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不久前由英国伦敦玛丽女王大学发布的《2021年国际仲裁调查》显示,在全球最受欢迎的十大仲裁地中,大中华区的香港特别行政区、北京、上海都榜上有名。该地区的仲裁中心领导及资深律师与ALB分享了过去一年中对仲裁发展的第一手观察。

根据玛丽女王大学的年度调查,过去一年中,受全球疫情、仲裁发展等影响,仲裁再次成为了最受欢迎的跨境争议解决办法,其被接受程度也出现巨大跃升——共有90%的受访者更青睐利用仲裁解决他们的纠纷。

这份调查还列出了全球最受欢迎的仲裁地,大中华区有三地上榜:香港(位列第三)、北京(位列第六)和上海(位列第七)。此外还有部分受访者将深圳选为他们心仪的仲裁地。

在最受欢迎仲裁机构方面,全球前五中,大中华区占据两个席位:香港国际仲裁中心(“港仲”)位列第三,地处北京的中国国际经济贸易仲裁委员会(“贸仲”)则首次登榜,位列第五。

上述数据似乎都说明,仲裁不仅正在大中华区成为更受欢迎的纠纷解决手段,该地区仲裁机构的国际认可度也在不断提升。

谈及过去一年中国仲裁的变化,最显著的是仲裁案件数量的增多。

天达共和律师事务所管委会主任周琦律师是争议解决领域专家,也是贸仲的资深仲裁员。“过去一年仲裁案件出现了大幅度增长。”他告诉ALB,“无论作为仲裁员,还是代理人,都感到了排期的紧张。”

贸仲则用数据佐证了周律师的感受:2020年,贸仲受理案件3615件,同比增长8.5%;2021年第一季度受理案件863件,同比增加24%。与此同时,案件争议金额也出现了大幅提升,例如在2020年,贸仲仲裁案件争议金额达1121.3亿元人民币,再次突破了千亿大关。

同样的情形也出现在港仲。港仲副秘书长兼上海代表处首席代表杨玲博士告诉ALB,2020年港仲新收仲裁案件318件,总标的额88亿美元,两个数字都达到了历史新高。

“从2019年起,由于全球经济整体下行,争议解决案件数量已然呈上升趋势,疫情不过是把这个趋势进一步放大了。”

—周琦,天达共和律师事务所

疫情下商业活动受阻导致纠纷增多是引发上述现象的原因之一,但也不限于此。周琦律师指出,实际上从2019年起,由于全球经济整体下行,争议解决案件数量已然呈上升趋势,疫情不过是把这个趋势进一步放大了。杨玲博士则从另一个角度指出,由于过去几年跨境交易和投资相对活跃,此类经济活动的增加为仲裁案件数量增长铺垫了基础。

案件变化

“过去一年中国仲裁案件变化可以总结为三点:仲裁案件难度加大、复杂程度增强,以及国际化程度明显提高。”

—王承杰,中国国际经济贸易仲裁委员会

数量之外,过去一年中国仲裁案件也发生了其他变化。贸仲副主任兼秘书长王承杰告诉ALB,从机构角度看,变化可以总结为三点:仲裁案件难度加大、复杂程度增强,以及国际化程度明显提高。

王承杰秘书长具体解释道,难度和复杂程度增加主要体现在“单个案件(包括合并审理案件)所涉合同的数量、所涉当事人数量以及案件标的额的增长。例如贸仲2020年受理涉及多份合同案件502件,涉及多方当事人案件915件,受理上亿元标的额案件203件,其中10亿元以上案件14件”。

在国际化程度上,则体现在涉外案件数量、当事人所涉国籍范围以及适用的法律和仲裁规则等方面。以贸仲为例,2020年受理涉外案件数量同比增长20%,当事人来自76个国家和地区,当事人约定适用的境外法律则涉及香港法、开曼群岛法、英格兰法、韩国法、英国法等,还有部分约定适用其他机构仲裁规则及贸仲金融规则。

