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What arbitration institutions can be chosen in mainland China?

The Supreme People’s Court of China has, in many of its judicial interpretations, frequently expressed pro-arbitration positions.

There are a number of arbitration institutions in mainland China that are more experienced in handling cases relating to foreign companies, for instance: China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC); Shanghai International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission – also called Shanghai International Arbitration Centre (SHIAC); South China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission – also called Shenzhen Court of International Arbitration (SCIA); the China Maritime Arbitration Commission (CMAC); as well as arbitration commissions in different cities such as the Beijing Arbitration Commission (BJAC) and the Xi’an Arbitration Commission.

Among these, CIETAC and SHIAC are probably the most experienced in handling foreign-related arbitration, also thanks to their high number of arbitrators being non-residents of mainland China. Furthermore, in recent years CIETAC and SHIAC underwent through several improvements and changes especially in terms of flexibility. It also offers mediation-arbitration.

It is advisable to recur to arbitration only for high-value or very technical or complex contracts. Otherwise, ordinary courts are in general able to act faster, plus they are relatively impartial and reliable, especially those in first tier cities.

It is noteworthy that in July 2021 the Ministry of Justice published a draft revision of the Arbitration Law for public consultation. Although not yet finalised, the revised draft brings changes about the requirement of unambiguous clauses of arbitration institution.