Belt and Road Initiative
SPC issuance No. 9 
Opinions of the Supreme People’s Court on people’s courts providing judicial services and guarantees for the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative
The Belt and Road Initiative (the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road), was an important strategic decision to actively respond to the profound changes in the global situation in full consideration of current domestic and external factors taken by the CPC Central Committee under the leadership of General Secretary Xi Jinping . To clarify and guarantee the functions of people’s courts and ensure the smooth implementation of the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative, the following guidelines are put forward:
I. Unify thinking, improve awareness and strengthen the sense of responsibility and mission to provide judicial services and guarantees for the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative.
1. Understand the importance of both the Belt and Road Initiative construction and the people’s courts’ mission. The Belt and Road Initiative inherits and revives the spirit of the ancient Silk Road, which features peace & cooperation, openness & inclusiveness, mutual learning, and mutual benefit. It upholds the guiding thought of “peace, development, cooperation and win-win”, is faithful to the diplomatic concept of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, and follows the principles of negotiation, co-construction and sharing. The ancient spirit invites policy communications, connections of road transportation, unimpeded trade, currency circulation and a joining of hearts and minds. It builds a community of shared interests, shared destinies, and shared responsibilities featuring mutual trust, economic integration and cultural inclusiveness with the consensus and strength of countries along the “Belt and Road”. The implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative will bring far-reaching opportunities for China to create a new pattern for its all-round opening-up, economic growth and peaceful development. The rule of law is an important guarantee, and the judiciary is indispensable. Chinese courts at all levels should study and actively serve and participate in Belt and Road Initiative construction and apply General Secretary of the CPC’s Central Committee Xi Jinping’s important statements relating to it, fully recognizing their sacred duty and mission.
2. Master the basic requirements and subtleties of judicial services and guarantees for Belt and Road Initiative construction. Chinese courts should actively respond to the judicial concerns and needs of Chinese and overseas market entities during the construction, and strengthen judicial review of foreign-related criminal cases, including all commercial cases involving maritime matters or issues arising from free trade zones, to create a good rule-of-law environment for the Belt and Road Initiative construction. Courts should implement the principle of equality in law, protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese and foreign litigants, and safeguard an environment featuring fair competition, honesty and integrity: harmony and mutual benefit are necessary for regional cooperation. Chinese courts should put in place comprehensive plans and identify the junctures and focal points of the work of people’s courts on the one hand and Belt and Road Initiative construction on the other. They should study the regular points of contact and review them from all perspectives. They should also innovatively enhance people’s courts’ trial work concerning foreign affairs. Chinese courts should be based on the reality of our country. They must unswervingly take the path of socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics, engage in international cooperation and exchanges with the countries along the “Belt and Road”, and consolidate rule of law as the foundation of Belt and Road Initiative construction.
II. Promote the international credibility of the courts’ judicial services and guarantees for the Belt and Road Initiative construction by adhering to correct trial procedures.
3. To create a harmonious and stable social environment for Belt and Road Initiative construction Chinese courts should strengthen criminal trial work, deepen judicial cooperation with countries along the “Belt and Road”, crack down on forces of violent terrorism, ethnic separatism, and religious extremism, and severely punish transnational crimes such as piracy, drug smuggling, money laundering, telecom fraud, Internet-related crimes, and human trafficking. They should properly try criminal cases involving international investment, international trade, multinational finance, ports, shipping, warehousing, and logistics, insist on the principle of legality, follow strict litigation procedures, be consistent in criminal policies and maintain the distinctions between criminal and non-criminal matters to ensure that every single case can stand the test of law and history.
4. Try cases involving the Belt and Road Initiative construction efficiently to create a fair and just business and investment environment. Chinese courts should attach great importance to international economic cooperation such as the economic corridor construction based on the new Eurasian Continental Bridge, hear foreign-related civil and commercial cases on infrastructure construction, economic and trade exchanges, industrial investment, energy and resources cooperation, financial services, ecological environment, intellectual property, goods transportation, and labor service cooperation, always guaranteeing implementation of the strategies of “going out” and “bringing in”. They should pay close attention to the construction of strategic maritime channels such as major ports and shipping hubs, try the maritime cases concerning port construction, shipping finance, carriage of goods by sea and marine ecology protection in a timely manner and in accordance with the law, promoting China’s maritime development strategy. Chinese courts should understand and master all relevant regulations and policies, and be sensitive to litigants’ autonomous right to objective administrative examination and approval, revise related juridical policy in a timely way, strictly limit the enforceability of invalid contract provisions, and promote opening-up to the outside world. Chinese courts should adhere to the principle of equal treatment of Chinese and foreign litigants and the equal status of parties in litigation, and in general support equal application of the law.
