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China Business Law Journal announces our winners following an extensive market survey. Pan Xinyi reports

AS GLOBAL TRADE RELATIONS continued to fluctuate in the tumultuous and pandemic-stricken year of 2022, with tightening international trade policies and regulations, and stricter law enforcement, Chinese companies, whether focusing on domestic markets or seeking growth opportunities abroad, faced great challenges. As the gatekeepers of corporate compliance, in-house counsel were tasked during this torrid time with ensuring smooth operations and maintaining standardised and healthy market development.

As always, the CBLJ In-house Counsel Awards aim to recognise legal professionals who have made significant contributions to the business order and operating environment, as well as those highly recommended by the market, in China and beyond. Winners of the 2023 edition of the award were selected after months of in-depth research, including a comprehensive market survey conducted by the editorial team covering a wide range of fields and sectors, after receiving an unprecedented level of candidate feedback, numbering in the thousands of responses.

The awards are divided between individual and team categories, which in turn further break down into finer categories of practice areas and industries. Additionally, there is one recipient each for the General Counsel of the Year and In-house Team of the Year awards, and the Emerging Achievers awards are presented to in-house counsel who have achieved remarkable results early in their careers.

To stay abreast of the evolving market and accurately reflect the emphasis and progress of in-house counsel efforts, the award categories are constantly monitored and optimised. For example, in the practice area categories, anti-bribery & anti-corruption have been added. Notably, companies are demonstrating growing needs for legal services in this regard, with the widespread increased awareness of environmental social and governance (ESG) issues.

In terms of industries, fintech has been added to reflect the new wave of technological innovation from financial enterprises in the digital economy era. The original healthcare & life sciences category has been divided into healthcare & pharmaceutical, and biomedical & life sciences, following the global trend of segmenting the medical field.

In particular, for teams, areas of practice include: Anti-bribery & anti-corruption; Capital markets (domestic); Capital markets (overseas); Compliance (domestic); Compliance (cross-border); Data protection & privacy; Dispute resolution (domestic); Dispute resolution (cross-border); Employment & labour; Intellectual property (copyright); Intellectual property (patent); Intellectual property (trademark); Intellectual property (dispute and enforcement); International compliance & sanctions; Mergers & acquisitions (domestic); Mergers & acquisitions (cross-border); Restructuring; Securitisation; and Trade secrets.

Industry sectors under team awards include: Asset management; Automotive; Aviation, shipping & logistics; Banking & finance; Biomedical & life sciences; Cloud services; Construction & infrastructure; Consumer & retail; Education; Electrical & electronics; Energy & natural resources; Environment & renewable energy; Fintech; Food & beverage; Healthcare & pharmaceutical; Industrials & chemicals; Internet & e-commerce; Media, entertainment & sport; Private equity & venture capital; Real estate; Technology & telecoms; and Video games & e-sports.

For individuals, practice areas include: Anti-bribery & anti-corruption; Capital markets (domestic); Capital markets (overseas); Compliance (domestic); Compliance (cross-border); Data protection & privacy; Dispute resolution (domestic); Dispute resolution (cross-border); Employment & labour; Intellectual property (copyright); Intellectual property (patent); Intellectual property (trademark); Intellectual property (dispute and enforcement); International compliance & sanctions; Mergers & acquisitions (domestic); Mergers & acquisitions (cross-border); Restructuring; Securitisation; and Trade secrets.

Industry sectors under individual awards include: Asset management; Automotive; Aviation, shipping & logistics; Banking & finance; Biomedical & life sciences; Cloud services; Construction & infrastructure; Consumer & retail; Education; Electrical & electronics; Energy & natural resources; Environment & renewable energy; Fintech; Food & beverage; Healthcare & pharmaceutical; Industrials & chemicals; Internet & e-commerce; Media & entertainment; Sport; Private equity & venture capital; Real estate; Technology & telecoms; and Video games & e-sports.