具体到细分案件类型的变化,王秘书长指出,“股权投资、股权转让、金融创新型及各类服务合同争议等新类型案件呈现增长态势”。

总结自己和团队过去一年的仲裁实践,周琦律师坦言,他并未感受到案件在事实及法理层面难度增加到“难以把握的程度”。

谈到案件类型,周律师则和贸仲有着相似的观察,即投资类纠纷的明显增多,其中既包括“增资扩股、股权转让争议”,也有“各类基金公司的设立和投资纠纷“,其中最明显的是对赌性质的投资争议的增多。

“投资类纠纷一直都有。”周律师说,“只不过不像现在,大量的对赌性质的争议。”他指出,这表明仲裁就像一面镜子,反映出了商业社会中交易模式的特点和变化。

仲裁国际化

虽然贸仲的数字体现出过去一年涉外仲裁案件的持续发展,但受到疫情下的旅行限制和中国企业“走出去”的相对降缓,周琦律师坦言,2020年,天达共和争议解决部所接触的涉外仲裁案件数量并不算多。

这和前几年形成了鲜明对比。“前几年,很多企业在国家政策的支持下‘走出去’,我们事务所有相当多的涉外业务。”他说,“但受到中美关系、国际环境、疫情等影响,‘走出去’交易大幅缩减,肯定对涉外仲裁数量产生了影响。”

不过周律师也指出,或许“不能拿这么短的区间去做评价”。“无论是国家顶层政策制度的设计,还是仲裁机构本身的安排,都已经为仲裁国际化的发展做足了准备。”在他看来,未来中国仲裁国际化之路一定会继续。

杨玲博士对此秉持着相似看法。过去几年中,港仲以及由她所带领的上海代表处一直不忘培养中国内地熟悉国际最佳仲裁实践的高端涉外人才。

虽然疫情带来了种种负面影响,但杨博士告诉ALB,它却为上述努力带来新契机。自疫情开始到现在,港仲已经联手上海财经大学、武汉大学和复旦大学三家学校的法学院,组织了国际仲裁公开课,每一次课程都迎来了全球各地数千名学生的参与。

“有大量的中国内地当事人在境外进行仲裁,这和中国涉外律师、仲裁员的人数显然不匹配…国际商事仲裁可以扮演实践涉外法律服务的最佳场所,也是中国法域外传播的最佳场所。”

—杨玲,香港国际仲裁中心

作为曾经的大学教师,杨博士对ALB坦言,她“深知国际仲裁在中国高校的普及程度有待提高”。与此同时,“有大量的中国内地当事人在境外进行仲裁,这和中国涉外律师、仲裁员的人数显然不匹配”。伴随最近几年推进涉外法律服务、培养涉外高端法律人才成为中国法律界最时髦的概念之一,在杨博士看来,国际商事仲裁恰好可以扮演“实践涉外法律服务的最佳场所,也是中国法域外传播的最佳场所”。

陆港交流加强

虽然疫情暂时降缓了中国内地和其他境外司法管辖区之间的仲裁交流,但在过去两年,内地和香港间的仲裁司法互助却发展迅速,这很大程度要归功于2019年生效的《关于内地与香港特别行政区法院就仲裁程序相互协助保全的安排》(“保全安排”),以及于今年5月中旬在内地和香港全面执行的《关于内地与香港特别行政区相互执行仲裁裁决的补充安排》(“执行补充安排”)。

杨玲博士告诉ALB,在保全安排下,香港仲裁的当事人可以借由6家香港的仲裁机构在内地人民法院寻求保全救济,而港仲目前是发布保全安排相关实践的唯一一家仲裁机构。“港仲现在处理了44起保全安排下的申请,去到了中国内地17个城市21家中级人民法院。”她介绍道。

而在5月刚刚借由香港修订后《仲裁条例》生效的执行补充安排“也非常厉害”。杨博士告诉ALB,港仲曾协助最高院调研过去20年到内地进行执行的香港仲裁裁决情况,发现了实践中需要解决了一些问题。新的补充安排进一步便利了两地仲裁裁决的执行,例如取消了对两地财产执行的先后顺序,许可同时执行,提高了效率。这样的安排有助于两地间财产的进一步流通,而“管道越通畅,仲裁也会越发达”。

