Lacking knowledge of and exposure to China’s judicial and arbitrational system, foreign companies usually worry about dispute resolution clauses more than any other clause in a contract. Deciding which arbitration tribunal and what arbitration rules to specify becomes a sensitive and important aspect of contract negotiations for wholly foreign owned entities ("WOFE") and cooperative joint ventures ("CJV").
Contracts in which one party is a foreign entity will contain foreign elements, allowing the parties to choose their jurisdiction without restriction under PRC law. The parties to such a contract may decide at their discretion whether to choose an arbitration tribunal within China or in another country, or resort to ad hoc arbitration to resolve disputes.
A WOFE or CJV established or to be established by a foreign company in China is generally regarded as a Chinese company under PRC law. Therefore, under PRC law, the contracts for the transactions carried out by a WOFE or CJV do not involve any foreign elements. If the contracting parties in a transaction between PRC entities choose a foreign arbitration tribunal, Chinese courts may hold the arbitration clauses in the contract void on the basis that the parties intend to elude PRC law. Therefore, it is recommended that a WOFE or CJV shall appoint a Chinese arbitration tribunal in contracts which do not contain a foreign element.