As Chinese companies increasingly “go out”, it is inevitable that they will need the services of lawyers familiar with the laws and regulations – not to mention the political environments – of overseas markets. However, it is not necessarily a given that they will use foreign law firms or lawyers.
Guangdong now has a college devoted to churning out lawyers who specialize in laws of other countries. As reported by local media, the Foreign-Related Lawyers College, believed to be the first of its kind in China, held an unveiling ceremony at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies on November 2. The college is a joint venture between the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou Bureau of Justice and Guangzhou Lawyers Association.
The college’s founding statement says that it aims to provide legal services for the “construction of the Greater Bay Area and the Belt and Road Initiative”, while raising the standards of foreign-related legal services in the province.
Shi Youqi, president of Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, said that with the deepening of these two key projects (BRI and GBA), there is a clear and urgent need to train lawyers with foreign expertise. But it is not, in case anyone reading this is inclined to think, that China is about to adopt Western-style rule-of-law practices. The need for such lawyers, said Shi, was to ensure better governance and to meet “national security interests”.
Having said that, He Youhan, member of the Party Committee and deputy director of the Guangzhou Bureau of Justice, was quoted as saying that the official birth of the country’s first foreign-related law college would have a major and far-reaching impact on the Reform and Opening movement, pushing construction of the rule of law, and providing strong talent support for Guangzhou’s high-level and open economy.
Xing Yiqiang, president of the Guangzhou Lawyers Association, was quoted as saying that the establishment of the college is conducive to building a “new highland” for training foreign-related lawyers. This should, in turn, enhance professional service standards and raise the competitiveness of (Chinese) companies engaged in foreign-related legal fields.
Li Xiaohan, a representative of the college’s student body, was quoted as saying that Chinese companies are increasingly investing abroad, which was naturally raising the demand for foreign-related Chinese lawyers. The training provided by the college will especially boost skills in international arbitration, he said.
It would appear that the new college has already set up links with lawyers and law firms in the United Kingdom. Speakers at the event noted that exchanges with British lawyers would increase as the college sought to support companies engaged in foreign-related legal matters, thereby protecting the foreign investment and international trade of Chinese enterprises.