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The Conflict of Arbitration in China and Taiwan

The Conflict of Arbitration in China and Taiwan


Joe Cai


ALSA National Chapter: Taiwan

  1. Introduction

Due to the thriving commercial intercourses between Taiwan and China, the commercial issues are brought up frequently. The arbitration system which is prompt and flexible[1] seems to be a valuable choice for businessmen. However, besides the jurisdiction problems that many researches had worked on it, the problems of the arbitration system including the decision of the applicable law. This legal review aims at providing the ideas about the confliction of choosing the applicable law of arbitration within the two substantively different legal districts.


Although their legal systems are not the same, both Taiwan and China do not discuss each other’s arbitration matters within the framework of “foreign arbitration.” Instead, they formulate different norms to apply arbitration between the two sides of the Taiwan straits. The reason for this is that the vague definition of political relationship between the two sides of the Strait since 1949 (Taiwan and Mainland China included). China does not politically or legally regard Taiwan as an independent country or region in the field of international law. On the other hand, Taiwan inherited the ROC which law legally believes that Taiwan is part of China, however, Taiwan still has no clear definition of its own international position politically[2]. Although both of them legally regard Taiwan and Mainland China is the same country. Taiwan and China still develop different ways[3] to deal with cross strait arbitration issue.

Taiwan legislate “The Regulation for Governing the Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the People of the Mainland China Area”[4] to deal with cross strait of the law. The legal source of the cross strait arbitration could be found in chapter 3 “civil issue”. According to the Regulation, the principle of picking the applicable law for China related arbitration is mostly operated according to the Principles of private international law. As a result, the selection problems of applicable law of China related arbitration is the same as what in foreign arbitration if there are no particular fixed rules. This article tried to explain applicable law problems by studying that of foreign arbitration. On the other hand, because of the political matters China tend to apply their law to Taiwan related arbitration. However their government changes his attitudes to the adoption of Taiwan law in arbitrations from time to time.

In this article, we first explain each of the legal sources that deal with cross strait problems of Taiwan and China. After that, we will have introduction to the principles of the selection of applicable law and the theory of interregional conflict of laws.[5] Then we will focus on the three parts of China related arbitration applicable law problem. Because the regulation about Taiwan related arbitration issue in China changes from time to time, so we just take a glance on that. In chapter 3, we are trying to bring up some thought about the conflicts of one-china principle and the principle of autonomy of private law which are commonly regard as the essence of civil law. The last paragraph is our conclusion.

2.1 Cross strait civil legal relationship

When it goes to the civil legal relationship between Taiwan and China, we have to leave about the support or oppose unification first. It is better that we look into the perspective of law. That is, what is the fundamental of the regulation. In the view of the different jurisdiction and different mode that we mentioned about in paragraph 1, Taiwan and China legislate under the frame of “one-China principle”.  Firstly, we are going to talk about Taiwan side. According to the general legislative explanation of “The Regulation for Governing the Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the People of the Mainland China Area”, ROC regard Mainland China as part of its territory, Taiwan and Mainland China are two districts under different legal systems. In this case, the scholar[6] noted that “the regulation” solve the conflicts of law by using the theory of interregional conflict of laws. By using the conflict theory, the arbitration institutions are able to select the application of the law from Taiwan or China. The regulation was legislated in 1992 due to the settlement of Taiwan and China. Paragraph 3 of the regulation is about civil law issues and it can be divided into 2 parts. First part of it is from article 41 to 62 which is the exact part of theory of interregional conflict of laws. For example, according to the Regulation article 41 section 1 “Civil matters between the people of Taiwan region and the Mainland China region, applying Taiwan’s law if there are no particular fixed rules.” The article holds that the “Taiwan’s law” is not only the substantive law but the generalized law of private international law. In other words, when an cross strait issue which jurisdiction belongs to Taiwan, the selection of applicable law is according to Taiwan’s principle of private international law by applying this article. This section is also the principle norm for China related civil issues, we can tell by “if there are no particular fixed rules” and the following articles. Article 63 to article 74 of the Regulation is the second part, and it is the substantive rules for common civil issues.

On the side of China, the government legislate no “conflict rules” to pick the applicable law when confronting with Taiwan related arbitration. Instead, it seems that they ignore the fact that Taiwan belongs to different legal region and applying substantive law or legal interpretation for particular or historical events. According to the 1991 the seventh National People’s Congress approved Supreme Court’s report of the fourth conference points out that “To deal with Taiwan related cases, every department should devote to carry out national laws, policies, and the legal interpretation made by the Supreme Court.” It shows out that China government treats peoples of Taiwan as citizens of China and applying China law to their businesses.

