Sara Zokaei

Volume 73, Issue 2, 559-584

For over forty years, China has promulgated national policies of opening-up and cooperation with other nations. Over the past eight years, China has been expanding its efforts to uphold these policy goals via the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s global infrastructure project. With this increase in international economic activity and commercial transactions, China has recognized the need for judicial reform to better serve the legal needs of foreign parties. Given China’s preference for peaceful cooperation, arbitration, and mediation, reform was necessary to cater to the needs of foreign parties who prefer litigation.


In parallel with the Belt and Road Initiative, China has expanded its domestic dispute resolution mechanisms to provide broad legal resources for Belt and Road transacting parties. China has outlined its commitment to provide a fair, predictable, and law-based business environment for international parties in a series of opinions issued by the Supreme People’s Court of China. Further, China has forged key legal instruments to support its commitment to provide fair and consistent court judgments: (1) establishment of the International Commercial Courts; (2) issuance of BRI-specific guiding cases, and (3) commitment to expanded application of the principle of reciprocity in the enforcement of foreign judgments.


While China’s extensive domestic judicial reform, to some extent, has been consistent with its promulgated policies and Belt and Road goals, the vagueness of the Supreme People’s Court opinions outlining the reforms still present distinct logistical challenges to achieving fair, predictable, and consistent court judgments. As a result, Belt and Road parties choosing to litigate their international commercial disputes may face hurdles in their pursuit of fair and predictable legal protections in court.