A presentation on the PRC Contract Law and Tips for Risk Management in PRC Contract Drafting
Overview of PRC Contract Law
and Managing Legal Risks in
- Overview of PRC Contract Law
- Supreme Court Interpretations
- Effective Contract Drafting
- Essential Issues in a Sale and Purchase
- Case Study
- Q & A
PRC Contract Law
1. General Provisions-dealing with validity, performance,
amendments, termination and liabilities and penalties for
2. Specific Provisions-sets out the rules applicable to 15
(fifteen) specific types of contracts.
Loans Lease and Financial Lease
Intermediation Construction Projects
3. Supplementary Provisions-adopts the UCL and abolishes
Choice of Law
Foreign-related (shewai hetong) contracts:
(a) One or both of the parties are foreigners
(b) Subject matter of contract is in a foreign country
(c) The contract was made, modified or terminated in the
? But note: PRC Supreme Court often has power to apply
PRC law if in public interest
? Also PRC law must apply to 3 types of ?foreign-related?
(i) Chinese-foreign equity joint venture contract
(ii) Chinese-foreign cooperative joint venture contract
(iii)Contract for exploitation/exploitation of natural resources
The essential terms of a binding contract:
(d) capacity (????????
(e) intention to create legal relations(??????????
However ? no specific content requirement for PRC contracts
(see Article 12, UCL)
Formation of Contract
Offer & Acceptance
? PRC contract formed on basis of offer and acceptance
? Note: no requirement of consideration
? Definition of ?offer?: a declaration of intention to conclude a
(1) is sufficiently specific and definite; and
(2) indicates that offeror will be bound by acceptance
Consideration of Certain Contractual Issues
under PRC Law
? Representations and Warranties
? Exemption / Limitation of Liability
? Standard Terms
? Security for Performance
? Damages for Breach of Contract
? Contracts Subject to Governmental Approval / Registration
Representations and Warranties
? Pre-Contractual statements
? Present or past facts
? Made to induce a party to enter into a contract
? Legal consequence-rescind contract
? Contractual statements or promises
That a fact is true?e.g.?SPA, warranties about the target
companies or business being acquired.
? Legal consequences-claim damages and terminate
Therefore ? a party who negotiates
a contract in bad faith, or conceals important facts or provides
false information (Article 42 of UCL)
? Contract Void ? if untrue statement was made to induce a
party to enter into a contract by deceit
Or Contract Voidable
? may need to petition court or arbitration tribunal
Therefore? check that representations or warranties you give
can be substantiated.
Exemption / Limitation of Liability
? Validity under PRC law?
? A standard clauses is void if circumstances under Article 52
or 53 of UCL exist:
(1) it exempts liability; OR
(2) it increases the liability of other party; OR
(3) it deprives the other party of a major right
? What are some examples of ?exemption clauses??
? ?In no event will company be liable to you for any lost
profits, lost savings or direct or indirect, special or
consequential damages, arising out of your use or inability
to use the Product or the breach of this agreement.?
? ?Neither party?s liability to the other arising out of or related
to this agreement will exceed the total costs of the
software, services or product. Liabilities limited by the
preceding sentence include, without limitation, liability for
Exemption / Limitation of Liability (cont?d)
? Article 52
? Contract void if:
? Entered into by deceit
? Harms State or Third Party Interest
? Harms public interest
? Illegal purpose
? Article 53
? Terms Void if:
? Exclude liability for death or personal injury
? Exclude liability for property damage due to willful
misconduct or gross negligence.
? Make sure clauses do not contravene Article 52 or 53
? Remember-standard exemption clauses may be voidable or
? Ensure exemption clauses are clearly stated in contract-
highlighted or capitalized - Article 39 UCL
How to Secure Performance of A Contract
1. Performance Bonds
2. Parent Company Guarantees
1. Usually insisted on by a purchaser to guarantee performance
by a vendor/supplier where purchaser has made a pre-
payment or installment before delivery of product.
2. Issued by a bank or financial institution
3. Often called ?on demand? performance bond as the bank has
a strict liability to pay the non-defaulting party on presentation
of a written demand to the bank by the purchaser.
4. 10% of contract price or equal to advance payment.
