Today, Chinese enterprises engaging in cross-border business face formidable challenges. The global business environment is full of uncertainty, the geopolitical landscape is increasingly complex, and overseas laws and regulations on international business are being heavily reinforced.

On 12 November 2019, China Business Law Journal (CBLJ), in an event to help corporate executives and legal teams avoid these legal risks, hosted the 2nd CBLJ Forum with the theme of “Seizing Cross-Border Opportunities – Managing Global Risks” at the Shanghai Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Ma Yi

Ma Yi, deputy director and secretary-general of Shanghai International Arbitration Centre, and Zhang Yunfeng, general manager of Shanghai Equity Exchange, addressed the opening ceremony.

Ma said that increasing cases of Chinese enterprises encountering risks in overseas investment had been reported in recent years as these companies undergo the process of going global.

“As a professional legal service group, it is necessary for us to seize the opportunities and stand up against the challenges,” said Ma. “We need to constantly facilitate the formulation of internal legal compliance and external risk prevention mechanisms for Chinese enterprises, with a broader global vision and in an ambitious progressive manner.”

Zhang observed that when trade protectionism and anti-globalization are on the rise, enhancing legal compliance and risk management capabilities is crucial for both real enterprises and related service organizations.

Zhang Yunfeng

According to Zhang, the central government is actively building a compliant, international and convenient business environment covering areas of concern more comprehensively. “In the light of the central government’s strategy, Shanghai is deepening reform and innovation, and speeding up to shape itself as an international finance centre,” he said.

During the keynote speech session, Qin Shuo, the initiator of Chin@Moments and co-director of the China Business Culture Research Centre, analyzed compliance issues against the background of conflict due to globalization.

Qin said that China, as an economy with massive imports and exports, had deeply integrated herself into the global economy. No matter from the perspective of imports or exports, it was impossible to separate China from the global market. “Against this backdrop, whether to introduce overseas enterprises into China, or help domestic enterprises go global, it is very difficult for them to operate sustainably if there is no high level of conformity, consensus, or order in the sense of compliance.”

He said globalization is now facing conflicts and challenges. “Nowadays, the world has come to a crossroad. Globalization, previously centred on neoliberalism, is really in difficulty. The unfavourable consequences of capital flows and technologies are looming. The development of emerging economies has brought shifts of power, which, to some extent, has disturbed the fundamental order set by developed countries,” he said.

“Therefore, a new consensus needs to be formulated around the globe. Yet that doesn’t mean completely abandoning the existing rules. Chinese government leaders have stated on many occasions that China is not trying to subvert the existing order, but to supplement it.”

Qin Shuo

At the end of his speech, Qin also mentioned that to deepen the understanding of compliance, the most important thing is still to develop values, especially the values of enterprises’ core leadership. “Only when compliance is deeply integrated into values can we transform ourselves from an economy earning the most cash to an economy earning the most respect internationally.”

The keynote speech was followed by a day of panel discussions. In the morning, Dentons moderated a discussion on “Coping with the trade war: Smart strategies for cross-border business”; Jingtian & Gongcheng spoke on “Venturing out: cross-border strategies for Chinese companies and funds”; DeHeng Law Offices took on “Playing safe: Risk management and dispute resolution strategies for outbound investment”; and Zhong Lun Law Firm moderated a discussion on “Belt and Road: The projects so far – the opportunities ahead”.

The afternoon sessions were split between three workshops. In workshop 1, Hui Ye Law Firm moderated a discussion on “Cross-border mergers and acquisitions”; Grandall Law Firm took on “Overseas listing strategies”; and Long An Law Firm spoke on “Resolving shareholder disputes”.

In workshop 2, CM Law Firm took on “Financing strategies for growth enterprise”; Dentons spoke on “Data compliance and GDPR”; and Blank Rome moderated a discussion on “Contemporary issues and challenges facing in-house counsel”.

In workshop 3, Xi Xiaohong, mediator/legal expert at Benchmark Chambers International and Benchmark International Mediation Centre, gave an opening speech on outbound investment. Member law firms of Lex Mundi participated in the following two sessions with a regional focus on Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, respectively.

The forum was attended by nearly 600 participants. Shawn Zhao, the Greater China general counsel of Schneider Electric (China), agreed with the keynote speaker that China is still on a path towards globalization, and will be more open with its reforms. “That’s a very encouraging theme,” he said. “I think China Business Law Journal can do a lot in this regard – for example, preparing Chinese enterprises to go to the global market, or reaching out on the Belt and Road Initiative, and being more successful in the global market.”

Liu Fang, general counsel and chief compliance officer at NIO, said the topics of the forum touched on the hottest issues currently in the legal sector, relating to the China-US trade war and compliance. “Those topics are really appealing to me, and the forum is very well organized,” she said.

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