杨博士指出,两则安排会继续促进香港仲裁业发展,例如香港目前是唯一一个可以在内地法院拿到保全的司法管辖区。“你会发现香港作为中立可靠的仲裁地,在支持仲裁和便利当事人方面的因素在叠加,这将是其他司法管辖区无法比拟的。”她说。

线上庭审发展

过去一年仲裁发展另一个不容忽视的新趋势,则是线上庭审“大张旗鼓”的发展。

在内地,虽然目前仲裁庭审都几乎恢复了线下模式,但周琦律师告诉ALB,对于某些涉及域外代理人或专家证人的案件,如果积压时间过长,且双方一致同意,线上庭审在“疫情后”也变成了常规选项之一。

贸仲的王承杰秘书长坦言,线上庭审其实是“案件数量大幅增长和新冠疫情”双重挑战下的产物。过去一年,贸仲积极引导网上立案,新建了网上庭审中心,网上立案量同比增加四倍有余,在线开庭案件量则达到347件。

在港仲位于香港、上海、首尔的三家办公室,由于疫情状况不同,线下办公的恢复程度也不同。但杨玲博士指出,工作方式的变化并不影响案件的管理,这是因为“港仲早年就拥抱了高科技,并从仲裁规则上鼓励使用在线方式进行仲裁程序”。

例如立案,港仲在2008年起就鼓励电子邮件立案,且工作人员会在24至48小时内回复用户邮件,“只要有电脑,银行可以转账,足不出户就可以启动仲裁流程”。疫情真正挑战的是开庭环节,就此,港仲在疫情初期就发布了《在线庭审指南》,并为当事人提供满足法律、语言、时区等个性化需求的在线庭审服务包,还新设庭审经理职位提供全程服务。

在杨博士看来,以疫情为“练习场地”,更敏锐地提供用户所需的服务,反而促使仲裁中心加速成为“全方位的争议解决服务商”,例如港仲的在线庭审服务目前不仅为港仲自己的案件所使用,还支持过临时仲裁、国际商会仲裁院、新加坡国际仲裁中心、香港高等法院、英属维尔京群岛高等法院、泰国国际知识产权和商业法庭、吉隆坡高等法院等机构的开庭。

到了“后疫情时代”,杨博士相信也会有当事人以积极心态继续拥抱在线庭审。贸仲也将智慧仲裁作为未来的发展重点之一,会进一步“完善信息化建设,并积极推动《网上仲裁规则》的修改更新”。

调解并行

虽然各大仲裁机构都以“仲裁”命名,但伴随多国签署《联合国关于调解所产生的国际和解协议公约》(即《新加坡调解公约》),以及中国愈发重视构建多元纠纷解决机制,近年来,调解也成为仲裁机构重要的工作内容之一。

贸仲和港仲都十分重视调解,王承杰秘书长说,贸仲正“着力推动把调解发展为一项独立的纠纷解决方式”;杨玲博士则指出,“未来,调解会是商业社会进一步发展后不可忽视的争议解决方法。对商人而言,调解程序灵活、保密性强,具有很大优势”。

过去几年,贸仲为推动调解发展付出许多努力,例如在2018年成立调解中心并发布贸仲《调解中心调解规则》;设立专业覆盖面广的调解员名册(含188名境内外调解员);颁布实施贸仲《投资争端调解规则》及聘任55名投资争端调解员(港澳调解员占三分之一);与国内法院加强交流,积极参与仲裁、诉讼、调解等多元争议解决衔接机制;与国内外百余家机构就调解领域的多个方面签订战略合作协议和备忘录;积极参加与调解有关的国内外会议,为调解规则的形成与发展贡献贸仲经验,并积极举办以调解为主题的讲座、论坛以及其他活动等。

诸般努力的原因,如上所说,正是为了满足未来商业社会的需要,“实现各类商事争议解决的‘一站式’服务”。

不过杨玲博士也指出,调解未来要成为一种积极的商业纠纷解决方式,市场和业界还需要付出更多的努力。“任何一种争议解决方式的普及,包括理念、制度的更新换代,需要这个行业里的机构、用户,甚至政府、司法机关来共同努力完成。”她说。