5. Exercise judicial jurisdiction in accordance with the law and provide timely and effective judicial relief for Chinese and foreign market entities. Chinese courts should fully respect the right of Chinese and foreign market entities to choose their jurisdiction in the Belt and Road Initiative construction. Chinese courts should reduce international conflicts on foreign-related jurisdiction and properly handle parallel proceedings in different countries through friendly consultations with countries along the “Belt and Road” and judicial cooperation. Chinese courts should abide by international treaties and conventions, scientifically and rationally determine the connecting factors in the cases involving countries along the “Belt and Road”, exercise jurisdiction according to the law, safeguard China's judicial jurisdiction and respect those of countries along the route, and fully protect the legal rights of market entities in the Belt and Road Initiative construction. Chinese courts should strictly implement the Regulations of the Supreme People's Court on Several Issues Regarding Case-filing Registration, place the cases on file immediately and proceed to judgment as quickly as possible. The systems of identification of foreign litigants’ identities, review of overseas evidence and testimony of overseas witnesses should be further improved to provide maximum convenience for Chinese and foreign litigants.
6. Strengthen international judicial assistance with countries along the “Belt and Road” and safeguard legitimate rights and interests of Chinese and foreign litigants. Chinese courts should actively explore the strengthening of regional judicial assistance, cooperate with related departments to put forward a new model convention on judicial assistance, promote the signing of related bilateral or multilateral agreements, and push forward the mutual recognition and enforcement of judicial decisions between the countries along the “Belt and Road”. If a country along the “Belt and Road” has not signed an agreement on judicial assistance with China, Chinese courts may provide judicial assistance to the litigant from that country beforehand, actively promote a mutually beneficial relationship and enlarge the scope of judicial assistance with an intention of international judicial cooperation and in accordance with the conditions of judicial reciprocity offered by the other country. Chinese courts should strictly follow the international treaties signed by China and countries along the “Belt and Road”, handle requests for judicial assistance involving delivery of judicial documents, investigation and evidence collection, recognition and enforcement of foreign courts’ judgments, and provide efficient and convenient judicial relief for Chinese and foreign litigants to protect their legitimate rights and interests.
7. Accurately apply international treaties and conventions, identify and apply foreign laws, and enhance the international credibility of judgments in accordance with the law. Chinese courts should continuously improve their capacity to apply international treaties and conventions, make in-depth study of the international treaties on trade, investment, finance, and sea transportation concluded by the countries along the “Belt and Road” and China, strictly follow the provisions of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, interpret treaty terms in accordance with the context and the reference of the purpose and aim of the treaties, and strengthen the unity, stability and predictability of applying international treaties and conventions in trials. They should take all the foreign-related factors like the subject, object and content in legal relations, as well as evidence, into consideration, fully respect the litigants’ right to choose applicable law, identify and accurately apply the foreign laws and eliminate any legal uncertainty within China and countries along the “Belt and Road” in international commercial activities, in accordance with the provisions of the Law of the Application of Law for Foreign-related Civil Relations. Attention should be paid to the differences between the cultural and legal backgrounds of countries along the “Belt and Road”, and the internationally accepted concept of legal value and legal principles such as justice, freedom, equality, honesty, rationality, order, and strict adherence to contract should be properly applied. Chinese courts should make arguments in an easy-to-understand, simple, comprehensive and precise way, so as to enhance the authority of their judgments.
