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Wang Tianxi: Guangzhou's Practice on Promoting the Unique Role of Arbitration in Resolving International Commercial Disputes

From:          Updated: 2022-09-21   

Editor's Note: The Third Seminar of the International Commercial Expert Committee of the Supreme People's Court and Reappointment Ceremony of the First Group of Expert Members was held successfully on Augest 25, 2022. Over 40 experts from more than 20 countries and regions focused on the theme of the Development, Challenges and Countermeasures of Cross-Border Commercial Disputes during the seminar. Extensive and in-depth discussions were held within the framework of four specific issues. The texts of speeches delivered by the participants would be posted on the CICC's website. 


Wang Tianxi

Deputy Director of theGuangzhou Arbitration Commission

General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that it is necessary to put the non-judicial dispute resolution mechanism in the front, and employ more efforts based on the rule of law to guide and channel the resolution of disputes. This is a major theoretical and practical innovation for the construction of the rule of law and the modernization of social governance, which reflects the sincere feelings for the people and a deep grasp of the laws of social governance, and provides a fundamental basis for developing the construction of a one-stop diversified dispute resolution mechanism with Chinese characteristics.

China has now become the world's second largest economy, the second largest consumer market, the largest trading country, and the largest trading partner of more than 120 countries and regions. Correspondingly, how to build a dispute resolution mechanism and system that adapts to the status and actual needs of international trade, and to amplify China's voices on the international legal stage, are major issues entrusted to us by the times. Since the Supreme People's Court established the "one-stop" diversified resolution platform for international commercial disputes, it has given full play to the characteristic of non-judicial dispute resolution mechanisms such as negotiation, mediation and arbitration; so that various dispute resolution methods can not only exert their unique advantages, but also benefit from the synergy among them. As a result, we have made decent achievements. 

Arbitration is a globally recognized means of international dispute resolution, with its recognition and enforcement guaranteed by the New York Convention. Objectively, it has always been the international consensus for aligning and coordinating international legal standards and rules to maximizing common interests. Therefore, promoting the sustainable development of the arbitration system will help further improve the diversified resolution mechanism for international commercial disputes.

Guangzhou Arbitration Commission (Guangzhou Zhong) is one of the first seven arbitration institutions established after the promulgation of the Arbitration Law of China, and the number of administered cases has always been in the nation's forefront. While continuing to develop and expand arbitration services, GZAC takes the goal of building a world-class arbitration institution stressed by General Secretary Xi Jinping. Seizing the opportunities arising from the information technology revolution and the construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (the Bay Area) and the "Belt and Road" Initiative, GZAC leads its development with innovation, and adopts innovative measures such as "formulating standards, building platforms, and promoting cooperation." It actively promotes the establishment of a diversified settlement mechanism for international commercial disputes, and continues to optimize the market-oriented and legal based international business environment.

1. Formulating unified standards and building a diversified dispute resolution mechanism through mutual consultation, co-establishment and resource sharing

GZAC was one of the pioneers in promoting the integration of Internet technology and arbitration, and accumulated relatively rich practical experience. On the basis of actively developing online hearing technology, it took the lead in conducting the first online transnational hearing in 2019, and the case was awarded as the only innovative arbitration case in the China (Guangdong) Pilot Free Trade Zone. While striving to optimize online arbitration services, GZAC attaches great importance to the unification of online arbitration standards. In 2020, it released the first recommended standards of online arbitration, referred to as the "Guangzhou Standards". The standards have been recognized and promoted by more than 150 arbitration institutions in Chinese mainland and more than 40 overseas arbitration institutions. In April this year, "Guangzhou Standards" was awarded as a "Best Practice Case" by the State Council to comprehensively deepen the innovative development to serve trade activities; the practice of promoting online arbitration standards was also reported on the official website of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law.

While promoting the standardized development of online arbitration, GZAC implements connotations and requirements of  the "Development Plant for Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area" to support the exchange and cooperation of arbitration and mediation institutions in the Bay Area, and offering high-quality arbitration and mediation services for business activities. The "Four Sharing" cooperative initiative, which promotes sharing of online arbitration standards, hearing facilities, arbitrators and service windows, was proposed by GZAC to carry out cooperation between arbitration and mediation organizations in Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR and eventually with the world.

On the one hand, utilizing high-quality legal service resources from Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR, the initiative introduces cases involving countries from the "Belt and Road" to the Bay Area for efficient resolution; on the other hand, it effectively integrates arbitration with other dispute resolution methods, realizing the application of the "Guangzhou Standards" to mediation and other procedures, and promoting the establishment of an online "one-stop" diversified dispute resolution mechanism. 

