Top of page

Article China: Foreign Law Ascertainment Rules Enter into Effect

On January 1, 2024, a judicial interpretation issued by the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC or China) concerning the application of China’s Law on the Application of Laws to Foreign Related Civil Relations (Law on Application of Laws, English translation) entered into effect. The interpretation provides rules of foreign-law ascertainment in foreign-related civil and commercial cases heard by Chinese courts. (Interpretation of the SPC on Several Issues Concerning the Application of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Application of Laws to Foreign-Related Civil Relations (II), Fa Shi [2023] No. 12.)

Enacted in 2010, the Law on the Application of Laws is the PRC’s first statute on choice of law. According to this law, a foreign law applicable to a foreign-related civil relation must be ascertained by the court, arbitration institution, or administrative organ. If the parties elect to apply the law of a foreign country, they must provide the foreign law. Chinese law will apply if the foreign law cannot be ascertained or if the laws of the foreign country are silent on the relevant matter. The court may consider a civil relation to be a foreign-related civil relation under a few specified situations, such as if one or both of the parties are foreign nationals or foreign companies, or if the subject matter of the civil relation is outside the territory of China. (Interpretation of the SPC on Several Issues Concerning the Application of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Application of Laws to Foreign-Related Civil Relations (I), art. 1.)

According to the new SPC interpretation, the foreign laws to be ascertained by the court may be provided by

  • the parties concerned;
  • the foreign country’s central or competent authorities, through a judicial assistance channel;
  • the Chinese embassy or consulate in the foreign country or the embassy or consulate of the foreign country in China, upon request by the SPC;
  • members of a law-ascertainment cooperation mechanism that the SPC establishes or participates in;
  • the experts on the SPC International Commercial Expert Committee;
  • a law-ascertainment service agency or a Chinese or foreign legal expert; or
  • other appropriate means. (Art. 2.)

The SPC interpretation stipulates that if a court fails to ascertain a foreign law by one of the above means, it should further research the law through other means. The court should not decide that a foreign law cannot be ascertained solely on the grounds that the party concerned fails to assist in providing the foreign law as requested by the court. (Art 2.)

The interpretation sets forth the materials to be provided for the court to ascertain a foreign law, which include the specific provisions of the law, explanations of how the law has been obtained, the effectiveness of the law, and the relevance of the law to the dispute concerned. For case law, the full text court decision must be submitted. (Art. 3.) The interpretation also provides detailed rules on the handling and acceptance of the ascertained foreign law in Chinese courts, among other things. (Arts. 5–8.)

The SPC has launched an online platform for foreign-law ascertainment, which is accessible through the China International Commercial Court website.

Laney Zhang, Law Library of Congress
January 25, 2024

Read more Global Legal Monitor articles.

About this Item

Title

  • China: Foreign Law Ascertainment Rules Enter into Effect

Online Format

  • web page

Rights & Access

Publications of the Library of Congress are works of the United States Government as defined in the United States Code 17 U.S.C. §105 and therefore are not subject to copyright and are free to use and reuse.  The Library of Congress has no objection to the international use and reuse of Library U.S. Government works on loc.gov. These works are also available for worldwide use and reuse under CC0 1.0 Universal. 

More about Copyright and other Restrictions.

For guidance about compiling full citations consult Citing Primary Sources.

Credit Line: Law Library of Congress

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Zhang, Laney. China: Foreign Law Ascertainment Rules Enter into Effect. 2024. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-01-24/china-foreign-law-ascertainment-rules-enter-into-effect/.

APA citation style:

Zhang, L. (2024) China: Foreign Law Ascertainment Rules Enter into Effect. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-01-24/china-foreign-law-ascertainment-rules-enter-into-effect/.

MLA citation style:

Zhang, Laney. China: Foreign Law Ascertainment Rules Enter into Effect. 2024. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-01-24/china-foreign-law-ascertainment-rules-enter-into-effect/>.