China’s role in global arbitration and international law

By An Shouzhi and Wang Pengxin, AnJie Broad
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China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is said to be the world’s largest international co-operation platform. The huge scale of the co-operation among countries along the Belt and Road has brought great demand for legal infrastructure, and a gradual increase in demand for international law services. Chinese lawyers need to actively prepare to participate in international law and international arbitration, promoting China’s international law services globally.

Q: What are the new developments and trends in the BRI and the international rule of law?

An Shouzhi
An Shouzhi
Partner
AnJie Broad

A: As of June 2023, China had signed more than 200 Belt and Road co-operation agreements with more than 150 countries and 30 international organisations. The BRI is effectively aligned with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at a global level. Regionally, it has also effectively aligned with development plans or co-operation initiatives such as the Asean Connectivity Master Plan, the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and the EU’s Strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia.

The central government’s fresh perspectives, new approaches and explorations in the field of international rule of law are gradually shaping a “Chinese solution” to transform the global governance system. This reflects China’s proactive stance in the field of international public goods, from a participant to an advocate in the international order, leading the international economic legislative process and playing a new role as a “reformer outside the system” in the overall construction of legal systems.

This is both an opportunity and a challenge for Chinese lawyers, which means that, facing the broader global market, China’s international law lawyers need to actively participate in the process of China’s international rule of law system construction with a higher international perspective and professional level.

Q: How do you view the development trend and demand for international arbitration under the BRI?

A: International arbitration plays an important role in cross-border dispute resolution. Traditionally, the focal point of international arbitration has been in Europe and North America. However, in recent years, with the development of the BRI, the Asia-Pacific region has been at the forefront of global economic development.

Demand for, and attention to, international arbitration services have been increasing, and the centre of international arbitration has gradually shifted to Asia. The International Arbitration Survey, published in 2021 by Queen Mary University of London, pointed out that the HKIAC, SIAC and CIETAC are among the top five most popular international arbitration institutions.

Wang Pengxin
Wang Pengxin
Paralegal
AnJie Broad

The rise of international arbitration in the Asia-Pacific region indicates that Chinese arbitration institutions have strong international competitiveness and credibility, and China’s voice in Asia-Pacific and even international arbitration circles has been further enhanced. The growing investment, trade and personnel exchanges in countries along the Belt and Road have promoted the increase in demand for international legal services and, as a result, the international arbitration business developed rapidly.

Besides commercial arbitration, the investment arbitration business will become a promising focus. Chinese lawyers will have more opportunities to participate in investment arbitration governed by the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, and the arbitration rules of the UN Commission on International Trade Law. They will also be able to act on behalf of companies, investors, states or state-owned entities under international investment agreements and bilateral investment treaties, which include investor-state dispute settlement measures, in investment arbitration.

Q: How do you view the demand for public international law services in the future international law market?

A: International law lawyers deal with cases involving disputes between sovereign states or international organisations, as well as disputes between sovereign states and investors. Due to the limited number of cases originating from a single source and the higher level of experience and knowledge required in international law practice, lawyers in the EU and US currently dominate the public international law service market. However, as China gradually assumes the role of a “reformer outside the international rule of law system”, significant opportunities should arise for Chinese lawyers.

Opportunities are most likely to come from international sanctions compliance and enforcement. Here, lawyers help clients identify and mitigate risks related to international sanctions, especially compliance risks from unilateral trade and economic sanctions, conduct sanctions due diligence on various corporate transactions, and assist in the investigation and remediation of potential sanctions issues.

Additionally, in areas such as the law of the sea, territorial disputes, trade conflicts, and the recovery of overseas cultural relics, lawyers will represent sovereign states in litigation and arbitration to resolve disputes and protect sovereign interests. For instance, they may represent sovereign states in litigation and interstate negotiations in the dispute settlement mechanism at the International Court of Justice and World Trade Organisation.

In addition, lawyers practising international law can assist countries in participating in rule-making negotiations, compliance investigations related to the implementation of climate change treaties, and even resolving disputes between countries over environmental and ecological damage in the areas of international environmental law, climate change and sustainable development.

Q: What is the role of Chinese international law lawyers in the global market, and what preparations need to be made?

A: Currently, the world is undergoing unprecedented changes, and Chinese lawyers should actively develop insight into emerging international disputes and explore opportunities in the global market.

Chinese international law lawyers must possess expertise in specific legal techniques, such as using treaty interpretation to find breakthroughs and leveraging their excellent advocacy skills during court trials. In addition, they must possess skills in factual analysis and integration, adeptly utilising teamwork. They should be able to apply both Chinese and foreign law in government-related litigation cases, and play a co-ordinating and leading role within the team in specific cases.

To establish a presence in the global market for international legal services, Chinese lawyers need theoretical knowledge and practical skills in international law, to master certain interdisciplinary theories of international economic, political and historical affairs, have excellent foreign language skills, and have the ability to make themselves heard in the global discourse on international law. These high-level lawyers must be able to take advantage of the uncertainty of the law to protect the interests of the state, investors and other clients to the greatest extent.

An Shouzhi is a partner and Wang Pengxin is a paralegal at AnJie Broad

AnJie Broad Law Firm19/F Tower D1, Liangmaqiao Diplomatic Office Building
19 Dongfang East Road, Chaoyang District
Beijing 100600, China
Tel: +86 10 8567 5988
Fax: +86 10 8567 5999
E-mail: anshouzhi@anjielaw.com
wangpengxin@anjielaw.com
www.anjielaw.com

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