How many arbitrators do you need in mainland China?

By Ma Xiaoxiao, Beijing Arbitration Commission/Beijing International Arbitration Centre
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In the practice of commercial arbitration, the number of arbitrators may vary depending on the degree of acceptance of a legal system treating the principle of party autonomy. Article 30 of the Arbitration Law regulates the composition of arbitration tribunals, and the author addresses this in light of her practice at the BAC/BIAC.

Article 30 of the Arbitration Law provides that the arbitration tribunal may consist of either one arbitrator or three arbitrators. In addition, most of the arbitration rules of Chinese arbitration institutions specify that, in the absence of any special agreement between the parties, the number of arbitrators should be one or three, according to the amount in dispute. In practice, if the parties have special agreements on the number of arbitrators or the way the arbitration tribunal is formed, the arbitration institutions will generally respect the contractual stipulations and make corresponding adjustments to the arbitration fees charged at the time of filing the case.

The reason for a special agreement may vary. For a higher-value case, but one that is less complicated, or for cases of the same type of subject matter, having one arbitrator may help save on arbitration costs and, to the maximum extent, realize the needs for efficiency. For a smaller-value case, but one that is fairly complicated, three arbitrators may reduce the possibility of personal bias or a wrong judgment. Arbitrators from different professions or backgrounds will help realize the fairness in a justifiable award through deliberation, co-operation and perspective contribution.

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Ma Xiaoxiao is a case manager at Beijing Arbitration Commission/Beijing International Arbitration Centre (BAC/BIAC)

 

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