5. Bank will charge an administration fee (2%) for provision of
6. Performance Bond has to be drafted with reference to
underlying contract, i.e. detail circumstances or defaults which
give rise to a call on the PB.
? See: Sample Performance Bond Wording
? (what is the deficiency?)
? Remember: if issued for benefit of foreign party it has to be
registered with SAFE to be enforceable.
? See: Administration of the Provision of Security to Foreign
Entities by Domestic Institutions Procedures
? Recommend: include in PB written undertaking by bank to
obtain SAFE registration or insist PB be issued by bank in
home jurisdiction of beneficiary (purchaser).
Parent Company Gtee
If no SAFE registration, Supreme Court will likely rule not legally
Foreign Related Guarantee: ie a Guarantee to an Offshore Entity or a
Forex Guarantee ? Parent Company Guarantor must apply for SAFE
approval and registration within 15 days of executing Guarantee. ?
See ? Article 42(3) of UCL
If Beneficiary seeks to enforce Guarantee it must apply for SAFE
If Guarantor does not pay the beneficiary must sue Guarantor in court
of competent jurisdiction.
Preferred Alternative: Join Parent Company as party to contract ?
and insert joint and several liability clause
How to Secure Performance of Contract
? usually created over
?Land Use Rights
?Machinery, vehicles and other assets
? Mortgage contract subject to registration requirements
? Mortgagee realizes its rights from the proceeds of sale of the
How to Secure Performance of Contract
? Share Pledge
? Pledge of shares require approval and registration
Damages for Breach of Contract
? General Freedom of Contract Principle ? full compensation for
? Article 113
? Damages equivalent to loss suffered due to the breach,
including loss of expected economic interest, but not to
exceed loss the party in breach foresaw or should have
foreseen when signing the contract.
? Specific Performance also available
(Article 109, 110)
? Liquidated Damages (Article 114, CL)
? Parties may stipulate in K
? Court or arbitral tribunal may reduce or increase amount
depending on the actual loss incurred (see Supreme Court
Interpretation ? 13 May 2009)
? Recommendation ? when drafting contract with Chinese
party where possible apply fixed amounts for damages, e.g.
with reference to percentage of total contract price or amount
of payment instalments.
-- a clear calculation method / formula
Supreme Court Interpretations
? Supreme People's Court's Interpretation on Several Issues
Concerning the Application of the Contract Law (II)
("Interpretation") -13 May 2009
a) Liability for bad faith in negotiations;
b) Post-contract substantial change in circumstances;
c) Modification of liquidated damages;
a) Article 42 UCL ? negotiation in bad faith.
E.g. party B fails to file contract requiring registration - share
transfer agreement, joint venture contract etc
(i) Clearly spell out performance obligations of a party, either as
conditions precedent or as express obligations.
e.g. obtain approval or registration of contract with approval
b) Change of circumstances
The Interpretation introduces the concept of "change of circumstances? . A Party
will be allowed to apply to the People's Court to modify or terminate the contract
? after the contract is concluded, a substantial change of circumstances
? the change of circumstances is unforeseeable when the contract is
? the change of circumstances is not caused by force majeure (which
situation is dealt with by separate statutory provisions in the PRC);
? the change of circumstances is not a commercial risk; and
? it is obviously unfair to a party or the purpose of the contract would be
frustrated if the parties continued to perform the contract.
Question: Undermines freedom of contract principles and ?force majeure? is
designed to already deal with this issue?
Risk ? party may seek to avoid performance.
c) Modification of liquidated damages
Article 114 of the Contract Law provides that a party may petition the People's
Court or an arbitration commission to increase the amount of liquidated
damages if the sum stipulated in the contract is lower than the loss incurred.
Similarly, if the amount of liquidated damages stipulated grossly exceeds the
loss incurred, a party may petition the People's Court or an arbitral institution to
reduce the amount as appropriate.
The Interpretation provides guidance on the application of this rule and states
? liquidated damages of 30% more than the actual loss incurred can be
considered to grossly exceed the loss incurred triggering the courts
power to reduce the amount of the liquidated damages;
? if the liquidated damages amount is lower than the actual loss, the court
can increase the amount of the liquidated damages up to the amount of
the actual loss.
? After the modification of the liquidated damages, the aggrieved party
cannot seek any additional compensation for its loss.
