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China: National People’s Congress Adopts New Civil Code

(June 26, 2020) On May 28, 2020, the National People’s Congress (NPC) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) adopted the PRC Civil Code, which codifies the country’s private laws regulating “personal relations and property relations between natural persons, legal persons, and non-legal-person organizations which are civil subjects of equal status.” (Art. 2, English translation, Westlaw China (by subscription).)

Previously, as the first step towards the adoption of the Civil Code, on March 15, 2017, the NPC passed the General Provisions of the Civil Law, which became the basis of the general part, Part I, of the Code. The legislature then drafted other parts of the Code on the basis of the existing laws, combined them with the general part into a complete draft Code, and submitted it to this year’s NPC session for a final review.

The PRC Civil Code contains 1,260 articles in seven parts:

  • Part I, General Provisions
  • Part II, Property Rights/Rights in Rem
  • Part III, Contracts
  • Part IV, Personality Rights
  • Part V, Marriage and Family
  • Part VI, Inheritance
  • Part VII, Tort Liabilities

Significant changes adopted in the Civil Code include the introduction of a new usufruct, the right of habitation/residence (arts. 366–371), and strengthened homeowners’ rights (e.g., art. 278) under Part II, Property Right/Rights in Rem. Part III, Contracts, is the longest part of the Code with 526 articles, including those derived from the existing Contract Law and many new provisions. (Arts. 463–988.) Part IV, Personality Rights, contains a whole chapter on the protection of the right of privacy and personal information. (Arts. 1032–1039.) Part V, Marriage and Family, introduces a new cooling-off period for divorces, which allows either spouse to withdraw the divorce application within 30 days of filing. (Art. 1077).

The new Civil Code will take effect on January 1, 2021, when the following laws are repealed:

  • Marriage Law
  • Inheritance Law
  • General Principles of the Civil Law
  • Adoption Law
  • Guaranty Law
  • Contract Law
  • Property Rights Law
  • Tort Liability Law
  • General Rules on the Civil Law (Art. 1,260.)