This year, the In-house Counsel Awards uphold their criteria of independent, objective and fair selection, with no fee involved from surveying market views to finalising the list of winners. In order to accurately reflect market perspectives, China Business Law Journal not only issued research surveys to Chinese and overseas corporate readers, inviting them to nominate and recommend outstanding legal individuals and teams, but also collected nominations from practising lawyers, legal professionals, industry leaders and in-house counsel both at home and abroad. To ensure the objectivity and impartiality of the nominations, in-house counsel cannot nominate themselves for individual awards, or their teams for team awards.

China Business Law Journal’s editorial team conducted independent research on thousands of surveyed candidates’ submissions and, based on the performance parameters, evaluated and scored individuals and teams on various aspects such as professional knowledge, communication skills, innovation and industry influence, ultimately selecting elite in-house counsel and teams from various practice areas and industries. Please refer to the performance parameters on the left for specific selection criteria.

We sincerely thank all the nominators who participated in the In-house Counsel Awards of China Business Law Journal. We also extend our heartfelt congratulations to the legal professionals and teams who received awards. Due to space constraints, we cannot fully present all the outstanding achievements of the winners in the past year and the recommendations from their professional peers. Therefore, we have selected some of them to share here.

Performance parameters

In our survey, we asked the respondents to rate the teams and individuals against several key performance parameters. We evaluated each individual nominee and each team on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Legal knowledge
  • Communication skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Creativity/innovation
  • Breadth of jurisdiction/practice areas/industries
  • Legal knowledge
  • Efficiency/creativity
  • Team depth and strength
  • Breadth of jurisdiction/practice areas/industries
  • Use of technology
  • Impact and significance


Feng Lin, general counsel at China Resources (CR) Capital Management, is the winner of the General Counsel of the Year award. CR Capital Management is the unified fund management platform of China Resources Group. In the past year, Feng led her team to provide legal services for the investment and post-investment management of more than 20 funds.

She also participated in the restructuring of multiple asset management company-related (AMC) assets, and successfully established a real estate fund project with a listed company in Hong Kong, with a total reorganisation value exceeding RMB4 billion (USD580 million). She also assisted a major offshore investment project to pass the overseas compliance review of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) and the Australian Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), and explored the issuance of RMB-denominated REITs with the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong (SEHK).

Huang Hai, a Shenzhen-based managing partner of Llinks Law Offices, has long served as a legal adviser to CR Capital Management. Having worked closely with Feng and her legal compliance department, he highly praises her work abilities. “Feng is equipped with both transaction co-ordination and conflict resolution abilities, and can co-ordinate the relationships between directors, investment committees, investment teams, and the middle and back offices,” says Huang.

“She can lead legal colleagues and external lawyers to manage risks while maximising the chances of completing the transaction project, which has gained the trust and recognition of the investors.”

With outstanding performance in multiple fields, Feng is also the winner in the Private equity & venture capital, Securitisation and Restructuring categories, and highly commended in the Capital markets (domestic) and Compliance (cross-border) categories. The legal compliance department of CR Capital Management is a winner in Private equity & venture capital and Securitisation, and is highly commended in the Compliance (cross-border), Mergers & acquisitions (cross-border), and Restructuring categories.

Sina Group’s legal department, comprising more than 50 in-house counsel across the headquarters, local stations and holding subsidiaries, is our In-house Team of the Year. The team provides comprehensive legal support for Sina Group, including investment and M&A, capital markets, dispute resolution, data security, antitrust, intellectual property management, business compliance, anti-corruption, government relations and policy research.

Led by general manager Gu Haiyan, Sina’s legal department optimised its asset structure through internal asset and debt restructuring, and established a foreign-related case handling team.

The team also co-operated with the business department to design and develop complaint mechanisms and systems that match relevant regulations and platforms. These include the DMCA complaint mechanism that complies with the US copyright system, infringement notice disposal rules, an IP complaint system that complies with the Civil Code, a Winter Olympics special complaint system that complied with the requirements of the Beijing Winter Olympics, and the World Cup 2022 Special Complaint System that complied with the requirements of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, providing customised channels for different rights holders and reducing the conversion of complaints to litigation cases, so making positive contributions to IP protection.