8. Strengthen the judicial review of the arbitral awards of litigants from countries along the “Belt and Road” in accordance with the law and facilitate international commercial maritime arbitration to play an important role in the Belt and Road Initiative construction. Chinese courts should understand and accurately apply the Convention on the recognition and enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (hereinafter referred to as the New York Convention), recognize and implement the arbitral awards in accordance with the law and promote its recognition and enforcement among the countries along the “Belt and Road” that have not joined the New York Convention. They should explore a system of judicial review of arbitral awards involving foreign countries, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan, including possible refusals to recognize and implement foreign arbitral awards, and support the development of arbitration. A working mechanism featuring unified management of judicial review of commercial and maritime arbitration should be set up to ensure that the standard of judicial review on these arbitrations is unified. Approaches and channels that facilitate the just settlement of international disputes involving trade and investment should be explored to guarantee the fulfillment of the duties created in bilateral investment treaties and agreements on free trade areas among the countries along the “Belt and Road”, and to support the arbitration of disputes involving the Belt and Road Initiative construction.
III. Establish a complete working mechanism and create a good rule-of-law environment for the Belt and Road Initiative construction
9. Deepen reform, improve openness, and continuously enhance the international influence and credibility of foreign-related cases. Chinese courts should actively explore responsible systems of handling cases by the presiding judge and the collegiate bench. The new types of cases should be handled by the foreign-related judicial authorities, so as to further develop the advantage of professionalized judgment. Chinese courts should follow the spirit of the fourth national foreign-related commercial and maritime trial work conference, summarize in a timely way the experience from the maritime trial jurisdiction system pilot reform, enable parts of the maritime administrative cases closely related to maritime affairs to be administrated by specialized maritime affair courts, effectively protect the marine economy and marine judicial system from the aspect of institutional mechanisms, and constantly consolidate China’s status as the maritime judicial center of the Asia Pacific region. Chinese courts should improve judicial openness, and enable their foreign-related judicature to fully serve as an international window. They should research and formulate specific measures of accepting foreign nationals’ applications to attend the trials, provide conveniences for their attendance of trials, invite envoys and personnel from the countries along the “Belt and Road” to attend typical cases as part of international cooperation and exchange and respond to the concerns of the international community.
10. Establish a normal research guidance mechanism and make the work more systematic and targeted. Providing judicial guarantees for the Belt and Road Initiative construction should be taken as routine work. Chinese courts should deal with the recent problems with long-term response measures, combine the judicial authorities’ specialized guarantees and overall national advancement, insist on integration of judicial function with central government’s strategic planning and local situations, and be alert to judicial demands and policies in the Belt and Road Initiative construction. Chinese courts should analyze the characteristics and law of the cases involving the Belt and Road Initiative construction, strengthen judicial interpretation and guidance on cases, standardize discretion, unify the applicable law, and provide timely guidance for market activities. Chinese courts should establish a special statistical and analytical system for cases involving Belt and Road, issue typical cases, and regularly release judicial suggestions and information to relevant departments and the public, to effectively prevent legal risks. They should establish a communication mechanism with state and local authorities, conduct in-depth study on the rules of international law and the laws and regulations of the countries along the “Belt and Road”, put forward forward-looking strategies, and enhance promotion of Belt and Road Initiative construction.
11. Support the development of a diversified dispute resolution mechanism and timely resolution of disputes involving Belt and Road Initiative construction in accordance with the law. Chinese courts should fully respect the voluntary choice of the litigants from countries along the route according to their own political, legal, cultural, religious and other factors, encourage Chinese and foreign litigants to resolve disputes through mediation, arbitration and other non-litigation approaches. Chinese courts should further promote the perfection of and linkages between different types of mediation, such as commercial, arbitration, administrative, industrial and judicial, take full advantage of various methods of solving disputes along the “Belt and Road” to meet the diverse needs of Chinese and foreign litigants.
12. Explore international judicial communication and publicity mechanisms and promote rule-of-law among countries along the “Belt and Road”. Chinese courts should respect and avail themselves of the existing multilateral cooperation mechanisms such as the conference of the presidents of the supreme courts of the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the China-ASEAN Justice Forum, the Conference of Chief Justices of Asia and the Pacific, and the BRICS Justices Forum. They should also organize regional international judicial forums and work with countries along the route to solve the problems in the Belt and Road Initiative construction, and create a stable, transparent, fair and just rule-of-law environment. Chinese courts should establish a new mechanism to further strengthen exchanges and cooperation of judicial organs between China and the countries along the route, set up a working platform for identifying foreign laws, support domestic organizations and departments to carry out exchange activities with higher educational institutes and research institutions in the countries along the route, improve the international community’s understanding of Chinese judicature, and promote mutual trust in the rule of law.
