Engaging China in the international mediation scene

Posted in Insights September 2, 2018

An elevator pitch for the Zhejiang provincial government, a presentation for members of the China Enterprise Association and the same for delegations from Hainan, Shenzhen and Guangdong province. We also shared our work with China’s Chief Justice Zhou Qiang and Prosecutor General Zhang Jun. Oh, August was an exciting month.

One major takeaway from August was China’s commitment to build an effective dispute resolution eco-system. This ambition stems from a desire to boost its legal infrastructure and standing in the world economy to make its cities more attractive for investments. It also helps regionalising Chinese companies consider a more efficient alternative for resolving cross-border spats—mediation. If China’s campaign succeeds, it would further position the major coastal cities as key hubs of trade and commerce.

The Greater Bay Area Initiative

Tier 1 cities Shenzhen and Guangzhou have always been staples of the south’s solid commercial infrastructure and urban sustainability blueprint. Now, they have come under the Greater Bay Area initiative, a development masterplan that is also a vital part of the Belt & Road Initiative. It has strong backing from the state and the government has earmarked it for greater growth in the coming years.

The combined GDP of the whole Area, which covers 11 cities including Hong Kong and Macau, is US$1.4 trillion. It accounts for 12 per cent of the economy even though this region only makes up five per cent of the total population.

The sectors expected to grow are advanced manufacturing, innovation, shipping, and trade and financial services. To encourage private investment, the government would need to align administration and economic policies, and build a robust legal and regulatory framework across the board.

Guangdong has plans in the pipeline to establish an international dispute resolution platform to address potential conflict.

The Court of Qian Hai Cooperation Area of Shenzhen (深圳前海合作区法院) also recently issued the 2018-2019 Reform Implementation Plan, whereby mediation is expected to play a fundamental role in this economic powerhouse.

Shenzhen is one of the two cities home to the new International Commercial Courts for BRI disputes, announced this June. It currently has one arbitration institution—the Shenzhen Court of International Arbitration (SCIA).

Establishing a world-class trade hub

A little further down south, the sunny holiday island of Hainan recently received the central government’s full support to develop a free trade zone and free trade port. To promote economic activity, the Supreme People’s Court released a memo indicating its support for the initiative. It will also support the establishment of an international mediation institute.

When we hosted the delegation from the Hainan State-Owned Enterprise Commission, it was clear that Chinese professionals want to be engaged in international mediation. We also shared that there was strong interest amongst international practitioners to learn from China.

This commitment to harmonious regional development is perhaps the greatest single intangible investment for the Belt-Road Initiative. It is a commitment that Singapore and SIMC shared with Chinese officials at the Singapore – Zhejiang Economic & Trade Council Roundtable and 9th Meeting of the Singapore-Guangdong Collaboration Council, organised by Enterprise Singapore.

The Singapore – Zhejiang Economic & Trade Council Roundtable held August 21, 2018.

SIMC Director for International Partnerships Chuan Wee Meng

Our work in China

SIMC is currently working very closely with its counterparts in China to promote mediation.

In June, we conducted a Specialist Mediators’ workshop in Shanghai in partnership with the CCPIT. It was a success. It would be the first of many joint training programmes focused on equipping mediators in Singapore and China with the skills to manage disputes in relation to the Belt-Road Initiative.

Prosecutor General Zhang Jun and delegation at Maxwell Chambers on August 17, 2018.

Prosecutor General Zhang Jun also acknowledged that Asians generally prize relationships above all else. If there was anything that could help feuding parties drop their swords, it was mediation. With Asia set for exponential growth in the future, its pace will be tied to how quickly and painlessly disputes can be resolved.

In a word with Zhou Qiang, Chief Justice of the Supreme People’s Court, we also expressed our desire to deepen institutional ties with China, and for SIMC to be a bridge that connects legal professionals in China and Singapore.

SIMC Director Chuan Wee Meng (left) and Centre Manager Wenny Huang share a light-hearted moment with Chief Justice Zhou Qiang.

Looking ahead, our business development efforts and partnerships will be increasingly important for a harmonious and prosperous future.