CICC – China International Commercial Courts

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25 January 2021

The Belt and Road Initiative is a global project involving over 70 countries with investment projects of estimated value of hundreds of billions of dollars. Despite such an enormous scale, the Initiative does not have harmonized dispute resolution mechanisms. In response, the most relevant arbitration centers in the world, i.e. ICC Paris, HKIAC in Hong Kong, CIETAC in Beijing, and SCIA in Singapore have implemented changes in their rules and appointed special committees of independent experts. Whereas in China, special courts were established to solve the disputes arising from The Belt and Road.

In 2018, China’s Supreme People’s Court founded two divisions of the International Commercial Court of China (“CICC”): in Shenzhen and Xi’an. The aim of the CICC courts is to act as a “one-stop shop” in resolving disputes related to The Belt and Road Initiative (“BRI”). The CICC combines the three most important international dispute resolution mechanisms, namely mediation, arbitration and litigation.

The CICC in Shenzhen has jurisdiction in the disputes arising from the BRI Maritime Road, whereas the Xi’an Court deals with land-based BRI disputes. However, these are not the only criteria that the parties must meet for their case to be brought to the above-mentioned courts.

Additional premises include:

  • the international nature of the case;
  • high value of the subject of litigation (exceeding RMB 300 million, i.e. approximately USD 44.8 million);
  • consent of the parties to settle the dispute in the Supreme People’s Court of the PRC;
  • first instance cases that would be heard by the Higher People’s Court but were referred to the CICC by that court, with the approval of the Supreme Court;
  • first instance international cases of great national importance;
  • requests for a freezing order for assistance in arbitration proceedings and requests to set aside or enforce international commercial arbitration awards;
  • and any other international trade matters that the People’s Supreme Court of the PRC deems appropriate for consideration by the CICC.

The judgments and rulings made by the CICC are final and binding on the parties and with legal effect[1]. The first five cases were accepted by the CICC in February 2019. All proceedings were completed within a few months, which proves the efficiency of the court. As reported in publications on the official CICC website, since its creation, 13 international economic cases have been heard[2].

Despite the fact that the proceedings are conducted in Chinese, unlike in typical civil litigation in PRC, the parties may submit evidence in English without translation, and after obtaining the consent of the other party, the judge can directly examine the evidence. Undoubtedly, the implementation of such solutions favor the procedural economy. Moreover, it is recognized that the CICC is eager to consult experts and scientists when dealing with a case.

[1] http://cicc.court.gov.cn/html/1/218/19/141/index.html

[2] http://english.court.gov.cn/2020-01/02/content_37531020.htm

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