13. Actively participate in the formulation of relevant international rules, and constantly improve the international weight of China's justice. Chinese courts should further expand the channels for international judicial exchange, pay close attention to the progress of the Asian Investment Bank and the construction of the Silk Road Fund, research the development trends of international law especially in finance, trade, investments, and maritime issues, and actively take part in and promote the formulation of relevant international rules.
IV. Strengthen the work of guidance, organization and information construction, and constantly improve the ability and level of judicial service and security along the “Belt and Road”
14. Constantly summarize both experience and guidance to ensure that the judicial services and guarantees for the Belt and Road Initiative construction are making solid and orderly progress. Chinese courts at all levels should create useful experience based on local reality and its distinctive features. Special attention should be paid to the key projects in the Belt and Road Initiative construction so that they serve as leading role models. Chinese courts should sum up their experience and practice, and promote their duplication as well as publicize typical cases. They should improve guidance from a macroscopic perspective, strengthen division of labor, enhance supervision, inspection and case assessment, and constantly advance their capability to guarantee the Belt and Road Initiative construction.
15. Strengthen the training of professional personnel and constantly improve judicial capacity that can adapt to the Belt and Road Initiative construction. Chinese courts should plan for training, intensify themed and special training, and accelerate the building of a specialized contingent of judicial personnel. Training on operational capacity and the study on the knowledge on the Belt and Road Initiative construction should be reinforced to improve the comprehensive quality of judicial services. The judges should expand their international perspective and they are encouraged to participate in international exchanges. Chinese courts should improve judges’ ability to handle international affairs and strive to create a group of internationally influential judges in the field of international civil and commercial maritime trial who are familiar with the leading theories of international law.
16. Strengthen the construction of informatization, improve the actual effect and level of judicial services and guarantees for the construction of the Belt and Road. Chinese courts should strengthen top-level design to guarantee the informatization for the Belt and Road Initiative construction, insist on an innovation-driven strategy, promote integration of information technology with judicial work, judicial openness, and public benefit, and build Internet-oriented online courts, transparent courts and smart courts. Great importance should be attached to guidance from public opinion and publicity on related work. The English websites of the Supreme People’s Court and foreign-related commercial and maritime trials should be available through new media to publicize the judicial services and guarantees for the Belt and Road Initiative construction. Publicity platforms for foreign exchanges should be built to provide timely, comprehensive and detailed information on the Belt and Road Initiative construction and to demonstrate the achievements of China’s judicial and legal construction.
Supreme People’s Court
June 16, 2015
Free Trade Zone Judicial Research Base
The ECUPL Institute of China Free Trade Zone Law was established on October 12, 2013. The research institute includes various research centers on legal issues in areas of finance, trade, investment, shipping, IPR, data analysis and market supervision.
At present, it has a well-structured research team consisting of 12 professors, 12 deputy professors and six lecturers (including assistant researchers). The dean of the institute is Professor Liu Xiaohong and the permanent deputy dean is Professor He Xiaoyong. The main academic leaders of the research centers are Wu Hong, Liu Ningyuan, He Xiaoyong, Zhao Jingsong, Gao Fuping, Liu Xianquan and Gao Han.
Over the two years since its establishment, the ECUPL institute has undertaken the national key social science project ‘Rule by Law Leads and Boosts the Difficulty and Route Research of FTZ Construction’, completed research into and finalized the Ministry of Commerce’s establishment of ‘Benchmarking of Domestic Rules and International Economic and Trade Rules’ and completed the ‘FTZ Legal Construction and Innovation’ project of the Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of the CPC. It has also issued the Blue Book of Rule of Law Construction of China (Shanghai) Free Trade Pilot Zone as well as over 50 related academic papers and 11 investigation reports.
Meanwhile, the research institute has provided many opinions for the Shanghai Municipal Government’s decisions pertaining to FTZs, which Shanghai has adopted. By conducting effective research on FTZ’s construction, the institute has gained such honorary titles as China (Shanghai) FTZ Coordinated Innovation Center, ‘Humanities & Social Sciences Innovation Base’ of the Shanghai Philosophy and Social Science Planning Office, and ‘FTZ Judicial Research Base’ of the Supreme People’s Court.
