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Belt and Road Initiative needs more support from Chinese lawyers, experts say

By Jiang Jie (People's Daily Online)    10:18, August 29, 2016

(Lawyer representatives and experts on Belt and Road initiative at the seminar. Photo/Courtesy of Beijing Lawyers Association)


Only 3,000 licensed lawyers out of the 270,000 in China maintain practices dealing with foreign issues and affairs. This number is far below what is needed to meet market demand given the development of the Belt and Road Initiative, according to industry experts.

The figure was released at a seminar held by lawyers associations from Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province on Aug. 26. The topic of the seminar was the opportunities and challenges of foreign affairs-related law practices.

Of the 3,000 lawyers cited, only 300 can use English fluently in a professional capacity, and approximately 200 work in Beijing, said Zhang Wei, vice president of the Beijing Lawyers Association (BLA), to People’s Daily Online.

“This is far from enough, and this is only counting English-speaking lawyers, who can only cover some countries along the Belt and Road Initiative route. However, many more foreign language-speaking lawyers are needed for the total of 65 countries covered by the route,” Zhang noted, adding that the BLA has pledged to train 200 more lawyers within three years. Zhang also called for more financial support and preferential policies from the authorities to help promote the training.


(Experts issue the report at the seminar. Photo/Courtesy of Beijing Lawyers Association)

In addition to language barriers, a report compiled by the BLA showed that many lawyers also lack knowledge of foreign legal and social systems, which is necessary to measure and prevent risks during overseas operations or investment.

Chinese companies are relatively weak in dealing with non-market factors overseas, such as international NGOs and labor unions, according to Ke Yinbin, a deputy director of the Center for China & Globalization. Ke said at the seminar that such factors are usually given inadequate attention and slow responses, which then worsens the situation. Instead, Ke suggested, lawyers should help companies to raise their awareness of such factors and thus be better prepared.

Echoing Ke, Ren Jianzhi, chairman of the Belt and Road Legal Research Council of the BLA, noted at the seminar that he personally has handled cases where Chinese companies are required to set up mosques within their perimeter in several Islamic countries.

“One should be able to conduct a case-by-case study to analyze the ‘pain points’ of a country or a company: what it lacks and what it needs – that’s where the market is,” said Zhao Lei, a professor from the Institute of International Strategic Studies of the Central Party School of the CPC. 

At the seminar, Zhao stressed that geography should not be the limitations for the Belt and Road initiative and more countries can be engaged to join the 65 countries covered by the route.

Currently, Chinese companies tend to hire local lawyers who are based in countries where they hope to do business - a practice that is not only relatively costly, but that also takes opportunities away from domestic lawyers, Zhao told reporters after the seminar.

Ren told People’s Daily Online that Chinese lawyers hold more advantages than their foreign counterparts when it comes to familiarity with Chinese culture and decision-making procedures, but that only comprehensive expertise in an overseas environment can ensure the best chance of success abroad.

“Perspectives also need to change for Chinese lawyers. They should stop looking at State-owned companies only – these companies have limited markets – but also offer their services to the vast market of private companies that are eager to try their hand overseas,” Zhao noted.

Also presented at the seminar are Zhou Xiaoyan, head of Department of European Affairs at the Ministry of Commerce, Li Gongtian, deputy chief of Beijing Justice Bureau and Gao Zicheng, president of BLA.

(Experts during the seminar. Photo/Courtesy of Beijing Lawyers Association)

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor: Jiang Jie,Bianji)

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