Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Review: A Year of Hard Hitting Legislations

As 2007 winds down to its last hours, Chinese lawmakers have made this year one of hard hitting legislations. Within this year, multiple pieces of significant laws and regulations came into being, impacting many facets of the Chinese society. This post aims to highlight a few legislations with huge influence on foreign investments.

1. Regulations on the Administration of Commercial Franchise (商业特许经营管理条例)
Promulgated and adopted by the State Council on February 6, 2007, the Regulations modified and improved upon its predecessor, rendering commercial franchising a registration-only commercial activity (instead of an “approval” activity). And as a result of the Regulations, off-shore direct commercial franchising to China is now allowed as long as the franchisor has two units in operation for more than one year. Pursuant to the Regulations, the Information Disclosure Measures and the Registration Measures were adopted to provide detailed directions on franchising in China. For more, read my three-part comments on franchising in China here, here, and here.

2. Property Law of the People’s Republic of China (中华人民共和国物权法)
After more than a decade of discussions and political compromises, the National People’s Congress finally adopted the Property Law on March 16, 2007, making it one of the most significant pieces of laws in modern China’s history (if not the most significant). Regardless of its differences from the western concept of private property law, the Chinese Property Law is a landmark legislation in that it defines for first time the rights and obligations of private property ownership. China Law Blog has an excellent series on this topic, and I posted a piece on a dispute involving this law.

3. Corporate Taxation Law (中华人民共和国企业所得税)
For better or worse (depending on your perspective), the National People’s Congress adopted this law on March 16, 2007, thus ending years of a bifurcated taxation practice where foreign and domestic corporations were taxed at different rates. This law provides a uniform base tax rate of 25% for all corporations, while giving significant tax incentives to high-tech and environmentally-friendly projects. Fearing a backlash of foreign taxpayers, the drafters included a five-year phase-in provision. For more, read this.

4. Labor Contract Law (中华人民共和国劳动合同法)
Employment Enhancement Law (
Labor Dispute Mediation & Arbitration Act (

The Chinese legislators, in the National People’s Congress and its Standing Committee, went on a coordinated and lasting mission to tackle labor/employment relations in China in 2007. They came up with three pieces of legislation, of which the Labor Contract Law garnered the most attention and interest. The New York Times characterized the Labor Contract Law as “sweeping.” Sweeping indeed! It redefines the employment relationship by imposing the restrictive terms, among others, that an employer can stipulate in a labor contract. As far as commentators go, nobody has been as diligent and thorough on this law than our Dan Harris at China Law Blog.

5. Anti-Monopoly Law (中华人民共和国反垄断法)
On August 30, 2007, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress put an end to ad hoc anti-competition regulations in China. It adopted China’s first ever comprehensive competition law—the Anti-Monopoly Law (to be effective on August 1, 2008). As China’s economy continues to expand, as foreign investors keep pumping capital into certain sectors into China, and as Chinese companies grow larger in scale and influence, the Anti-Monopoly Law came at a very good time. Referred to as the “economic constitution”, will the Anti-Monopoly Law be a bliss or a curse to interested parties? Will it end (to a certain degree) local protectionism? Keep your eyes peeled on new developments on this law.

6. Law on Lawyers (Amendments) (中华人民共和国律师法)
Amendments were adopted by the Standing Committee on August 30 to address growing concerns on the legal profession. Since the promulgation of the Lawyer’s Law in 1996, the legal profession has experienced exponential growth, in terms of the importance of the profession and lawyers in the society. These amendments were meant to make lawyers’ lives better, especially criminal lawyers by giving them access to gov’t documents, access to clients without interference, and immunity for arguments and comments made in courtrooms while representing clients. Legal ethics is one of my favorite topics in law school, and read my posts on this topic here.

7. Civil Procedure Law (Amendments) (全国人大常委会关于修改《民事诉讼法》的决定)
These amendments mainly address some persistent issues in civil litigation in China—enforcement of civil judgments. By virtue of the amendments, those who refuse to execute a civil court ruling -- fines climb from 1,000 yuan to 10,000 yuan (1300 U.S. dollars) for individual offenders, and from 30,000 yuan to 300,000 yuan (39,000 U.S. dollars) for companies. The law also provides that those who refuse to cooperate with civil courts in making sure a ruling is executed may be detained.

8. National Holidays Schedule Modified (国务院关于修改《全国年节及纪念日放假办法》的决定
Golden holidays for the Labor Day and “Independence Day” will no longer be holidays of disaster. Prior to the change, holidays in China were mostly for commemorating political events, and they provided two longest holidays in China when the entire country basically went on vacation. That brought immeasurable opportunities and hardship to the transportation, tourism and service industries. The new holiday schedule adds three traditional holidays (Grave Sweeping Day, Dragon Boat Festival and the Moon Festival); correspondingly, the Labor Day and Independence Day holidays are shortened to one day and three days respectively.

I included this in the review because I thought that this change not only makes sense but also reflects the wishes of the people. In addition, the change gives traditional/cultural holidays a higher status, which is a very good thing for the dying traditions in China. Cheers to traditions!

As we wait for the ball to drop (bell to ring, or whatever way you celebrate) to usher in the year of the Rat, 2007 will be remembered as a year of hard-hitting legislations. Let’s see what 2008 has in store for the China law blogosphere.

For a complete of all the legislations adopted in 2007, visit here (in Chinese only).

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