The promotion of the "Guangzhou Standards" and the in-depth cooperation with Hong Kong and Macao arbitration and mediation institutions have enhanced the credibility and influence of GZAC, which has driven its growth of foreign-related arbitration business. In 2021, GZAC administered 466 foreign-related cases, a three-fold increase year-on-year, ranking second in the country.

2. Building an international platform to lead the development of the one-stop diversified dispute resolution mechanism

GZAC aims at international development based on consistent innovation. In 2020, recommended by the Ministry of Justice, GZAC became the first arbitration institution in mainland to participate in the development of an online dispute resolution mechanism for cross-border commercial activities between enterprises from APEC economies.

In 2021, GZAC officially launched the world's first APEC-ODR platform. The platform complies with the terms of the "APEC ODR Collaborative Framework and Model Procedural Rules". It has a three-dimensional data and user privacy protection system, supports real-time multi-language translation, electronic delivery service, electronic signature and other functions. It provides global parties with a "one-stop" online dispute resolution mechanism integrating negotiation, mediation and arbitration. The platform was selected as a recommended case for "Serving the People Practically - 2021 People's Livelihood Demonstration Project", which was jointly released by the People's Daily's "MSWeekly" magazine and the Press of the Party School of the Central Committee of CPC.

On May 1, 2022, APEC officially listed GZAC as one of the three official ODR providers in the world. Since then, the ODR platform has administered 13 cases with a total amount in dispute of nearly 1.1 billion yuan. One of the cases only took less than 7 days from the submission of the application to the issuance of the arbitration award based on the settlement agreement achieved through mediation, which highlights the convenience and efficiency of the ODR platform, and its effect has been well received by the parties.

In the era of Web 3.0, by establishing the Special Committee on Digital Economy Disputes and the International Arbitration Center for Business and Digital Economy, GZAC firmly implements the connotations and requirements of General Secretary Xi Jinping's important instructions to continuously develop our country's digital economy by expanding arbitration services into the virtual world. GZAC has set up the first virtual arbitration institution in the Yuanbang metaverse, giving full play to the characteristic of arbitration, promoting the integrated development of the economic and social aspects of the Internet, and ensures that the rule of law is not absent in the virtual world.

3. Deepening institutional cooperation and promoting diversified, collaborative and efficient resolution of commercial disputes

By cooperating with other institutions, GZAC actively participates in the development of a dispute resolution system that resolves disputes harmoniously, particularly through mediation. GZAC explores and enhance the coordinated effort with the judicial system, and promotes efficient and diversified resolution of conflicts and disputes.

First, strengthen cooperation with judicial authorities. GZAC has successively established case transferring mechanisms with the Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court and Guangzhou Intellectual Property Court, maximizing the procedural flexibility of arbitration, and utilizing the various expertise of arbitrators to build a team of expert mediators for efficient dispute resolution. By means of "mediation + judicial confirmation" and the "med-arb" model, a total of 34 court-appointed mediation cases was accepted by GZAC in 2021, of which 6 cases have been judicially confirmed as being successfully settled by mediation, and 2 cases have proceeded to the arbitration stage. At the same time, in order to better carry out the coordination between litigation and mediation, GZAC signed the "Opinions on Jointly Improving the Quality and Efficiency of Property Preservation, Judicial Review and Enforcement of Arbitration Cases" with Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court, further broadened the channels and scope of information sharing, and established online arbitration case registration and fast enforcement mechanism, which fully realized online information sharing.

Second, strengthen cooperation with market supervision authorities and industry associations. GZAC has reached strategic cooperation with Guangzhou Tianhe District Market Supervision Bureau (Intellectual Property Office) and Baiyun District Market Supervision Bureau (Intellectual Property Office), and signed strategic memoranda to connect arbitration, mediation services with administrative law enforcements, improving and strengthening the regional intellectual property protection network. It also worked with the People's Mediation Committee for Financial Disputes in Guangzhou to jointly establish a strategic cooperation agreement to resolve financial disputes efficiently and fairly by appointing arbitrators with financial expertise.

In the future, as one of the selected institutions to participate in the development of the Supreme People's Court's "one-stop" diversified international commercial dispute resolution mechanism, GZAC will take the role of arbitration to promote the construction of the one-stop mechanism, and continuously pursue self-improvement. Furthermore, through the operation of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Arbitration Alliances founded by itself, GZAC will advocate the integrated development of dispute resolution platforms and dispute resolution methods in the Bay Area, optimizing and promoting the application of the APEC-ODR platform, and offering Guangzhou's contribution to the Chinese approach to improve international governance.

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*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.