The following of the article is going to discuss the applicable law problems within the scope of events with cross strait factors.[7] In other words, we don’t discuss the events with any “foreign factors”.

2.2 The applicable law of foreign Arbitration in Taiwan

In this part, first we’d like to have a discussion about the legal base of arbitration which acts as one of dispute resolution mechanisms such as litigation. That means, we will look into the regulation to the arbitration “process” (the lex arbitri) itself but the legal basis for substantive award. For example, in the case Société OCPC v. Wilhelm Diefenbacher KG and Société OCPC v. Wilhelm Godfried DiefenbacherSecond[8] . In this case, appellee Diefenbacher grainted Belgium company Société OCPC several authorities of patents. In their arbitrational agreement instructed that International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) was the arbitration institute. And they made an agreement that they will apply Belgium law as their substantive applicable law (The lex causae). In this case, the appeal court made a judgment that although parties choose Belgium substantive law as their lex causae, however the lex arbitri in the arbitration shouldn’t have to be Belgium law as well. The parties instruct ICC as the arbitration institute and the ICC had a France arbitrator to make arbitration judge. It seems that the parties imply France law as their lex causae. In this example, we can tell that the lex arbitri should be acknowledge independently. Second, we’d like to look into the law that how would a substantive arbitration award be made. It directly relates to the result that a case is judged. Third, is the arbitration agreement that we brought on to discuss it independently.

             2.2.1 Applicable law of arbitration process

The word arbitration process mentioned here is a collective noun which including several part of topic from the beginning of the arbitration to the end of it. Such as the qualification, election, duty, authority and avoidance of the arbitrator, the organization of the arbitration court, the process to the arbitration judgment, the decision for the arbitration locality, the relatively document delivery and so on[9]. Besides, arbitration process issues including the proof effect, relevance between the proof and the factum probandum and the competency of the evidence. In other words, arbitration process is about every step arbitrators or the arbitration court takes procedurally before the judge has been made. The purpose of the applicable law according to the arbitration process is to make sure it been followed on the course of the arbitration and make a fare judge for the solid fact eventually. And it is rules for arbitration system, all the members in the arbitration court, both parties, and others relatively (the proxy, witness and appraiser). [10] The principle of autonomy of the will          

The principle of autonomy of the will is the fundamental of Taiwan civil code.[11]. In the premise that the regulations are not interfered, people can get their rights and obligations based on their will. In other words, people can enter into contract and dispose their property freely. People have the ability to create their civil legal relationship including how to run the arbitration process. Because arbitration system belongs to the field of civil law, and the principle of autonomy of the will were certainly apply to it. On the other hand, according to article 16 of Taiwan Constitution law (ROC Constitution) that “people have the right to petition, appeal, and litigation” according to most of Taiwanese scholars believe, people have to right to dispose and choose the litigation process including arbitration. That is, parties have the right to decide the beginning or the end of the arbitration. Additionally, parties have the right to decide the scope of the litigation subject. Basing on what we said above, we can come to two conclusions: first is that the parties can enter into an arbitration agreement to decide whether applying arbitration as their resolve dispute system. The parties can make an agreement about how their resolving process will go on. In the situation that the arbitration process under different legal system are not the same, selecting their applicable law of arbitration process (lex arbitri) is the right to decide their own resolving process.

Selecting the applicable law for the arbitration process is the right according to the principle of autonomy of the will, and that should be put in the first place for choosing the lex arbitri. Only in the condition that the parties were unengaged should turn to the application of the arbitration law. According to article 19 of Taiwan arbitration law “If the process of arbitration was not meet an agreement by the parties the regulation of this law should be applied, the arbitration court can apply the civil procedure law or others appropriate regulation if this law don’t have fixed rule”. The applicable law when unengaged

In this case, there are two different ways to deal with the conflict of the application of law. One is adapting the law of the land where the arbitration took place. The other way is adapting the law which the arbitration authority decides. The legal basis of this way is according to article 19 of the UNCITRAL Model Law. This review believes that when it comes to the condition of Recognition and Enforcement of the award, the first way should be taken. Without this situation, the second way should be taken as a principle to deal with the unengaged matter.