The Sina legal department is also the winner in the Internet & e-commerce, Media, entertainment & sport, and Dispute resolution (cross-border) categories, and is highly commended in the Capital markets (domestic), Intellectual property (litigation & enforcement), and Video games & e-sports categories. Gu is also highly recommended in Dispute resolution (Cross-border).


Zhang Yu, deputy general manager and general counsel at China National Oil & Gas Exploration and Development Corporation (CNODC), is the winner in Compliance (cross-border), Dispute resolution (cross-border), and Energy & natural resources, and is highly commended in Compliance (cross-border). CNODC is a subsidiary authorised by the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) to handle overseas oil and gas investment and operation projects in 30 countries.

Led by Zhang, the CNODC international legal compliance team consists of 74 international legal and business professionals. In 2022, the turbulent international situation posed new challenges to the overseas oil and gas business. Zhang and his team rose to the challenge and helped the company obtain dual certification of the compliance management system ISO 37301 (international standard) and GB/T 35770 (national standard).

The team also established compliance models in countries such as Niger and Kazakhstan, and proactively addressed project development risks and disputes in Africa, Central Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

The team is the winner in the Compliance (cross-border) and Energy & natural resources categories, and is highly commended in the Dispute resolution (cross-border) and Compliance (domestic) categories.

Steven Cao, former general counsel and chief compliance officer of China Gezhouba Group Overseas Investment, has 17 years of experience in legal compliance and international business management. He led his team to provide legal support for the group’s overseas investments, construction and operation in renewable energy, cement, water, building materials and civil explosive industries.

Cao has helped the group in business integration and in completing more than 80 major overseas investments including the Patan Hydropower Station project in Pakistan, the photovoltaic projects in Myanmar, the acquisition of SPSL Water Company in Brazil, and the Asean Phase II Fund project, with a total investment amount of billions of US dollars.

Shen Song, a Beijing-based partner at Jingtian & Gongcheng, says: “Cao and his legal team are widely praised for their professionalism and remarkable achievements in the energy and infrastructure industry.”

Cao is the winner in the International compliance & sanctions, and Mergers & acquisitions (cross-border) categories, and is highly commended in Construction & infrastructure, and Environment & renewable energy.

Mengniu Dairy’s compliance management department, led by general counsel and chief compliance officer Guo Lidong, established a compliance BP mechanism, a unique compliance management system framework and special teams targeting key compliance areas, focusing respectively on anti-monopoly, anti-commercial bribery, business partner management and corporate governance. Anti-corruption and anti-bribery are among the top indicators for international ESG ratings, hence a new award category was added in due recognition.

In 2022, Mengniu Dairy’s compliance management department proposed more than 400 compliance control measures. In terms of data compliance, the team led the establishment of a special data governance group and launched a risk-screening action for personal information protection compliance that covered more than 400 front-end applications of the group and each business department, including apps, mini-programmes, video channels and public accounts to protect consumer privacy and personal information.

For its high level of compliance management, Mengniu Dairy further received praise from Ge Yan, a Beijing-based partner at Zhong Lun Law Firm.

“Mengniu Dairy’s compliance management system has helped it to lead the global industry in business ethics and morality, winning first place in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ CSR Development Index for the dairy industry for three consecutive years,” she says. “Mengniu also ranks the highest in the food industry of China (including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) in terms of the MSCI ESG rating, which makes it a model for compliance management in the industry.”

Mengniu Dairy’s compliance management department is the winner in Food & beverages, Anti-bribery & anti-corruption, and is highly commended in Data protection & privacy, Compliance (domestic) and Compliance (cross-border).

According to the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA), China granted 798,000 invention patents and received 74,000 international patent applications under the Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) in 2022, making significant strides over the previous year. Additionally, the year saw the registration of 6,177,000 trademarks.

Baidu’s patent affairs department had an outstanding year in 2022, as reported by China’s AI Patent Technology Analysis Report (2022). The department, led by general manager Cui Lingling, achieved remarkable results in the field of AI patents, with roughly 17,000 patent applications and 5,705 granted patents, maintaining their top rank in China for the fifth consecutive year.

