The inconvenient truth about China’s International Commercial Courts

BRI projects cut across various countries with different legal systems — the legal and regulatory differences across different jurisdictions increases the chances of projects running into legal risks and uncertainties.

Launched in 2013, China’s multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road initiative (BRI) continues to thrive as an ambitious infrastructure project and a powerful geopolitical initiative. Now covering over 60 countries, the BRI is expected to play a larger role in creating an alternate model of economic integration and global governance. The impact of these developments can also be felt across the development of law — specifically, dispute resolution.

BRI projects cut across various countries with different legal systems, including English common law, Anglo-American civil law and Islamic law — to name a few. The legal and regulatory differences across different jurisdictions increases the chances of projects running into legal risks and uncertainties. Naturally, as the BRI grows — with the ample support of Chinese investments — the number of international commercial disputes involving Chinese State Operating Enterprises (SOEs) and private companies will increase manifold. Several projects have already run into legal quagmires; for instance, the Belgrade-Budapest high-speed railway was been delayed for over a year when the Hungarian part of the project bypassed European rules on public bids.

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