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

UPDATE (July 5, 2020): The NPC adopted the Civil Code on May 28 with 2879 votes in favor, 2 against, and 5 abstentions. We have updated this guide (including all citations and quotations) in accordance with the Code’s final text. We also discussed some of the final substantive changes to the prior draft: additions made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are listed under the heading “COVID-19 Update,” while other new provisions are incorporated into the summary itself and are indicated in red.


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 final version; other sources are not always cited. You can find all relevant legislative documents and prior drafts on this page.

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NPC Calendar: May 2020

On May 1, a decision of the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) authorizing the suspension of certain statutory provisions as part of a pilot program in the Hainan Free Trade Zone takes effect.

The 13th NPCSC is expected to convene for its 18th session by mid-May to discuss a draft of its annual work report and other documents to prepare for the NPC’s 2020 annual session. The Council of Chairmen is expected to meet soon after the Labor Day holiday (May 1–5) to decide on the dates and agenda of the session.

The 13th NPC will convene for its third annual session on Friday, May 22. The session’s agenda has not yet been finalized, but we expect it to include the following:

  • Hear and deliberate the Government Work Report;
  • Hear and deliberate work reports by the NPCSC, the Supreme People’s Court, and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate;
  • Review and approve a report on the execution of the 2019 National Economic and Social Development Plan and on the draft 2020 National Economic and Social Development Plan;
  • Approve the 2020 National Economic and Social Development Plan;
  • Review and approve a report on the execution of the 2019 Central and Local Budgets and on the draft 2020 Central and Local Budgets;
  • Approve the 2020 Central Budget; and
  • Deliberate the draft Civil Code [民法典].

We also expect the session to retroactively approve the resignation of Feng Zhonghua [冯忠华] as an NPCSC member in June 2019. He has since been appointed a Vice Governor of Hainan. Under Chinese law, an NPCSC member must resign if he is to serve in an administrative organ.

On May 21, the NPC session will convene for a preparatory meeting to select members of the Presidium (which will preside over the session) and to finalize the session’s agenda. The Presidium will then immediately meet to decide on (among other matters) the session’s daily schedule. Shortly thereafter the session is expected to hold its first press conference.

Though the NPC’s annual session ordinarily lasts around ten days, several outlets have reported that this year’s would be shortened to only seven days. On the last day of the session, we expect the NPC to approve the Civil Code.


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NPCSC Abolishes “Custody & Education” Detention System, Revises Securities Law & Approves Community Corrections Law, Civil Litigation Reform Pilot

The 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) concluded its fifteenth session on Saturday, December 28. It approved a batch of bills, most prominently a decision abolishing China’s decades-old extrajudicial detention system against prostitution. We will focus on this decision below, while briefly noting other bills it approved. Because the NPCSC (quite unusually) has yet to release the relevant legislative records, we had limited primary sources to rely upon when writing this post. We intend to update the discussion below when more sources become available.

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NPCSC Solicits Public Comments on Draft Civil Code, Export Control Law, Yangtze River Protection Law, Solid Waste Law Revisions & Two Tax Laws

The NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) is soliciting public comments on the following six bills through January 26, 2020:

All linked files are PDF documents in Chinese. English translations will be provided if and when available. The accompanying explanations of these drafts can be read here (PDF).

To submit comments online, please refer to this guide. The “Occupations” [职业] dropdown menu for the draft revision to the Yangtze River Protection Law includes the following options: “state organs and their employees” [国家机关及其工作人员], “public institutions, social groups, and their employees” [事业机关、社会团体及其工作人员], “persons living in the Yangtze River basin” [长江流域所在地人员]; and “other” [其他].

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 “[BILL NAME IN CHINESE]征求意见” on the envelope.


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NPCSC Session Watch: Civil Code, Securities Law, Yangtze River Protection, Taiwanese Investments & Export Control (Updated)

UPDATE (Dec. 17, 2019): It appears that a complete Civil Code has indeed been submitted for review at the NPCSC’s upcoming session. Here is an unofficial but authentic draft (PDF).


The Council of Chairpersons decided on Monday, December 16 to convene the 15th session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) from December 23 to 28. The NPCSC will review at least 11 legislative bills at its upcoming six-day session. A quick rundown follows.

Continue reading “NPCSC Session Watch: Civil Code, Securities Law, Yangtze River Protection, Taiwanese Investments & Export Control (Updated)”