But: how will court assess actual loss. This is evidence of
innocent party therefore difficult to see how defaulting party
can adduce evidence that loss is overstated.
Alarm Bells (cont?d)
? Concept of Liquidated Damages was to avoid risk of court
intervention. This directive seems to undermine ?freedom of
contract? principles i.e. parties freely agreeing amount of
So: May lead to preference for arbitration as arbitrators being
?commercial men? less likely to interfere with concept of
SAIC-Measures for Supervision and Administration of
Illegal Contract Acts-13 November 2010
? Provides protection for consumer against standard form and
printed contracts which impose excessive liabilities on a
consumer for breach of contract.
? The Measures protect against three types of actions:
? Contractual Fraud in obtaining money or valuables by
means of fabricating facts or concealing truth.
? Engaging in bribery, coercion or collusion with another
person in the use of a contract.
? Infringe upon the interests of the consumer by using a
standard contractual clause to increase the liabilities of the
consumer while reducing the liabilities of the business
operator using the standard clause.
Sanctions ? up to 3x illegal benefit but capped at RMB 30,000
Effective Contract Drafting
1. Introduction to Drafting
2. Contract Language
3. Principles of Contract Interpretation
4. Contract Drafting Basics
5. Contract Elements
6. Boilerplate Clauses
1. Introduction to Contract Drafting
? What is the goal of contract drafting?
? How can a contract be precise?
? Who should draft the contract?
2. Contract Language
What makes contract language ?special??
? Desire to avoid ambiguity
Obligations, Authorizations and Conditions
? Use ?will? to state a future fact
? Use ?shall? to state an obligation
? Use ?may? to state an option or a right
? Use ?must? to state a condition precedent
Plain English Drafting
? Short sentences
? Definite, concrete, everyday language
? Use active tense
? Separate paragraphs and sections, with headings, for
? Avoid legal jargon or highly technical phrases and avoid use
of Latin or other foreign languages
3. Principles of Contract Interpretation
? The document must be read as a whole
? The Literal and Golden Rules
? Ut res magis valeat quam pereat
? Contra Proferentem
? Noscitur a sociis
Principles of Contract Interpretation
? Ejusdem generis
? Expressio unius est exclusio alterius
? Commercial Purpose
4. Structure of a Contract
? Introductory paragraph
? Preamble/Recitals/WHEREAS Clauses
? Operative Clauses
? Representations, warranties, covenants, indemnities,
? Events of default and remedies
? Signature Block
? Exhibits and Attachments
? All CAPITAL letters
? Centered and Underlined
? Use a generic term
This Agreement (hereinafter referred to as the ?Agreement?) is
made by and between ABC Limited (hereinafter referred to as
?Seller?), with its registered office at 1701 Beijing West Road,
Shanghai 200126, and XYZ Limited with its place of business
at 19 Queens Road Central, Hong Kong(hereinafter referred
to as ?Purchaser?).
? WHEREAS ? tells the story
? Relationship and goals of the parties
? Nature of the transaction
? Other related transactional documents
? The parties agree as follows:
? ?Intellectual Property? means intellectual property as that term
is generally used and includes all patents, copyrights, and
? ?Intellectual property? means patents, copyrights, and
The Parties agree to the terms of this Agreement above.
ABC Limited. XYZ Limited
Name: John Smith Name: Kevin Chang
Title: Director Title: Owner
5. Contract Elements in Detail
? Representations and Warranties
? Conditions Precedent
? Language to soften provisions
Representations and Warranties
? Creates a snapshot of the facts
? Important for assigning risk and due diligence
? Drafted in present or past tense
? Affirmative covenants
? Negative (Restrictive) covenants
? Financial covenants
?Licensee shall pay licensor a royalty of five percent (5%) of
Licensee?s selling price for each Licensed Product
manufactured, used, or sold by Licensee in the Territory or
imported by Licensee into the Territory.?
? Requirements that must be satisfied before one party has to
perform or before the contract is enforceable
? Triggering Event ?Remedy
? Liquidated Damages
? ?In the event Purchaser defaults in the performance of any
covenant or agreement made hereunder, as to payments of
amounts due hereunder or otherwise, and such defaults are
not remedied to the Seller?s satisfaction within ten (10) days
after notice of such defaults, the Seller may, thereupon
terminate this Agreement.?