未来趋势

展望中国仲裁未来的发展,周琦律师首先指出,在当下特殊的国际政治背景——尤其是阴晴不定的中美关系之下,仲裁反而能充分发挥优势。“诉讼是建立在国家主权基础上的司法制度,法院行使国家所赋予的审判权。而仲裁则是兼具民间性、契约性、自治性和准司法性的一种争议解决方式,仲裁机构通常是民间团体的性质。”他说,“当政治因素导致国家层面的司法互动产生阻滞,而民间的商业交流和纠纷仍在继续的情形下,仲裁无疑将扮演更重要的角色。”

他还预期,由于政治状况的不稳定,会使得“营商环境变化导致投资人遭受损失”,继而引发投资者和属地国政府间的投资争端增多。不过周律师说,“中国目前这方面的实践并不多。这类案件和一般的商事仲裁也有所区别,但影响力会更大”。

杨玲博士则指出内地将进一步开放仲裁市场的新趋势。最近,上海、北京、海南先后释放了允许境外仲裁机构在内地设立业务机构的政策,虽然目前尚未出现实例,相关实践也会引发“非常复杂的法律问题,还涉及行政机关、司法机关,包括当事人的接受和选择”,但杨博士相信这一话题值得持续关注。

谈及未来一年,王承杰秘书长则指出贸仲将继续修炼内功、反哺行业和服务大局。在“内功”方面,贸仲会完善内部治理结构、研究修订仲裁规则、提升智慧仲裁服务水平、加强大数据分析案件能力、优化案件管理,并强化仲裁员队伍建设。

而在引领行业层面,贸仲则将继续把丰富经验总结为年度报告和研究成果,并积极参与《仲裁法》等法律修改工作。借助今年攀升世界前五的好势头,贸仲也会“广泛开展国际仲裁交流,增强行业引领性和话语权”。

在服务大局方面,贸仲将围绕国内国际双循环、“十四五”规划及二〇三五远景目标等国家发展战略,大力开拓新兴领域和重点行业,为推动构建全面开放型经济新体制作出积极的贡献。


Arbitration Looks East

The recent QMUL survey has found that Asian jurisdictions, including those in China, have made enormous strides in the arbitration sphere. Disputes lawyers feel that not only are the results unsurprising, but they also expect to see further growth in the near future.

 

The School of International Arbitration at the Queen Mary University of London recently released the results of its twelfth major empirical International Arbitration Survey, and its fifth in partnership with White & Case. The 2021 International Arbitration Survey, which polled 1,200 respondents, found that Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai are now among the top 10 preferred seats for arbitration globally.

China also had three of the top seven spots when it came to the most preferred seats of arbitration worldwide, with Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai ranking third, sixth and seventh, respectively. Some respondents also picked Shenzhen as their preferred seat of arbitration.

Two of the five most preferred arbitral institutions this year also come from Greater China. The Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) ranked third, while China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC) made the list for the first time, ranking fifth. All this indicated that arbitration is becoming a preferred method of resolving disputes in China, while arbitration institutions based here are also more recognized worldwide.

The increasing number of arbitration filings is the most notable trend in Chinese arbitration in 2020. “ We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of arbitration cases during the past year,” Zhou Qi, director of the management committee at East & Concord Partners and a senior arbitrator at CIETAC, tells ALB. “Whether as an arbitrator or an agent, I feel the tension of scheduling.”

CIETAC’s data backs up Zhou’s views. CIETAC accepted 3,615 cases in 2020, representing an 8.5 percent year-on-year increase. It also accepted 863 cases in the first quarter of 2021, representing a 24 percent year-on-year increase. Meanwhile, the amount in disputes was also significantly increased and reached 112.13 billion yuan ($17.5 billion) in 2020, topping the 100-billion-yuan mark for the first time.

