On March 15, 2017, the National People's Congress reviewed and approved the General Provisions of Civil Law, which will take effect on October 1, 2017. The new provisions will replace the General Principles of Civil Law, which have been in place since 1986. Many articles in the General Principles of Civil Law have become obsolete or immaterial because of far-reaching and transformative economic and technological developments. The new provisions revise these outdated clauses and add new clauses to better address current conditions in China.

The following are key highlights from the new provisions:

  • Statute of limitations extended to three years: The statute of limitations for civil actions has been extended from two to three years.
  • Privacy and personal information protected: For the first time in China's civil law, an individual's personal information is deemed as a personal right and is protected from illegal collection, use, processing, trade, dissemination and disclosure. Together with other laws and regulations, enshrinement of these protections in the civil law reflects the urgent need to protect personal information in the age of the internet and big data.

Key take-away points:

While the statute of limitations for employment disputes will remain at one year, certain other types of disputes employers may face (such as discrimination lawsuits, trade secret disputes, etc.) may be considered civil disputes and would be impacted by the new statute of limitations. The new provisions are expected to form the opening chapter in a comprehensive civil code planned for enactment in 2020. According to the legislative schedule, the next step will be integrating the individual laws that deal with property, contract, tort, marriage and inheritance into the civil code.