Furthermore, Baidu secured the highest score of 92.21 in the High-Value Patent and Innovation Driver (Patent Quality) Assessment, holding onto its top position in China while also maintaining an unbeaten record in various patent litigation decisions throughout the year.

Wu Lili, a Beijing-based partner of the intellectual property department at Han Kun Law Offices, who has worked with Cui Lingling, says: “Cui is a rare leader in corporate legal affairs. Her long-term leadership position in the legal department of a talent-packed company like Baidu and her significant achievements speak to her excellence and exceptional ability.”

Cui is the winner in Technology & telecoms, and is highly commended in the Intellectual property (patent) category. In addition, Baidu’s patent affairs department is the winner in the category of Intellectual property (patent), and is highly commended in Cloud services, and Internet & e-commerce.

Zhang Zhongli, deputy general manager of the legal and intellectual property departments of Hisense Group, is the winner in Intellectual property (patent), and is highly commended in Intellectual property (copyright) and Electrical & electronics categories. With 17 years of experience, Zhang has formed and led Hisense’s IP department to complete 6,249 patent applications and obtain 4,415 patent licences in 2022 alone.

In addition, he successfully responded to and handled 20 patent lawsuits, 79 patent licensing disputes, 30 copyright disputes, five patent retroactive effects disputes, and seven invalidity counterclaims. The IP department’s patent engineers played a key role in performing complex technical analysis, non-infringement defence, invalidation search, and circumvention design on the patents involved.

BGI Genomics, a leading Chinese biogenetics company, has also made strides in the intellectual property arena. Under the guidance of Xu Qian, the deputy general manager, general counsel and secretary to the board of directors, BGI’s legal department applied for a total of 63 domestic and foreign patents (35 granted) related to the pandemic. This comprehensive patent layout has helped BGI distribute its pandemic-related products to 180 countries and regions, solidifying it as one of the world’s top science and technology service providers and operators of precision medical services.

Xu is the winner in the Biomedical & life sciences category, and is highly commended in Intellectual property (patent). The legal department is also highly commended in the Biomedical & life sciences and Intellectual property (patent) categories.

Cui Ruijie, the general counsel, chief compliance officer and director of the policy and regulations department of China State Shipbuilding Corporation, along with the department, handled a total of 861 legal dispute cases in 2022, involving a total amount of RMB12.9 billion, and concluded 578 cases throughout the year, avoided and recovered losses amounting to RMB1.8 billion, and has resolved major historical cases.

The team also helped the corporation successfully register the trademarks of “China State Shipbuilding Corporation” and “CSSC” under exceptionally strict scrutiny, becoming one of the few companies successfully registering trademarks containing the word “China” in recent years.

Cui and the policy and regulations department are both winners in Dispute resolution (domestic), and Aviation, shipping & logistics. Cui is also highly commended in Compliance (domestic) and Dispute resolution (cross-border). The department is highly commended in Compliance (domestic), Dispute resolution (cross-border) and Intellectual property (trademark).

As for the digital economy, China’s fintech-related policies and regulations in 2022 further accelerated its growth. According to a report by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, China’s digital economy reached a value of RMB45 trillion, accounting for 39.8% of the gross domestic product (GDP). Financial companies are now joining the digital transformation trend and implementing fintech strategies, which pose new challenges for corporate legal affairs in terms of data compliance and risk management.

Huisuanzhang, a renowned player in the internet taxation domain, and affiliated with Gongjin Technology, caters to more than a million small, medium, and micro enterprises by offering comprehensive corporate services such as intelligent taxation, qualification applications, and business affairs. The legal centre of Huisuanzhang, helmed by general counsel Luo Yuan, worked in close collaboration with R&D and security departments to complete network security-level protection certification and ISO certification.

Huang Xiaonan, a senior project manager at Shanghai UDC Business Consulting, lauded Luo for her communication skills, leadership and execution during their work on the business split and cross-border restructuring of the Huisuanzhang project. “With no precedent to follow, Luo led the team through this incredibly complex cross-border restructuring project,” she says.