HKIAC has experienced similar trends. Yang Ling, HKIAC’s deputy secretary-general and chief representative of its Shanghai office, tells ALB that the institution accepted 318 new arbitration filings in 2020 and the total amount in disputes was $8.8 billion, both figures being record highs.

“Since 2019, the global economic downturn has already led to more disputes and the pandemic amplified the trend.”

—Zhou Qi, East & Concord Partners

One reason for the recent rise in caseloads and claim amounts could be the increase in disputes brought about by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on business activities, but it is not limited to this. However, Zhou points out that, since 2019, the global economic downturn has already led to more disputes and the pandemic amplified the trend. Separately, Yang points out that cross-border deal making and investments have stayed active during the past few years, laying the foundation for more arbitration filings.

MORE COMPLEX CASES

“The three main changes from the perspective of arbitration institution are: the arbitration cases are getting more difficult, more complicated and more international.”

—Wang Chengjie, CIETAC

Apart from the growth in caseloads, the Chinese arbitration arena has seen other changes during the past year. Wang Chengjie, Vice Chairman and Secretary-General of CIETAC, tells ALB the three main changes from the perspective of arbitration institutions: the arbitration cases are getting more difficult, more complicated and more international.

Wang explains that “the increase of the number of contracts, the number of parties and amount in dispute involved in a single case (including consolidated arbitration cases)” reflect the increasing difficulty and complexity of arbitration cases. “CIETAC accepted 502 cases that involved multiple contracts, 915 cases that involve more than two parties and 203 cases with disputed amount over RMB100 million. Among them, 14 were cases with disputed amount over 1 billion yuan,” he says.

Arbitration cases are also involving more foreign parties, being reflected by the number of foreign-related cases, the scope of nationalities of the parties, and the applicable laws and arbitration rules. Take CIETAC as an example, the number of foreign-related cases accepted by CIETAC in 2020 increased by 20 percent year-on-year and the parties in these cases came from 76 countries and regions. At the same time, the agreed-upon foreign laws were applied in arbitrations included the laws of Hong Kong, the Cayman Islands and South Korea, as well as British law. Some parties even agreed to apply arbitration rules of other institutions and CIETAC Financial Disputes Arbitration Rules to their cases.

Speaking of changes in the type of cases, Wang says “new types of cases, including disputes arising from equity investment, equity transfers, innovative finance and various service contracts, have been on an upward trajectory.”

Zhou, on the other hand, reflects on his team’s practice in handling arbitration cases during the past year. He says the cases are not “too difficult to handle” when it comes to facts and legal principles.

He shares the same view with CIETAC on the types of cases that are now going to arbitration. “There is a significant increase in investment-related disputes, including disputes related to capital increases and share expansions, equity transfers or valuation adjustment mechanisms (VAM). Some disputes also arise from “the establishment of fund companies and natural persons investing in fund products,” he says, adding that these are triggered by policy changes in capital markets and investments. The increase in disputes over VAM-related investments was the most notable.

“There have always been investment-related disputes,” Zhou says. “The difference is that compared with disputes in the past, disputes nowadays generally involve VAM, which is a new type of transaction,” which reflects how arbitration mirrors trends in the business world.

INTERNATIONAL FLAVOUR

Although CIETAC has registered more foreign-related arbitration cases over the past year, East & Concord Partners has not handled as many due to travel restrictions and the slowdown in outbound investment by Chinese firms during the pandemic, Zhou says.

The trend last year was in stark contrast to that of several years ago. “In the past years, we handled quite a number of foreign-related cases as many Chinese firms were encouraged by the government’s policy to seek opportunities outward,” Zhou says. “But the Sino-U.S. relations, the global landscape and the pandemic have affected outbound deals, which has certainly weighed on foreign-related arbitration cases.”

However, Zhou also points out that one may not jump to conclusions based on what happened in a short period. “Both government policies and arbitral institutions have been preparing for the internationalization of arbitration for the past three to four years,” he says. He remains confident that the internationalization progress of China’s arbitration will carry forward into the future.

Yang shares the same view. In the past few years, HKIAC and its Shanghai office have been cultivating talent in mainland China to handle foreign-related arbitration cases.