2.2.2 Applicable law of Substantive Arbitration Award

Applicable law of Substantive Arbitration Award, just as the applicable law of arbitration process the principle of autonomy of the will should be considered firstly. According to Taiwan Supreme Court, 2009, the 396th judgment. “Basing on the principle of autonomy of private law, we had built the order of self-resolving system of private law. The parties’ agreements for arbitration that based on good faith should constrain the arbitration institution. According to the article 19 of the contract, “If the dispute happens, applying the UK law in Hong Kong jurisdiction.” The contract had been admitted by the basic Court. The contract expressed that not only the case will turn to arbitration when dispute happens, but also selected the UK law as their applicable law for substantive arbitration award, and Hong Kong will have the jurisdiction.” The judgment shows that, if the parties enter an agreement of the applicable law of substantive award, the arbitration institute or the court should follow their wills. The principle is fully adopted on foreign arbitration around the world. However, if the applicable law that the parties stroke to disobey the public order and fine custom, they will not be admitted by the institution or the Courts. Considering the differences between regions such as business environments or habits, this article believes that the parties can exclude the application of the law and give arbitration institution the authority to judge by equality and good faith.

As far as we concerned, the “principle of the most important factors involved”[12] can be applied to select the applicable law. With this principle, that related to the case should be considered fully. The arbitrators have the authority to exclude the law that is unjust, and choose the suitable law that base on the particular factors of the case.


2.2.3 The Applicable law of arbitration agreement

The arbitration agreement is independent of the principal contract signed for the purpose of reaching commercial transactions, and it is agreed in advance that the arbitration will be submitted based on disputes that may arise in the future of the main contract. The purpose of the “controversy of the main contract” is usually to prevent disputes from entering the litigation process directly, causing greater loss of labor time and costs for both parties.

According to Article 3 of the Arbitration Law,

            “If the parties have an arbitration clause, the validity of the clause shall be determined independently. The fact that the contract is not established, invalid or has been revoked, discharged or terminated does not affect the validity of the arbitration clause.”

This clause shows the independence of the arbitration agreement (between the principal contract). Therefore, the arbitration agreement should have its independent the applicable law.

2.2.4 The Nature of Arbitration Agreements

The nature of arbitration agreements has always been debated by the academic community. However, the general comment[13] still believes that the nature of arbitration is impossible to separate from the nature of the private law contract. It also recognizes that it is not only the legal act of the private law contract, but also the general requirements for establishing the private law contract as the parties, meanings, and targets of the cross-strait generalization. The most important one is based on the unanimous expression of the meaning of the parties.

Although in the foreign-related arbitration, the first principle of the arbitration agreement is the principle of the autonomy of private law and the principle of freedom of contract, however, China-related arbitration involves the one-China principle (the Republic of China Law adopted by Taiwan also holds that mainland China also adopts its own laws). The People’s Relations Ordinance on both sides of the Taiwan Strait also uses the one-China principle as its legislative purpose. Therefore, according to Article 48 of the Cross-Strait Ordinance, it is not the principle of self-determination is used as the principle. Although it is contrary to the conflicting rules, it is used to maintain the stability of the application of the law. It is not the principle of the parties to exclude the application of the “domestic law” as the priority principle. According to Article 48 of The Regulation, this article is related to the “debt contract,” whether there is an arbitration agreement that does not include the legal relationship of the entity’s debt as the subject, this article adopts an affirmative opinion.

This article thinks that we can refer to Article 20 of the foreign-related civil law. The law also does not provide any other procedural contract. In accordance with the rules set forth in Article 48 of the “The Regulation”, the contracting area law of the arbitration contract shall be the applicable law, not the principle of the parties’ autonomy. When there is no agreement between the parties, the applicable law shall be executed by the contract. When the place of performance is not known, the agreement or the place of arbitration shall prevail. However, this document considers that the place of performance of the arbitration agreement is usually the place for delivery of arbitration.

2.3 The applicable law of foreign arbitration in China

Under the existing legal conflicts between the two sides of the strait, does China’s application of laws concerning civil cases involving Taiwan or economic and trade contracts allow the parties to use the law of Taiwan’s choice as a governing law to apply the laws of Taiwan? China’s theory and practice have remained ambiguous[14]. For example, Article 5 of the “Provisions of the state Council Concerning the Encouragement of Investment by Compatriots From Taiwan” said With respect to the various types of enterprises established with investments by investors from Taiwan – enterprises with the capital wholly owned by investors from Taiwan, equity and contractual joint ventures (here in after referred to as “enterprises with investments by compatriots from Taiwan”), they shall all be operated in accordance with these Provisions; in addition to this, they may also enjoy the corresponding preferential treatment as enjoyed by enterprises with foreign investments with reference to the relevant provisions in foreign-related economic laws, decrees and regulations of the state. With respect to the other forms of investment made by investors from Taiwan on China’s mainland, and with respect to those investors from Taiwan who have not set up business offices on the mainland, but have dividends, interest, rental, royalties and other incomes that come from China’s mainland, in addition to the application of these Provisions, reference shall be made to the relevant foreign-related economic law, decrees and regulations.” From this Regulation, we can see that the State Council regards Taiwanese business enterprises as foreign businesses and enjoys foreign economic laws and regulations.

