International arbitration in China

By Ben Bury

As an increasing number of infrastructure and energy projects feature one or more Chinese parties, non-Chinese contractors are regularly encountering contracts containing arbitration clauses providing for disputes to be determined by Chinese arbitration centres. The purpose of this article is to provide a brief summary of international arbitration in China.

Arbitrations in China must be administered by one of more than 200 state-sponsored arbitration centres, the largest of which is the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC). Parties are free to select their own tribunal from the list of arbitrators on the arbitration centre’s panel and, in some instances, from outside the panel. Parties also have discretion in determining the procedure of the arbitration.

Arbitration hearings are generally short and informal. The CIETAC rules require arbitral awards to be made within six months of the tribunal being constituted, although in practice it can take longer (sometimes much longer). Where a summary procedure is applied, the arbitration is conducted by a sole arbitrator on the basis of documents alone and the arbitrator must render his award within three months of his appointment…

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