Although the pandemic has brought about various side effects, Yang tells ALB that it has also created opportunities. HKIAC has launched online international arbitration courses in collaboration with law schools at several local universities since the beginning of the pandemic and each course attracted thousands of students globally.

“While a large number of Chinese parties are in arbitration cases in foreign counties, there are not enough Chinese lawyers specializing in such matters or arbitrators.”

—Yang Ling, HKIAC

As a former university lecturer, Yang tells ALB that “international arbitration is not so highly promoted in Chinese universities” and “while a large number of Chinese parties are in arbitration cases in foreign counties, there are not enough Chinese lawyers specializing in such matters or arbitrators.” It has only become a trend recently that China’s legal sector strives to promote foreign-related legal services and train lawyers to handle foreign-related cases. Yang believes international commercial arbitration poses the best opportunity to put foreign-related legal services in practice and export Chinese law to other jurisdictions.

CROSS-BOUNDARY EXCHANGES

Although the pandemic has slowed exchanges between mainland China and other jurisdictions on arbitration, mainland China and Hong Kong have collaborated a lot on this front during the past two years. The achievement was mainly attributable to the Arrangement Concerning Mutual Assistance in Court-ordered Interim Measures in Aid of Arbitral Proceedings effective from 2019, as well as the Supplemental Arrangement Concerning Mutual Enforcement of Arbitral Awards that came just into effect May 2021.

Yang tells ALB that under the Interim Measures Arrangement, parties are able to apply for interim measures with the help of six arbitral institutions in Hong Kong, and HKIAC is currently the only institution with relevant experience. “HKIAC has handled 44 cases to apply to 21 mainland courts in 17 cities for interim measures,” she says.

The Supplemental Arrangement, introduced via the Arbitration Ordinance that was amended in May 2021, “was also very effective.” For example, the Supplemental Arrangement now further facilitate mutual enforcement by cancelling the priority of property execution in mainland China and Hong Kong and allowing simultaneous execution in two jurisdictions to enhance efficiency.

Yang notes that the two arrangements will continue to promote the development of arbitration in Hong Kong. For example, Hong Kong is currently the only jurisdiction able to apply to mainland courts for interim measures. “You will see that Hong Kong will outperform other jurisdictions thanks to the favourable factors that promote arbitration there,” she says.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF VIRTUAL HEARINGS

Another notable new trend in arbitration in the past year that cannot be ignored is the rapid development of virtual hearings.

Although almost all the arbitral tribunals in mainland China have resumed in-person arbitration hearings, Zhou tells ALB that if both parties agree, cases involving foreign agents or expert witnesses that are in the backlog can be settled through a virtual hearing, which has become a new “standard” option in the post-pandemic era.

CIETAC’s Wang says virtual hearing is a product of the double challenge of “a significant increase in caseloads and the pandemic.” In the past year, CIETAC proactively encouraged online case filing and set up a virtual hearing system, which led to that the four-time year-on-year increase in the number of cases registered online and the number of virtual hearings reached 347.

Offline operations have also resumed at a different pace in HKIAC’s Hong Kong, Shanghai and Seoul offices as the pandemic has unfolded differently in these places. However, Yang points out changes in the workplace have not impacted the management of cases as “HKIAC has adopted technology years ago.”

For example, HKIAC encourages case registration via emails since 2008, and the staff is required to reply within 24 to 48 hours. The opening of hearings has been the biggest challenge during the pandemic. To help address the issue, HKIAC issued virtual hearing services guidelines at the beginning of the pandemic and provided parties with customized virtual hearing services catering to different laws, languages and time zones. It also created a new position called the hearing manager to offer services throughout the hearing.

Yang believes the pandemic provides an opportunity for arbitral institutions to provide more precise services to users and eventually become “a comprehensive dispute resolution services provider.” For example, the International Court of Arbitration of International Chamber of Commerce, Singapore International Arbitration Centre, the High Court of the Hong Kong SAR, the British Virgin Islands court etc. all have access to HKIAC’s virtual hearings.

