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China’s new general provisions of civil law: changes and advancements for the better

journal contribution
posted on 2018-12-01, 00:00 authored by W Wen
In China, the old umbrella law that generally governs civil and commercial transactions has been in force for thirty years and has growing ineffectiveness. In order to address and accommodate recent social and economic developments, China’s supreme legislature has recently passed a new umbrella law entitled “General Provisions of Civil Law” (the new law) to replace the old law. The new law took effect in October 2017. The new law has made changes and advancements to address the old law’s ineffectiveness, fill the old law’s gaps and accommodate the recent changes in China. This article would demonstrate some of the most important improvements made by the new law. By comparison to the old law, the new law uses a more advanced method to categorise legal persons, recognises the independent status of more organisations and substantively increases the complexity and volume of the relevant rules about legal persons. As a result, the new law enables more legal persons and organisations to play a more positive role in the fast-growing market economy. This positive result highlights the importance of the new law in commercial matters which would not be satisfactorily achieved by the old law. Further, in order to address the old law’s inadequate protection of minors, the new law significantly increases the level of protection of minors and foetuses (particularly sexually abused minors) and introduces new rules to regulate minors’ legal guardians to maximise the protection of minors. The new law also introduces new rules to fill the old law’s gap and allow more adults (particularly aged adults) to have guardians appointed in a flexible way, in order to accommodate the issue of aging in China. Likewise, the new law introduces new, concrete and clear rules to regulate important civil matters such as expression of intention and the general statute of limitations and these new changes significantly increase the quality, clarity and volume of the old law’s previous rules and fills the old law’s gaps in those crucial areas. This makes the new law more effective in dealing with civil and commercial matters by comparison to the old law. In particular, some of the new law’s initiatives are more advanced and forward-looking than the special law such as Company Law, Minor Protection Law and Succession Law. The new law’s advancements demonstrate that China’s supreme legislature possesses sophisticated skills in drafting codes and has a mature and practical attitude towards accommodating social changes and economic developments. As the new law plays an important role in China’s legal system, the advancements are helpful to build a more advanced, effective and sophisticated civil law system in China.



LAWASIA journal: the law association for Asia and the Pacific


1 - 34


Faculty of Law and the Centre for Southeast Asian Law, Northern Territory University


Darwin, N.T.





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal; C Journal article

Copyright notice

[2018, Faculty of Law and the Centre for Southeast Asian Law, Northern Territory University]

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