When the great way prevails, the world is equally shared by all.
Six years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward the Belt and Road Initiative, receiving responses by millions of people and attention of the world. Being vitalized, the thousand-year-old silk road is rolling out a great blue print for human beings' community of shared future from ideas to actions.
Meantime, the judiciary is upgrading itself in accordance with the decisions of the CPC and the entire country.
On June 29, 2018, the First International Commercial Court and the Second International Commercial Court of the SPC were established, which represented a new chapter for the Court in its foreign-related commercial trials and a new stage to provide services and guarantee the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Over the past year, there were revolutionary explorations on potential new institutions and a new mechanism.
Nowadays, a major trend of opening-up and integration around the world is non-stoppable.
With deeper interconnection of infrastructure, trade and funds under the Belt and Road Initiative, there are increasing numbers of cross-border commercial disputes. Access to efficient, convenient, rapid and cost-effective solutions to these disputes has become a shared pursuit of the initiative advocates.
As a problem arises, a reform is the answer.
In January 2018, Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform of the 19th CPC Central Committee held a meeting and approved the Opinion Concerning the Establishment of the “Belt and Road” International Commercial Dispute Resolution Mechanism and Institutions, which aims at protecting legitimate rights and interests of the Chinese and the foreign parties, creating a fair and just business environment with hard efforts, and upgrading the implementation of high-level trade and the free and convenient investment as the top-level policy design, and points out a direction for the People's Court of China to serve and guarantee the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative.
On June 25, 2018, Chief Justice of the People's Republic of China ,President Zhou Qiang of the Supreme People's Court hosted the plenary meeting of the Adjudication Committee of the Supreme People's Court to examine the Provisions of the Supreme People's Court on Several Issues Regarding the Establishment of the International Commercial Court.
On June 29, 2018, the First International Commercial Court and the Second International Commercial Court of the SPC were unveiled respectively in Shenzhen and Xi'an, and officially started to operate. The SPC released the Provisions of the Supreme People's Court on Several Issues Regarding the Establishment of the International Commercial Court, which, in a manner of judicial interpretation, provides institutional standards for smooth operation of the two international commercial courts.
In this manner, the People's Court of China leveraged its judicial function to quicken its pace in serving development of the CPC and the whole country, and in facilitating the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative.
In July and December 2018, two batches including 14 international commercial court judges were officially appointed. With rich judicial experience, they are adept at international treaties, international practices, international trade and investment. They are also able to use both Chinese and English as their working languages.
From August 2018, Vice President of the SPC Luo Dongchuan led a team to conduct intensive research on setting up the international commercial court, probing into the expectations from different walks of life and the judicial requirements while developing a working plan and timeline.
Everything is ready now.
We now have a steadfast safeguard of a stable, fair, transparent, expectable, international business environment under the rule of law. The China International Commercial Court(CICC) has been well-prepared to secure smooth construction of the Belt and Road Initiative.
On August 26, 2018, former Chief Justice of the WTO Appellate Body Zhang Yuejiao accepted the letter of appointment from Zhou Qiang, Chief Justice of the SPC. Zhang said: “It stood for trust, responsibility and hope.”
On that day, the International Commercial Expert Committee of the Supreme People's Court was officially established, with 31 experts selected at home and abroad appointed to be the first batch of expert members.
Nothing can separate people with common goals and ideals, not even mountains and seas.
In the spirit of mutual discussions, joint-effort construction and mutual sharing, the CICC took the initiative in advocating a mechanism of international commercial expert committee, which encourages legal experts from the “Belt and Road” participants to apply their advantages to the ascertainment of foreign laws and dispute settlements so as to seek for the optimal solutions.
“This marks China's initiative, and shows China's openness and internalization,” Zhang Yuejiao said.
The 31 experts come from different legal systems, different countries and regions, including heads of key international institutions, legal experts, experienced judges and lawyers at home and abroad. They are well versed in both international law and domestic laws in their respective jurisdictions, with international reputation and practical experience.
Onboarding of these experts provided professional, neutral and strong support to the realization of a “one-stop” diversified international commercial disputes settlement mechanism.
In November 2018, the SPC released the Procedural Rules for the China International Commercial Court of the Supreme People's Court (For Trial Implementation), the Working Rules of the International Commercial Expert Committee of the Supreme People's Court (For Trial Implementation), and the Notice of the Supreme People's Court on Inclusion of the First Group of International Commercial Arbitration and Mediation Institutions in the “One-stop” Diversified International Commercial Dispute Resolution Mechanism.
These three documents regulate the working procedures of the International Commercial Court of acceptance of cases, service, pre-trial mediation, trial of cases, enforcement, and using arbitration to resolve disputes, etc. specify the functions and composition of the International Commercial Expert Committee, announce the first group of arbitration and mediation institutions that were included in the “one-stop” diversified international commercial disputes resolution platform so as to provide a systemic guarantee to promote the construction of the “one-stop” diversified international commercial disputes resolution mechanism.
Efficient integration of litigation, arbitration and mediation showcased once again the wisdom of Chinese judicial system to the world.
“At other international commercial courts, there is only one method to solve a dispute—through litigation. While if a party enters the CICC, it has three options at hand, including mediation, arbitration and litigation.” said Shen Sibao, Member of the International Commercial Expert Committee and Director of the Institute of International Commercial Law in University of International Business and Economics.