Yang believes that in the post-pandemic era, virtual hearing will remain its popularity. Similarly, CIETAC has set smart arbitration as one of its goals, and it will continue to undergo digitalization and update rules for virtual arbitration.

THE RISE OF MEDIATION

Although arbitration institutions are literally named by “arbitration”,  mediation has also become an important part of work of arbitration institutions in recent years after many countries signed the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (i.e., the Singapore Convention on Mediation) and China’s increasing emphasis on constructing diversified dispute resolution systems.

Both CIETAC and the HKIAC attach great importance to mediation. Wang says CIETAC “is trying to promote the development of mediation as an independent dispute resolution method.” Yang, on the other hand, says “mediation will become a nonnegligible method to resolve disputes as the business world further grows. Mediation has great advantages due to its flexibility and strong confidentiality.”

CIETAC has made many efforts to develop mediation in the past few years. For example, it establish a mediation center and issued CIETAC Mediation Center Mediation Rules in 2018; set up the Panel of mediators with extensive professional coverage (including  188 mediators from both within and outside China); issued and implemented the CIETAC Mediation Rules for Investment Disputes under the CEPA Investment Agreements and hired 55 relevant mediators with one thirds of whom from Hong Kong and Macau; strengthen exchanges with domestic courts, and actively participated in the construction of the cohesive mechanism of diversified dispute resolution methods which includes arbitration, litigation mediation and so forth; signed strategic cooperation agreements and memoranda on several aspects of mediation with hundreds of institutions at home and abroad; actively participated in domestic and foreign conferences related to mediation, shared its mediation experience to contributed to the formation and development of mediation rules, and organized numerous lectures, forums and other activities themed on mediation.

CIETAC undertook all these efforts to meet the future demand of the business community, and “to provide ‘one-stop’ services for commercial disputes.”

However, Yang also points out that it will take a long time for mediation to become a preferred option in dispute resolution. “It takes collaborative efforts from institutions, users, the government and judiciaries to promote a dispute resolution method, as it involves changing people’s perception and the system,” she says.

MOVING FORWARD

Moving forward, Zhou says that arbitration has its advantages under the current geopolitical situation, especially the unpredictable Sino-US relations. “Litigation is a system under national sovereignty, while arbitration is a way to resolve civil disputes,” he says. “When judicial activities are affected by political conflicts, and business activities and disputes are still ongoing, arbitration plays a more important role.”

He also expects that high-level arbitration cases might increase in number in the future. Political uncertainty will lead to “a change in business environment and investors will suffer losses,” resulting in more disputes between investors and governments. However, Zhou says “Chinese arbitral institutions do not have a wealth of experience in dealing with such cases. These cases are different from commercial arbitration and will have a greater impact.”

Yang points out that mainland China will further open its arbitration market. Shanghai, Beijing and Hainan provinces have recently issued successive policies to encourage foreign arbitral institutions to launch branches in mainland China. While examples remain to be seen, the move will definitely “trigger complex legal issues. It will also involve administrative agencies, the Supreme People's Court, and local judicial departments, as well as the acceptance of the parties,” Yang says. However, she believes the subject is worth the attention.

Speaking of the following year, Wang says CIETAC will continue to improve itself, contribute to the industry and serve the overall interests of the nation. In terms of internal improvement, CIETAC will improve its internal governance structure, study and revise arbitration rules, improve its level of smart arbitration services, strengthen its ability to analyze cases with big data, optimize case management and strengthen the construction of its team of arbitrators.

As for its efforts in leading the industry, CIETAC will release annual reports and research findings based on its rich experience, while proactively taking part in amending the law, including the Arbitration Law. Given that CIETAC ranked fifth on the list this year and to take advantage of this good momentum, it will “extensively carry out international arbitration exchanges, strengthen its industry leadership and discourse right.”

In terms of serving the overall interests of China, CIETAC will focus on national development strategies such as the domestic and international dual cycle, the "14th Five-Year Plan" and the long-term goals to 2035,  vigorously explore to develop its business in emerging fields to make positive contribution to the construction of a new system for a fully open economy.

 

To contact the editorial team, please email ALBEditor@thomsonreuters.com.