Leading contract and civil law scholars at Renmin University recently partnered with Dr Mimi Zou, Fangda CDF in Chinese Commercial Law, to produce an expert report on force majeure issues arising from COVID-19 related contractual disputes. The report was presented to senior law and policymakers in China, with numerous policy recommendations aimed at providing greater legal certainty around the application of relevant statutory provisions (including China's new Civil Code).

The onset ofthe COVID-19pandemicand associated containment measures haveled tocontractual defaults across a wide range of commercial transactions in China’ssdsdsdsdpply chains, domestically and globally. These disruptions have hit many enterpriseshard,particularlysmall and medium-sized businesses.The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated government control and containment measures have led to contractual defaults across a wide range of commercial transactions in China and globally. These disruptions have hit many enterprises hard, particularly small and medium-sized businesses. Against this backdrop, the Centre for Common Law (CCL) at Renmin University has produced an Expert Report on Force Majeure Issues Arising from the COVID-19 Epidemic: The position in China with relevant insights from English law [in Chinese]. 

The Centre for Common Law based at Renmin Law School is a collaborative venture between the Great Britain-China Centre, the University of Oxford’s Law Faculty, and Renmin Law School. The Centre was established to promote the values and principles of common law in China, to support collaborative research, and to serve as a platform to deepen and strengthen legal and judicial contacts between the UK and China.

The expert report, authored by Professor WANG Yi, Dr Mimi Zou and Dr WU Zhicheng, has developed important law and policy recommendations for key Chinese stakeholders to give greater legal certainty around key questions relating to force majeure and change of circumstances in contractual disputes arising from Covid-19. The report also provides practical guidance to SMEs on drafting effective boilerplate force majeure clauses in contracts. These recommendations aim to support more efficient and fairer dispute resolution in China.

In the process of writing the report, the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) of China invited one of the report’s authors, Professor Wang, to contribute content from a significant section of the report, recommendations from which fed into the SPC’s Guiding Opinion (I) on the Proper Handling of Civil Cases Involving the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak in Accordance with the Law, issued in late April 2020, and SPC’s Guiding Opinion (II) on the Proper Handling of Civil Cases Involving the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak in Accordance with the Law, issued in May 2020.

At a webinar on 6 June (co-hosted by the Chinese Law Discussion Group), the authors presented and disseminated the report’s analysis and recommendations and discussed feedback from relevant stakeholders in China as well as senior legal practitioners from China and the UK.