? ?Whenever, within the sole judgment of Seller, the credit
standing of Purchaser shall become impaired, Seller shall
have the right to demand that the remaining portion of the
contract be fully performed within ten (10) days.?
? Breaching party indemnifies (pays back) innocent party for all
costs, damages and losses suffered as a result of the breach.
?[Breach] ? in any material respect.?
? Grace (cure) Periods
Softening Contract Provisions
Within a Reasonable Time
6. Boilerplate Provisions
What does ?boilerplate? mean?
? Pre-litigation planning
? NOT unimportant!
? Why go to arbitration?
?Any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to this
Agreement, or its breach, is to be settled by arbitration
administered by [organization] in accordance with its [subject
? Arbitration or Mediation?
Choice of Law
? ALWAYS include this provision
? Which law should you choose?
?This Agreement and the rights and obligations of the parties
hereunder shall be governed by, and construed and
interpreted in accordance with, the laws of the Hong Kong
Special Administrative Region.?
Consent to Jurisdiction
? Choice of forum provision
?Each party shall submit to any court of competent jurisdiction
for purposes of the enforcement of any award, order or
judgment. Any award, order or judgment pursuant to
arbitration is final and may be entered and enforced in any
court of competent jurisdiction.?
? Contract may be executed separately by parties
? Common for international agreements
? What is the proper function of headings?
?The descriptive headings of the Articles, Sections and
subsections of this Agreement are for convenience only, do
not constitute a part of this Agreement, and do not affect this
Agreement?s construction or interpretation.?
? Remove (sever) void or unenforceable provision and
remaining terms are still enforceable.
? The contract is the whole agreement
? No other oral or written promises
? Invokes the Parol Evidence Rule
? No Waivers
? No effect on failure or delay to enforce rights
? In Writing
? Identify the original agreement by its date or contract no.
?The parties may amend this Agreement only by a written
agreement, signed by the parties, that identifies itself as an
amendment to this Agreement.?
Costs and Expenses
? Parties cover their own expenses unless otherwise stated.
? Minor, but it avoids arguments
? Attempts to deal with unforeseen circumstances
?The parties agree to do such further acts and things and to
execute and deliver such additional agreements and
instruments as may be reasonably necessary to give effect to
the purposes of this Agreement and the parties? agreements
Final Thoughts: Precedents
? Where can we find precedents?
? Use multiple, relevant precedents
? Two heads are better than one
? Think before copying
? No precedent is perfect
ESSENTIAL ISSUES IN A SALE OR PURCHASE
? Party Identification
? Subject Matter
? Time Limit, Place and Method of Performance
? Liability for Breach
? Dispute Resolution
? Deposit or Advance Payment
? Special Terms
- Exact name of contracting party is important
- Verify party?s name is the same as on business license
- Subsidiaries often have similar names to head company but
have independent legal status
- Failure to check and party may not exist
- Verify the party?s scope of business and that business
license is current.
WHY?some business scopes require additional licenses or
certifications to perform contract.
Ask for all licenses.
- Means goods to be purchased or sold
- Ensure detailed specifications and descriptions for each
- Ensure clarity on exact number of units or amount of units
- Be precise on measurements, e.g. using ?meters? or using
weight as measurement (such as gram or metric ton) or
assembled units (?100 pairs?) or (?100 bundles?)
- Imprecise terms on quantity can give rise to high losses
- Contract should clearly define quality standards
- State clearly time limit for raising quality objections
Note: Article 62 of UCL?if parties do not specify product
quality demands, contract performance will be governed by
government standards which are often lower.
--if no government standard then industry standard may
- Product price must be clearly stated
- Try and use both ?unit price? and ?total price? so if partial
non-performance you can apportion or calculate the claim
- If the price is not clearly stated, Chinese law requires the
application of market price at the time contract was
Time Limit, Place and Method of Performance
- Time limit clauses must clearly state ?product delivery? dates
and ?payment date?
- Avoid terms such as ?payment after delivery? or ?product
delivery after payment? ? too vague and gives basis to delay
shipment or payment
- Include a term which identifies a person to sign for receipt of
- If place of performance is not clearly stated the UCL will
provide that place of performance is to be ?at place where
payee is located?.
