2020 NPC Session: A Guide to China’s Civil Code

As the NPC comes into session today to review a draft of the People’s Republic’s first Civil Code [民法典], a legislative marathon will soon come to an end. The Code is a massive piece of legislation. Its latest draft includes 1260 articles, teeming with arcane legal terminology. Thus, if you want to read it for yourself, you might find the task daunting. In this post, we hope to make the Code just a bit more accessible. But our task here is a moderate one: we will not (and cannot) do a deep dive into the Code. Instead, we will give a brief overview of the Code’s drafting history, explain its significance, and provide a quick introduction to each of the Code’s subdivisions. We will focus on the new rules in the Code that have caught our attention, as well as issues that have engendered the most heated (sometimes quite public) debates.

All citations to the Code below are to its latest public draft (released in December 2019); other sources are not always cited. You can find all relevant legislative documents and prior drafts on this page.

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Summary of China’s New Foreign Investment Law

On Friday, March 15, 2019, the National People’s Congress adopted the Foreign Investment Law [外商投资法] by a 2929–8 vote, with 8 abstentions and 3 delegates not voting. Upon taking effect on January 1, 2020, the Law will replace China’s currently fragmented foreign investment regime: three separate foreign investment laws enacted in the early years of China’s economic reform. Our English translation of the new Law is available here.

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Second Draft of Foreign Investment Law: A Summary of Main Changes (UPDATED)

UPDATE (Feb. 18, 2019): The NPCSC apparently did quietly release the full text of the second draft of the Foreign Investment Law on January 29. (So quietly that we could not find the webpage unless we use the website’s search function.) We thank the reader who sent us the link.

We shall start by saying that, no, the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) has not released the official second draft of the Foreign Investment Law [外商投资法] that it reviewed in late January. We instead found an unofficial version of the second draft on WeChat—specifically this post by a public account focusing on fiscal and tax issues.[*] After checking this document against state media reports on the second draft, we have every reason to believe that it is authentic.

An English translation of the second draft of the Foreign Investment Law (along with the Chinese original) is now available on China Law Translate.

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NPCSC Solicits Public Comments on Draft Foreign Investment Law (FURTHER UPDATED)

UPDATE 4 (Jan. 2, 2019): For our latest thoughts on the next steps for the Foreign Investment Law, please see this post.

UPDATE 3 (Dec. 27, 2018): We have translated the draft in full on China Law Translate.

UPDATE 2 (Dec. 27, 2018): We revised our prediction about the legislative timetable for the Foreign Investment Law in light of recent state media reports. [superseded by UPDATE 4]

UPDATE 1 (Dec. 27, 2018): We have updated this post with a summary of the latest draft Foreign Investment Law.

The NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) unexpectedly released the draft Foreign Investment Law [外商投资法] on Wednesday for public comments for an unexpectedly long period—61 days—until February 24, 2019.

The original Chinese PDF of the draft can be accessed here. Our English translation is available here. The accompanying explanation of the draft (in Chinese) can be read here.

To submit comments online, please refer to these instructions. Comments can also be mailed to the NPCSC Legislative Affairs Commission [全国人大常委会法制工作委员会] at the following address:

Chinese: 北京市西城区前门西大街1号 邮编:100805
English: No. 1 West Qianmen Avenue, Xicheng District, Beijing 100805

Please clearly write “外商投资法草案征求意见” on the envelope.

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Draft Amendment to Individual Income Tax Law Facing Resistance in NPCSC

In his 2018 Government Work Report, Premier Li Keqiang vowed to “raise the [individual] income tax threshold and create expense deductions for items like children’s education and treatment for serious diseases.” Fulfillment of this promise primarily falls on the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and the State Administration of Taxation (SAT), which managed to draft an amendment to the Individual Income Tax Law and submitted it to the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) in under three months. But the bill did not fare particularly well in the NPCSC. According to reports by Caixin and the Legal Daily, legislators questioned certain main provisions of the draft amendment during group deliberations. Before turning to their opinions, we will first introduce the main content of the draft amendment below.

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NPCSC Solicits Public Comments on Three Draft Laws (with Brief Content Summary): September 7, 2017 (UPDATED)

Update (September 13, 2017): China Law Translate has translated the draft revisions to the Law Against Unfair Competition (linked below).

After releasing the draft revisions to the People’s Court Organic Law and the People’s Procuratorates Organic Law for public comments on Monday, the NPCSC is now soliciting public opinions on three additional laws.

The comments period for the following two laws will end on September 24—i.e., it lasts only 20 days, which signals the NPCSC will almost certainly consider and pass the two bills at its next session in late October.

  1. Law Against Unfair Competition (Draft Revision) (English translation) 反不正当竞争法修订草案二次审议稿
  2. Standardization Law (Draft Revision) 标准化法修订草案二次审议稿

The comments period for the third draft law, Tobacco Leaf Tax Law (烟叶税法草案), will run till October 6. The tax rate is 20%.

Only PDF Chinese versions are available at this time. Officials explanations are included in the PDFs.

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Draft Revision of Procuratorates Organic Law Leaked

On Saturday, the WeChat public account “刑法库” published what it claims to be the draft revision (“Draft”) of the People’s Procuratorate Organic Law (“Law”)—along with an accompanying explanation prepared by the NPC Internal and Judicial Affairs Committee (“Committee”)—that is due to be reviewed by the NPCSC this week. For various reasons not elaborated here, we believe the Draft is authentic.

The Draft is dated August 18, 2017, when the Council of Chairmen convened to set the dates and agenda for the NPCSC session this week. Because draft laws aren’t subject to revision between a Council of Chairmen meeting and the ensuing NPCSC session, the version of the draft revision we expect the NPCSC to release after this week’s session should be identical to the Draft.

Here is the Draft in PDF, with the explanation attached. An English translation is not yet available, but we’ll summarize the changes made by the Draft—which are not necessarily new in practice—in bullet points below. Please refer to this post for background information on the ongoing process to revise the Law.

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Likely Developments Surrounding the Draft National Anthem Law (with Translation)

Last month, the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) conducted an initial review of a draft National Anthem Law (Draft) (an English translation of which is attached to this post). Much of the media coverage so far has focused on provisions that ban the use of the national anthem at “inappropriate occasions” such as funerals and provide for up to 15 days of detention for “distorted or derogatory” rendition of the anthem, titled “March of the Volunteers.” With only 15 articles, the Draft contains language that is fairly easy to understand. We therefore won’t spend time scrutinizing its content here. Instead, we will take a look at likely developments surrounding the Draft, based on this report by Xinhua.

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Legislation Review: China to Revamp Standardization System

Closely examine the packaging of any Chinese consumer product and you will most certainly find in the fine print the letters “GB”—the symbol for compulsory national standards. Sitting at the top of China’s standards hierarchy, the “GB” standards are formulated by the State Council and compliance with them is mandatory. Local governments and private entities may also adopt standards, and in many cases compliance is merely voluntary. Together, these standards prescribe uniform technical requirements for diverse fields ranging from purified water bottling to pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Yet, as the Chinese Government itself has recognized, the current standardization system—established in the late 1980s with the enactment of the Standardization Law (1989 Law)—no longer meets actual needs and has even slowed development. In an effort to modernize the system, earlier this year the State Council submitted to the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) a draft revision to the Law (Draft), which the NPCSC reviewed last month. The Draft essentially aims at restructuring the existing standardization system, and below we provide a summary of its core content.

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