Luo is a winner in the category of Fintech and is highly commended in Data protection & privacy, and Restructuring, while the legal centre is highly commended in Data protection & privacy, Restructuring, Cloud services, and Fintech.

Lillian Lu, vice president and associate general counsel at Tapestry Greater China, is the winner in the category of Consumer & retail. Lu is responsible for overseeing legal, compliance, intellectual property and risk control matters for Greater China, Japan and South Korea.

In the past year, Lu has led her legal team to significant achievements in personal information, data protection and IP rights. These include the development of the company’s personal information protection and data security compliance system, and the establishment of the China privacy office.

In an effort to safeguard the group’s IP rights, the team initiated more than 130 civil lawsuits related to IP infringements in 2022, resulting in more than RMB3 million in damages in the past six months. Notably, they have also not lost any arbitration, litigation or dispute resolution cases during the same period.

According to Caroline Hou, a Shanghai-based senior partner at Dentons China, “Lu has been providing legal services to the retail industry for many years and possesses an extensive understanding of legal requirements and practical experience in these areas. She is highly skilled at proposing commercially viable solutions while ensuring legal compliance.”

Tapestry Greater China’s legal department is highly commended in the Consumer & retail, and Intellectual property (litigation & enforcement) categories.


A total of 17 Emerging Achievers have been recognised in the 2023 edition of the In-house Counsel Awards, in recognition of their growing influence in the legal community. Despite their relatively short years as in-house counsel, they have demonstrated impressive growth and taken on leadership roles within their respective legal teams. Their contributions have made them an indispensable force, driving the operation and development of companies across various industries.

William Kong, general counsel at J&T Express, oversees the company’s global legal and compliance team of about 200 individuals. He offers legal support for J&T Express’ business development and operations.

Under Kong’s leadership, the legal compliance team at the company’s headquarters has swiftly created a local legal compliance team to guarantee seamless business operations and compliance. Additionally, the team ensures a robust interaction and management mechanism between the headquarters and the local teams.

J&T Express’ RMB6.8 billion acquisition of the China express delivery business of Best, in a carve-out transaction, was recently selected in China Business Law Journal’s Deals of the Year 2022.

Kong is also highly commended in the Aviation, shipping & logistics, and Mergers & acquisitions (cross-border) categories.

Zhang Siqi is the general counsel and founder of the legal team at EEO Group. With the team’s support, the company has grown from a startup to operating with nearly 1,000 employees and 22 subsidiaries worldwide.

The past two years have brought business transformation for EEO Group due to the pandemic and changes in education policy. Zhang has led the legal department in addressing the risks of compliance security and labour disputes that have arisen from changes in business processes and staff structure, and high growth in user volume.

By using low-code digital tools, she collaborated with an external IT team to create the company’s first contract management system that automatically generates contracts for about 70% of the company’s sales scenarios.

Additionally, Zhang has introduced a data compliance technical consultant to improve data compliance efforts. She also established a content security team to identify and combat fraudulent use of the company’s platform and products. This effort resulted in a 90% decrease in fraud complaints and the implementation of a regular review process for fraudulent and infringing content.

Along with the Emerging achievers award, Zhang is also highly commended in the Mergers & acquisitions (domestic) and Education category.

Tian Siyuan, assistant vice president at Micro Connect Group, led the domestic legal compliance team in collaboration with external legal counsel to establish a contractual alliance that caters to the innovative business model and investment logic of investing in micro and small enterprises. Under his guidance, the team handled more than 2,000 contracts related to joint operations and co-operation with these enterprises.

Charles Li, the Beijing-based founding partner of Han Kun Law Offices, offers his praise: “Tian fully demonstrated his professional legal expertise as an in-house counsel, applying his knowledge to actual business and providing concrete and enforceable legal compliance advice to the business team in response to the new and evolving business model of Micro Connect Group, and the new challenges brought by the continuous extension of business.”

Tian is not only an Emerging achiever, but also highly commended in the Banking & finance, and Fintech categories.

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