Contract interpretation


1 January 2021 was a significant date in the development of China’s legal system, as it was on this date that the Civil Code of the People’s Republic of China came into effect, repealing various laws including the Contract Law (for a discussion about the Civil Code and the recognition of custom, see China Business Law Journal volume 8, issue 6: Custom and Law). However, in line with the principle that law should not have retroactive effect, the Contract Law still governs legal acts that occurred prior to 1 January 2021. This is provided by articles 1 and 20 of the Certain Provisions of the Supreme People’s Court concerning the Time Validity of the Application of the Civil Code of the People’s Republic of China (passed at the 1,821st meeting of the judicial committee of the Supreme People’s Court on 14 December 2020).

This column discusses two issues: The continuing application of the Contract Law in respect of contracts and contracts disputes; and the above-mentioned provisions of the Civil Code in respect of contract interpretation.

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葛安德 Andrew Godwin

A former partner of Linklaters Shanghai, Andrew Godwin teaches law at Melbourne Law School in Australia, where he is an associate director of its Asian Law Centre. Andrew is currently on secondment to the ALRC as special counsel to assist with its inquiry into corporations and financial services regulation. Andrew’s new book is a compilation of China Business Law Journal’s popular Lexicon series, entitled China Lexicon: Defining and translating legal terms. The book is published by Vantage Asia and available at