In accordance with Article 5 of the Detailed Rules for the Implementation of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Investments of Taiwan Compatriots, adopted by the 8th National People’s Congress Standing Committee in 1994:” Investments of Taiwan compatriots shall be governed by the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Investments of Taiwan Compatriots and these Implementing Rules; in case of whatever is not stipulated in the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Investments of Taiwan Compatriots and these Implementing Rules, reference shall be made to relevant foreign-related economic laws and administrative regulations of the State.”

The above are the regulations concerning Taiwanese investors investing in China. However, in other cases, such as when a Taiwanese company and a Chinese company have a commercial dispute, since the Taiwanese company does not belong to a Taiwanese company investing in land, it is not within the scope of the above-mentioned laws, or even it necessary to enforce the application of the mainland law or Taiwan law when conducting general trading or civil and commercial contracts?

According to the work report adopted by the Supreme People’s Court at the 4th meeting of the 7th National People’s Congress in 1991, it should be considered that Taiwanese are not foreign or foreigners, and therefore are not “foreign civil relations” and no relevant regulations apply. As a symbol of a country’s sovereignty, in the absence of recognition of the existence of the Republic of China, the direct application of Taiwan’s laws may directly recognize Taiwan as a political entity. According to a logical logic, both parties agree that the use of Taiwan’s law as a governing law is ineffective and invalid. Cases involving Hong Kong and Macao may directly introduce non-continental law as the applicable law, and if Taiwan law is adopted as the governing law, it may be worse.

In practice, when China’s judicial authorities tried to hear cases involving Taiwan, there were even “as far as possible applicable to mainland laws, and as little as possible applicable (Hong Kong and Macao) Taiwan laws. If there are cases that are completely unsuitable for the application of mainland laws, they will not accept the tacit agreement.” China’s handling of Taiwan-related cases did not use the “interregional conflict theory” way to resolve disputes. Therefore, some argue that in the case of arbitration in China’s jurisdiction and the parties did not agree to the applicable law, the applicable law could not point to the application of the Taiwan law.

3 Analysis

According to what we mention above, this article is going to offer some views. That is the conflicts between the principles of One-China and the principle of autonomy of the will. Not only the China government legislate Taiwan related laws that under one-China principle. “Regulations Governing the Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the People of the Mainland China Area ”, the legal source that dealing with China related matters, acquiring the exact principle too. However, even the fundamental of the law is the same, their actions are different. Taiwan applies the theory of interregional conflict of laws for the selection of the applicable law. The result of applying the Regulation is appointing one of Taiwan or China’s laws for application. For example, the applicable law of arbitration agreements. The article 48 of the Regulation appoints that the place where the contracts were entered should be put in the first place for choosing the applicable law, instead of applying the autonomy of the will. It is more convenient, foreseeable to deal with the conflicts of law between two sides of the straits. Additionally, such regulations act under the political principle that both Taiwan and China legally accept.

However, the principle of autonomy of the will is not considered primary to solve such civil problems. Is it appropriate enough to give up the principle of the arbitrations, we doubt that. Let us don’t forget the arbitration system, especially in the field of commercial ones, is basing on the will of how the parties wish to settle the disputes. In addition, the commercial habit and the environment have lots of differences between two sides, giving the parties chances negotiating their way out, or acquiring the equitable referee perhaps will be the better way for the problems of applicable matters. It is the exact opinion for China in this article. China takes Taiwan’s people and land as its own people and territories. The ignorance of the fact of the two legal districts brings even larger damage to the autonomy of the will, and the principle of quality and reciprocity. Research[15] shows that only 11.8% of Taiwanese businessmen who confronted the dispute will select China arbitration system as their solution system. 40.3% of them searching for negotiations, 24.7% applying for a judge by Court, and the rest of them are relying on some kinds of relationship for solution. We can tell from the data that the Taiwanese Businessmen are infrequent to turn to the arbitration system for help. Perhaps it is the “discrimination” that China applying for arbitration makes those businessmen find it unsuitable for their cases. China should let go their political opinion sometimes and think of different legal district matters practically. Respecting the autonomy of the will, and the principle of quality and reciprocity shall let the arbitration system accept more broadly.

