China’s economy is recovering from the pandemic ahead of the rest of the world, but in-house counsel now face an increasingly tense international political theatre and an enormous uptick in regulatory and compliance-related work. Senior counsel share their coping strategies and predictions with Luna Jin

Despite years of legal education, overnight we may have to go back to law school all over again,” jokes one veteran practitioner on his social media. What he refers to is the enactment of the China’s Civil Code during the country’s “two sessions” – the plenary sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) – this year.

The codification, dubbed “an encyclopedia on social life”, is immense in volume, with 1,260 articles covering legal provisions in personality rights, property rights, contracts, marriages, inheritances, tort and so on. The Civil Code will officially come into force on 1 January next year and replace nine separate laws, which will be repealed.

The rules of business activities are set to undergo great changes, and for corporate counsel, 2020 is now on the wane, leaving them only four months to prepare for this new legislation.

Apart from the Civil Code, they also face challenges from supply chain, regulatory environment, and internal team management, according to the recent survey by China Business Law Journal. Fortunately, most have already begun the deployment of precautions in earnest.

Vast new codifications

Unlike European countries, where civil codes are formulated against the formation of nation-states and social change, China has no civil law tradition. At the beginning of China’s reform and opening-up, the legislature then believed that China’s social life was still undergoing great uncertainties, and the country was not equipped with the realistic conditions to formulate a complete codification. Therefore, China chose a path of “from separate laws to one compilation”.

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