A new international arbitration centre, the Beihai Asia International Arbitration Centre (“BAIAC”) launched its first overseas centre in Singapore on 12 August 2019.

The BAIAC was set up by the Beihai Arbitration Commission (“BAC”) (which is headquartered in Beihai, Guanxi province in China) and its launch is a significant step forward in the advancement of China and Singapore’s cooperation in the field of international commercial arbitration, as well as a key strategy in advancing the “Belt and Road” initiative.

The BAIAC’s launch in Singapore is timely against a backdrop of rapid economic development in Asia, as well as increasing levels of Chinese investment in South-East Asia. Its key attraction lies in its promise to provide lower cost and efficient international arbitration services for small to medium value disputes in cross border commercial transactions.

The new BAIAC will focus on commercial and investment disputes that arise from the ‘Belt and Road” initiative. Its key differentiator is its emphasis on Chinese elements and Chinese solutions, based on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Arbitration Rules as the foundational legal framework. The BAIAC will also incorporate ‘small claim arbitration procedures’ and provide more flexibility for multiple ways of witness cross examination (see here, in Mandarin only).

The BAIAC will seek to incorporate Singapore’s advanced and practical arbitration practices and blend them with BAC’s unique Chinese arbitration characteristics in order to provide its users with an opportunity to experience a new style of Chinese oriented arbitration.

In considering what style and approach the BAIAC may adopt, it is worth bearing in mind some points made by Huang Jin, President of China University of Political Science and Law and President of China Society for International Law, in a keynote speech entitled “The future development of International Commercial Dispute Resolution” on 24 January 2019. Huang Jin set out six strategies for the promotion of arbitration within China:

  1. International arbitration must insist on two arbitration core values: autonomy and independence;
  2. International arbitration is essentially a public legal service, and the elements of being government led, universality and fairness have to be preserved;
  3. International arbitration must insist on six principles: being people oriented, being arbitrator oriented, modernity, internationalism, informatisation and legalisation;
  4. Chinese arbitration should follow the developmental path of international arbitration with Chinese characteristics;
  5. International arbitration must align with community interests; and
  6. Chinese arbitration institutes should focus on research and development, especially in the areas of sociology, ethics and management of arbitration.