Website Chained Address: http://ftz.ecupl.edu.cn
Shanghai University of Finance and Economics' Supreme People's Court free trade zone judicial study facility (submitted by the School of Law)
Shanghai University of Finance and Economics' Supreme People's Court free trade zone judicial study facility (submitted by the School of Law)
A research team of the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics' School of Law established a free trade zone judicial research center in March 2013. Later, Shanghai No 1 Intermediate People's Court joined in and together with the law school turned the center into the Supreme People's Court's free trade zone judicial study facility.
The team has undertaken four national programs (including two involving national social science funds), six provincial and ministry-level programs and 22 others involving school-level free trade zones. More than 20 influential academic meetings on free trade zones have been held. The research team has published 20 papers in various journals, such as Law Science, Law and Social Development and Oriental Law. Six papers have won various awards. Among them, Professor Zheng Shaohua's paper on the Chinese free trade pilot zone's legal experiment won the first prize at the 12th Shanghai philosophy and social science outstanding achievements awards.
The team has begun to work on the translation of free trade legal works with support from Law Press China and the 2014 and 2015 versions are now available to the public. The Free Trade Zone's Legal Application (2015) was also published last year.
The research team has proposed more than 30 policy suggestions, which have been adopted by many government organs, including the legal committee of Shanghai municipal people's congress, the legal office of the Shanghai municipal people's government, the Shanghai law society and the legislative affairs offices of Fujian and Guangdong provinces. The team has contributed to regulation formulation for free trade zones in Shanghai, Guangdong and Fujian.
SPC’s Maritime Judicial Protection Theory Research Base in Shanghai Maritime University (SMU)
The Supreme People’s Court (SPC) established the Maritime Judicial Protection Theory Research Base in July 2015. Based at the Law School of Shanghai Maritime University (SMU), it is run by the Institute of Maritime Law, a key humanities and social sciences research base in Shanghai.
The SPC base is substantially supported by SMU and accesses its academic research and talent resources in the law of the sea, the Maritime Code and private international maritime law.
The base studies current maritime law issues to offer trial support.
It has 14 researchers, including eight professors and six associate professors; eight PhD graduates and two candidates; three PhD tutors and 11 postgraduate tutors; two minister-level academic leaders, and two provincial-level excellent teachers.
With an emphasis on academic exchange, the base hosts various conferences. One held on May 12 was titled “Gaining More Say for China in International Maritime Trials”. Specialists at the conference analyzed China’s construction of international maritime judicial centers in the context of the “Belt and Road” initiative. The base also hosted the third seminar of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism Research Team Forum series and the 2016 Shanghai International Arbitration Forum on Aug 6.
The base combines practices with theory. It is active in participating in development of legislative practices at home and abroad. For example, it took part in the formulation of maritime laws such as the Maritime Code and the Law of Ports.
It has led multiple national, ministerial and provincial research projects of the National Social Sciences Fund and the ministries of education, justice, and transport, winning provincial and ministerial awards.
SPC “Belt and Road” Judicial Research Base (Shanghai University of Political Science and Law)
An unveiling ceremony of the base and a specialist seminar were held on Aug 8, 2015, both widely reported by domestic media agencies.
The base’s application for “Think Tank Construction Phase I” was approved in April, thanks to the help of university officials. To carry out the project, the base set up a research team consisting of one professor, five associate professors and seven PhD lecturers.
The base has conducted research and training since its establishment.
It has held several academic conferences, including a roundtable on international investment arbitration, and academic seminars on ascertainment of foreign law, “Belt and Road” safety and legal guarantees, and on resolution mechanisms for South China Sea issues themed “Cooperation and Sharing”.
Professor Sheng Hongsheng, the base director, has participated several times in training Central Asian officials.
In 2015, the base delivered a work report and three research reports to the SPC.
The court held a conference in Beijing on May 25, where it announced the tasks for its “Belt and Road” judicial research centers. The base was made responsible for compiling 500 terms in the Private International Laws chapter of the Dictionary of China’s Trials and the task is being completed smoothly.