  1. Conclusion

Cross straits arbitration matters should be considered as the foreign ones, that is, either Taiwan or China get the jurisdiction of the case. We should think about the applicable law problems only when the jurisdiction belongings are clear. Most of this is about the applicable law in the case that the jurisdiction belongs to Taiwan. Taiwan government legislate “Regulations Governing the Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the People of the Mainland China Area ” as the legal source of those matters. The article 41 of the Regulation points out that Taiwan’s law is applied when confronted with the China related disputes, this article believes that the application should be considered more generally Not only the substantive law that constrains the duty and obligation of the parties, but the private international law. In that case, it is more flexible for the arbitration institution to select the applicable law. Under Taiwan’s jurisdiction, this article discusses three different levels applicable law selecting problems. First is the applicable law for the arbitration process, another is the applicable law for the substantive arbitration award, and the other is applicable law for the arbitration agreements. Because this article believe that the arbitration system should consider autonomy of the will as its fundamental principles in any case, so the will of the parties of the selection of the applicable law should be considered in priority. However, it is not the same in practice. When the parties are unengaged, there are different ways for three levels to pick the applicable law according to the private law principles.

As for the condition that the arbitration jurisdiction belongs to China, this article does not reach a further discussion. Because of the fact that China does not regard Taiwan as an independent legal district, China government points out that all departments should devote to carry out national laws, policies, and the legal interpretation made by the Supreme Court in National People’s Congress approved Supreme Court’s report. It seems that it is impossible to point to acquire Taiwan law by the use of China principles of conflicts of laws when the parties are unengaged. However, some of their regulations still treat Taiwanese business as foreign investors and use their own countries’ law. The possibility that the parties exclude China’s law and apply Taiwan’s law still remains flurry. How to make the arbitration to deal with the more frequently commercial issues due to the thriving commercial intercourses between Taiwan and China? This article suggested that both of the two sides ignore their political issue first, and protect the right of people more practically.

[1] Lee Tsung De, “The Feature of The Commercial Dispute of Cross Strait Commerce, and The Prevention and Solution of It” [2003] 4-5.

[2] It is become a more complicated issue in Taiwan, two major political party hold different opinion to the relations between China and Taiwan, one of them believe Taiwan is a country, but another believe it part of China. As a result, although Taiwan has its own people, territory, and government, it cannot be called as an independent country or only a province in China.

[3] It is mostly the same as foreign arbitration. Wu Wei Hua, ‘Applicable Law for Foreign Arbitration’(2014) No.99, P.3.

[4] The Regulation for Governing the Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the People of the Mainland China Area [1992]. We note it as “the regulation” for brief.

[5] It is often applied in different region in a country or united that don’t share the same legal system. There is more than one kind of theory interregional conflict rules, for example, it is state authority to legislate for interstate legal conflict in the USA, state governments might conclude interstate treaty without interfere the fundamental rules.

[6] Kuei-Hsin Wu, ‘Study of the Legal System concerning the Taiwan-China and China-Taiwan Interrelationship’(2004) , para 2.

[7] As for Taiwan, according to article 41 section 1, 2, and 3 of “The Regulation” it states that people and land are the standard to distinguish China related issues from national issues. And according article 2 of the Regulation, it gives clear definition of the land and people. That is, Mainland China region are the territories excluding Taiwan, Penghu, and those actually controlled by Taiwan government. And whether the people belong to China or Taiwan is based on their census. If people or land involve in China factors, the case is China related one. On the other hand, China, which makes a generalized definition, if any of the subject, object, content, or fact of the event relates to Taiwan, it is called Taiwan related issue.

[8] OCPC v. Wilhelm Diefenbacher KG and OCPC v. Diefenbacher, Cour d’Appel, Paris, June 18, 1974, 1975 REV. ARB. 179 and note by Robert at 189.

[9] Wu Wei Hua, ‘Applicable Law for Foreign Arbitration’(2014) No.99, P.20.

[10] However, it is inappropriate for the concept of the arbitration process to over-expanded. For example, judicial supervision and interference should be categorized into the scope of judicial authority, because it is assistant through public power to just the procedural defect and fulfill the result from the arbitration. If not doing so, it will violate the authority of the judicial.

[11]Wang Ze Jian, General Principle of Civil Code (2014, first published 1982) 268.

[12] Lin Yi Shan,’ The Application of Principle of the Most Important Factors in International Private Law Involved’(1999) No.48, 20-21.

[13] Chu Lian Kon.

[14] Kuei-Hsin Wu, ‘Study of the Legal System concerning the Taiwan-China and China-Taiwan Interrelationship’(2004) , para 4 and Zao Chun Lan, ‘ The Fact and the way of Taiwan Relations Matters Dispute With Arbitration’ (2011) No.4, 130.

[15] Zao Chun Lan, ‘ The Fact and the way of Taiwan Relations Matters Dispute With Arbitration’ (2011) No.4.

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