CICC, the convenient and time-saving solution provided by the Supreme People's Court to settle commercial disputes with cost-effective, absorbing internationally advanced experience while putting in distinct elements and features of the Chinese laws and the Chinese judicial system, is attracting attention of more and more interested parties at home and abroad.
Hitting the Gavel
On May 29, 2019, the CICC officially heard its first case.
The Second International Commercial Court of the SPC held a public hearing concerning the dispute of shareholder qualification confirmation between Ruoychai International Group Co.,Ltd. (“the Plaintiff”), Red Bull Vitamin Drink Co.,Ltd. (“the Defendant”) and Inter-Biopharm Holding Limited (“the Third Party”).
“The CICC has perpetuated development from scratch. It's the 'first gavel' that turned rules on paper into practical verdict” Shen Sibao said.
The “first gavel” provided a blueprint for the CICC to settle international commercial disputes：
The innovation of jurisdiction mechanism lies in broadening the way of dispute settlement on the basis of related parties' autonomy;
In accordance with the innovative litigation evidence mechanism, there are no mandatory requirements on the certification of extraterritorial evidence. Evidence materials in English can save from being translated into Chinese as long as agreed by both parties. The CICC can use information network to investigate and collect evidence and organize cross-examination;
As per the innovative judgment documents mechanism, opinions of the minority in collegial panel can be stated in the judgment documents, and the judge's right of discretion can be reasonably restricted;
The innovative intelligent trial mechanism allows online case filing, payment, reading, evidence exchange, service, hearing, etc..
Wang Shumei, Presiding Judge of the “First Gavel”, Chief Judge of the Fourth Civil Division of the SPC and judge of the CICC, summarized and explained the innovative mechanism of the CICC with these four innovations.
Two days later, the First International Commercial Court in Shenzhen also heard its first case. The court held a public hearing concerning the product liability dispute between Guangdong Bencao Medicine Group Co., Ltd. and the defendant Bruschettini S.R.L., domiciled in Genoa, Italy. One month ago, Zhang Yongjian, the Person in Charge of the First International Commercial Court and the judge of the CICC, and Xi Xiangyang, member of collegial panel and the judge of the CICC jointly presided over the first pre-trial meeting of this case, effectively promoted the handling of the case, and guaranteed the parties' participation and autonomy in the proceedings.
“The CICC not only carries forward the original flexibility, finality and cost-effective feature of international commercial arbitration, but also shortens the acceptance time, and thus improved judicial transparency and responded to international concerns”, Zhang Yuejiao said.
As of June 2019, the First International Commercial Court and the Second International Commercial Court have accepted 11 cases involving parties from different countries and regions including Italy, Japan, British Virgin Islands and Hong Kong.
A man of sincerity attracts admiration. The CICC of the SPC is gradually becoming the preferred place for international commercial parties to settle disputes.
“The CICC of the SPC is already in operation. With great responsibility on shoulders, we still have a long way to go”, said Huang Jin, Member of International Commercial Expert Committee, Vice President of China Law Society and Professor of China University of Political Science and Law, who is the witness and participant of the growth of the International Commercial Court this year.
The establishment of a brand-new and high-end international dispute settlement mechanism is not an easy task.
“The CICC not only established the initial system and institutional framework within a year, but also carried out substantive public trial of the first batch of cases, which moves faster than other international commercial courts”, said Shan Wenhua, Member of International Commercial Expert Committee and Dean of Xi'an Jiaotong University Law School.
From concept to entity, from rule to practice, from internal preparation to open trial, the CICC of the SPC has overcome all kinds of difficulties in the past year. Every work has progressed smoothly and achieved fruitful results.
Leaders from the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC), ICC Commission on Arbitration, Association for International Arbitration and other institutions and organizations have visited the SPC successively to exchange experiences and learn from each other. Emmanuel Gaillard, President of Association for International Arbitration and Member of the International Commercial Expert Committee of the SPC, spoke highly of the efforts made by Chinese courts in establishing international commercial courts and resolving international commercial disputes.
Well begun is half done.
“The CICC is a firm practitioner, promisor and builder of multilateralism and liberalization of investment and trade”, said Shan Wenhua. He also suggested that as the world's second largest economy, China should establish a fair, professional, “pro-commerce” and reliable International Commercial Court.
“The system of International Commercial Court will be improved through legislation or judicial interpretation, the institutions and mechanisms of International Commercial Court will be optimized, and the role of International Commercial Expert Committee will be given to full play. A team of high-quality, professional and good personality for foreign-related trials remains to be cultivated through internal training and external introduction, to meet the growing needs of foreign-related trials and respond to challenge of increasingly complex foreign-related trials.” Looking ahead, Huang Jin is full of expectations for the work of the International Commercial Court.
The blueprint has been drawn and it is time to forge ahead.
The exciting exploration in the reform of institutions and mechanisms is under way. In a world of peace and development, Chinese courts have engraved their responsibilities and missions.
Chinese courts are moving faster towards the center of the international commercial dispute resolution mechanism.
*The original text is Chinese and has been translated into English for reference only. If there is any inconsistency or ambiguity between the Chinese version and the English version, the Chinese version shall prevail.