Measure of Liability
- Causes the most problems
- Try to avoid terms such as ?breaching party will assume all
liability for contract breach?
- A properly drafted liquidated damages clause is always
recommended and the best method for calculating liquidated
- Party should also include calculation method for
?foreseeable profit? in calculating indirect losses
Remember the Chinese Supreme Court Interpretations
2009 and draft accordingly.
- China doesn?t recognize ?ad hoc? arbitration
- Specify exact arbitration body (e.g. Suzhou Arbitration
Commission or CIETAC, Shanghai branch)
- Jurisdiction should be considered based on your interest
- If litigation then note Article 25 of the Civil Procedure Law
which provides that contracting parties may specify ?the
place where the contract is performed, where the contract is
signed, where a party has its domicile etc.?
Deposit or Advance Payment
- Deposit and Advance Payment have different legal
meanings under Chinese law.
- A Deposit is one method of providing security for a debt
obligation. Once the debtor performs the debt obligation, the
deposit must be deducted from the debt payment amount or
returned to the debtor.
- Where debtor pays the deposit, no legal grounds exist for
refund of deposit if debtor fails to perform its contract
- Where party receives the deposit and does not perform its
obligation, Chinese law provides that the party must return
(2 X the deposit) as a penalty.
Right to Offset
- From a Buyer perspective?make sure you have a right to
offset any amount owed by the Seller against payments due
-- offset right does not exist unless clearly stated
Special Terms (cont?d)
Romalpa Clause (Retention of Title)
- From a Seller perspective a term which provides that title or
ownership of the goods is retained by the Seller until
payment in full by Buyer.
- Useful where Buyer is placed in insolvency?goods do not
form part of the Buyer?s assets.
- See ?Stoppage in Transit??under Chinese law?Seller can
seek an injunction to prevent delivery of goods.
IP License Agreement
INVESTOR HK Subsidiary of AOA
Parent Chinese Company
HK Hold Co.
Patent Ass PRCignment Agreements
Chinese Technical Services Agreements Fibre Optic
Labor Contracts (Secondment Contracts)
IP License Agreement
Case Study (Background)
? Fibre Optic Cable Laying JVC in northeast China
? Foreign Investor was to acquire 49% interest in HK SPV set up by
? HK SPV to then form a WFOE
? WFOE to enter into various agreements with each investor as follows:
(i) Technical Service Agreement
(ii) Future IP License Agreement
(iii) Patent Assignment Agreement
(iv) Technology Transfer Agreement
? Foreign Investor required Chinese investor to provide certain guarantees
(i) Bank Performance Bond ? to guarantee capital contribution of 51%
(ii) Parent Company Guarantee ? to guarantee performance of
contractual obligations of SPV and WFOE under the JVA
? Representations and Warranties in JVA
? Transaction / Ancillary Agreements
-is governmental approval / registration required?
? Performance Bond / Parent Company Guarantee
-is governmental approval / registration required
? Conditions Precedent
? Enforceability of ancillary agreements ? i.e. conditions
? Enforceability of ancillary agreements
(i) JVA signed and chopped
(ii) Capital Contribution to WFOE completed by both parties
(iii) Business License issued with required business scope and all
governmental approvals and licenses obtained
(iv) Performance Bond and Parent Company Gtee signed, chopped,
registered with SAFE and delivered to Foreign Investor.
? Ensure that WFOE obtained adequate indemnities from
each assignor of IPR rights for potential third party
ownership claims, in respect of patents and IPR assigned to
Transaction Agreements subject to governmental approval /
? Parent company guarantee
? Performance bond
? Joint Venture Agreement
? IP Assignment Agreement (if restricted IP)
? Trademark License Agreement (STO registration to enable
royalties to be paid back to foreign investor)
Key Issue List
No. Agreement Issue Definition Foreign Investor Chinese Settlement
1 Joint Venture Clause 6.1 Capital Foreign Investor wishes
Agreement Contribution to make capital
signing of ancillary
Clause 2.2 (Branding) Wishes to brand Agreed
product under WFOE?s
2 Technology License Term of License
Agreement Scope of Use
Contract not to sue,
3 Technical Services Termination on
Agreement execution of JVA
Thank you for your attention!
Phone: 021 - 6288 8821
Fax: 021 ? 6288 8823