to choose among the available arbitration institutions, meaning the institutions themselves are competing with each other. Institutions have made proactive endeavours for independence, competence and justice based on their respective market positioning in order to win the trust of arbitration users. Different development models have emerged from these endeavours.

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Chen Fuyong is deputy secretary general of the Beijing International Arbitration Center.