Doing legal business in China

China has experienced huge social and economic expansion over the last two decades. With a population of over 1.4 billion people, it’s the world’s second largest economy, after the United States. 

Since 1979 and following the death of Chairman Mao, China has embarked on a widespread programme of social, economic and legal reform. Its accession to the World Trade Organisastion (WTO) in December 2001 speeded up market liberalisation, resulting in excellent opportunities for British business.

With its rapidly growing economy and expanding legal services sector, China is a priority market for the Law Society and our members.

Practising in China

Foreign law firms have been permitted to maintain representative offices in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) since 1992.

Foreign law firms can:

  • advise clients on the law of the firm’s jurisdiction and on international conventions and practices
  • advise clients on the implications of the Chinese legal environment
  • form long-term co-operation agreements with Chinese law firms

Foreign law firms must engage Chinese firms to advise on PRC law. They cannot employ PRC lawyers, unless the lawyers give up their PRC practising certificate.

Foreign firms cannot form joint ventures with local PRC law firms excpet in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.

Foreign lawyers working in China must register annually, and approval of licences can be a long and bureaucratic process.

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