Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Chinese court enforces Singapore judgment on the basis of reciprocity

Here's a report on an interesting case in which a Chinese court (the Nanjing Intermediate-Level People's Court) enforced a Singapore court judgment.

Under China's civil procedure law, Chinese courts may enforce foreign judgments that are not fundamentally offensive in some way under two circumstances: (1) there is a treaty with the foreign country calling for mutual enforcement of judgments; or (2) on the basis of reciprocity, which has been interpreted to mean that the foreign country has a practice of enforcing Chinese judgments, or at least has done so before.

There is no Singapore-China treaty calling for mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments. The Nanjing court found, however, that in 2014 a Singapore court had enforced a Chinese judgment. On that basis, it decided to recognize and enforce the Singapore judgment (a default judgment against a Chinese corporate defendant).

The report does not claim, and I don't know for a fact, that this is the first foreign judgment Chinese courts have enforced on the basis of reciprocity. (It says it's the first enforcement of a Singapore judgment on that basis.) But I think it's fair to say that such cases are pretty thin on the ground.

The report lists cases where foreign courts have enforced Chinese judgments in the absence of a treaty, suggesting that a basis for reciprocity exists in those cases. The list includes the Robinson Helicopter case, one that I have always thought was a bad example, given that the defendant had already argued in previous US forum non conveniens proceedings that the Chinese legal system was just dandy, and so could hardly be heard to argue otherwise when it came time to enforce a Chinese judgment against it. But if I were trying to enforce a US judgment in a Chinese court, I'd certainly bring it up. To the best of my knowledge, Chinese courts have not yet enforced a contested US money judgment. (I'm attaching those qualifications because they may, for example, have recognized a US divorce decree for some purpose.)

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I have seen reciprocal enforcement of Hong Kong judgments in China. Is Hong Kong foreign in that context?

Posted by: Frankie Leung | Feb 8, 2017 9:36:48 AM

China only enforces judgments of foreign jurisdictions if and when such judgment work in China's favor. Wake up.

Posted by: Frankie Leung | Aug 5, 2017 1:24:51 PM

China only upholds foreign court rulings when and if they are in its best interests. Get up.

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The principle of reciprocity, where a foreign judgment may be recognized and enforced if the foreign country has a practice of enforcing Chinese judgments, adds an additional layer to international legal considerations.

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