New Project: The Social Credit System as a Challenge for Law and Courts in China

30. March 2020

Our year 2020 began with a new research project: Funded by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, we will explore the Chinese social credit systems and the development of smart courts. The Chinese social credit system initiative is intended to systematically assess the trustworthiness of citizens in complying with law, moral norms and professional and ethical standards. Nudging through rewards and punishments, restricting access to public transport, hotels, educational institutions and social security systems shall induce compliance. The social credit system initiative is designed as a comprehensive instrument of social control and a cure-all tool for societal ills that aims at upgrading the Chinese authoritarian system. The research project addresses three interlinked issues that are fundamentally transforming Chinese society and will have an impact that goes far beyond the Chinese state: (1) the rise of assessment systems of individual social behaviour that circumvent, supplement and change legal regulation as well as traditional law enforcement mechanisms; (2) the development of smart courts that are partially changing into automated decision makers through an increased use of big data and AI and (3) the legal regulation of social credit systems, in particular the legal protection of personal data.

Under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Björn Ahl, our team (Haixu Yu, Lu Yu and Marianne von Blomberg) will pool their skills from various backgrounds to excavate the dynamics and impact of the transformative developments social credit systems in China bring about.

Find more information (in German) here.

Rule Setters for Belt & Road? China’s New International Commercial Courts

20. March 2020

In June 2018, China opened two International Commercial Courts (CICC) in Shenzhen and Xi’an, which were widely received by the international public in terms of challenging the dominance of so far mainly western-led institutions for the resolution of commercial disputes. These courts were heralded by Chinese judicial officials as innovative hubs for flexible dispute resolution that would provide crucial services needed for the further development of the BRI. Even though the unique structure of these courts as one-forum-stops for commercial dispute resolution may be considered a deviceful tool for resolving BRI disputes, their role as agents in China’s quest for a heightened influence in shaping the international economic legal order may globally be of even more significance. The Supreme People’s Court as responsible agency for the CICCs issued a normative document late in December 2019 outlining the purpose of these courts as inter alia tools for promoting China’s rising position in the international legal discourse. The CICC’s adjudicative work should therefore be measured not only from the perspective of effective and fair dispute resolution for BRI conflicts but also as part of China’s agenda in using the BRI’s entangled legalities across different jurisdictions to shape legal developments outside China.

Daniel Sprick and Nora Sausmikat have investigated the courts and their impact in terms of their influence on the global order and presented their study to the EU Parliament. You can find it here.

Labour Rights Protection of Foreign Employees in China

17. February 2020

Björn Ahl, Pilar-Paz Czoske and Cui Xu looked at the level of labour rights protection of foreign nationals in China. Their study discovered considerable differences of levels of protection provided by Chinese courts to foreign nationals in labour disputes. In general, courts in Beijing and Guangzhou extended significantly better legal protection to foreign employees than courts in Shanghai. Both groups, foreign employees with and without a valid work permit, do not receive the same level of labour rights protection as Chinese nationals. The legislative framework that governs employment relations between local employers and foreign employees is still based on the assumption that foreign employees do not need comprehensive statutory protections of labour rights. International law that aims at protecting migrant workers acknowledges the equal treatment of nationals and non-nationals with regard of the protection against unjustified dismissal as a minimum standard. The Chinese legislator should consider bringing the current legislation in conformity with international standards.

The study is available on https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3507529.