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Home >> China Travel Tips >> Legal Matter
Legal Matter

Overview of Chinese Law

China's legal system is closer to a Civil Law System than a Common Law System as its creative law-making is undertaken by legislature, not by judges. In the past few decades many pieces of law have been enacted covering contract, labor, intellectual property, foreign exchange control, customs, taxation, banking, consumer protection, bankruptcy, dispute resolution etc.

In China's court system, there are four levels hierarchically. At local county or district level is the basic people's court. At municipal level, there are intermediate people's courts, and at the provincial level is the higher people's court. At the top, is the supreme people's court. If a foreigner is involved in a legal dispute, he or she can take the matter to an intermediate people's court at municipal level or above.

Chinese people are relying more and more on laws to govern their civil and commercial activities as legal concepts become more understood. Nowadays, enacted legislation, courts, arbitration commissions and private law firms play dominant roles in resolving civil and commercial disputes in China.

Foreign-Related Legal Matters

If foreigners run into legal troubles in China, they should contact their embassies or consulates in China for assistance. If foreign investors are involved in legal disputes, they should contact their lawyers in their home country and in China for legal advice.

Over 100 foreign law firms had received permits to open offices in China by 1999. Most of these foreign law firms are in Beijing or Shanghai and mainly focus on civil and commercial matters. Foreign lawyers are not permitted to act on behalf of their clients in the people's courts, but they are permitted to act on behalf of their clients in the arbitration proceedings of an arbitration commission. In addition, parties can appoint foreigners as their arbitrators. The proceeding can be conducted in a foreign language as well. For instance, the proceedings of the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission can be conducted completely in English or any other foreign language chosen by the parties. Interpreters and translators may not be necessary in foreign language arbitration proceedings. From these points of view, it is advisable to take your disputes to an arbitration commission or a conciliation center for resolution rather than taking the matter to a court.

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