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Shanghai partner Helen Tang talks China dispute resolution ahead of London International Disputes Week 2022

06 May 2022 | Mainland China
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Shanghai partner Helen Tang will speak at a London International Disputes Week (LIDW) 2022 event examining the challenges and opportunities of East Asia’s evolving dispute resolution ecosystem on 9 May.

The session will cover a range of topics include navigating Belt and Road disputes; the introduction of adjudication in Hong Kong; and the potential cost of meeting zero-carbon commitments in Asia.

The event will be hosted at Herbert Smith Freehills' offices in London on 9 May 2022 at 0900 GMT.

Running from 9-13 May 2002, LIDW22 brings together legal practitioners from around the world to celebrate the heritage of London as a disputes centre and to consider the future of global dispute resolution, with a theme of Dispute Resolution-Global, Sustainable, Ethical? Through in-person and virtual events, LIDW22 will take a critical look at the future of dispute resolution and its place in the post-pandemic world. Its centrepiece will be a two-day conference held at Central Hall Westminster at which leading practitioners, judges and arbitrators will consider the most important dispute resolution matters affecting our clients today.

Herbert Smith Freehills is a proud founding member of this important event, joining forces with more than 50 firms, barristers chambers, academics, legal commentators and dispute resolution organisations for the first LIDW in 2019.

Helen specialises in China-related dispute resolution with a focus on commercial arbitration. She advises Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and private enterprises, as well as multinational corporations operating in China, on contentious matters. Her practice focuses on commercial arbitration, compliance and investigation, as well as other forms of dispute resolution including pre-action strategy and settlement negotiation. 

In the lead-up to the event, Helen looks at some current issues in dispute resolution in China.

What are the main disputes issues and opportunities in China at the moment? 

I think there are a number of issues, such as the continuing popularity of alternative dispute resolution and other localised dispute resolution methods, as well as and the rapid growth of regional/local arbitration institutions in Greater China and east Asia. Hong Kong remains an attractive jurisdiction for  foreign parties to resolve their China-related disputes and for Chinese parties to resolve disputes with foreign partners.  The other pressing issue on the local agenda is diversity, both in terms of gender and ethnic background of arbitration lawyers, and more importantly, the appointment of arbitrators. 

Do you have any predictions for the future of disputes in China? 

I think there is likely to be an increase of disputes resulting from Covid-19 issues including contractual performance, supply chain disruption, and even divestments or pull-outs from equity deals. Add the current turbulence in the world's political landscape and we could see a notable increase in disputes generated by the Asia markets.  

How hospitable is China as an enforcement environment?

China is a signatory state of the New York Convention. It has also implemented an "internal reporting system" within its courts, so any decision to refuse enforcement of a foreign arbitral award seated in a New York Convention state must be vetted by the Supreme People's Court in China. So there is sufficient supervision in place to prevent local protectionism or decisions to refuse enforcement by the local courts. However, it can be slightly challenging to identify enforceable assets in mainland China and get the local courts to actually enforce against such assets.  China has not signed reciprocal judgement enforcement treaties with the UK, or most of its international trading partners, so the enforcement of English court judgments in China can be less straightforward. 

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