Is it true that only upon recognition by Chinese courts, can foreign judgments become admissible into evidence?
According to China’s rules of evidence in civil proceedings, Chinese judgments can be admissible into evidence, meaning that the findings in an effective judgment made by a Chinese court can be seen as facts found in another civil litigation, whose authenticity need not be further proved, unless contradictory evidence is produced in its rebuttal. 
However, the aforesaid rules haven’t mentioned foreign judgments. So, can foreign judgments play a similar role? Can Chinese courts admit into evidence the findings in foreign judgments?
Traditionally, most Chinese courts believe that only upon recognition by Chinese courts, can foreign judgments become admissible as evidence. However, there are also courts that directly admit into evidence the facts found by foreign judgments.
Dr. Li Qingming (李庆明), an associate researcher at Institute of International Law of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, published an article titled “On Using Extraterritorial Civil Judgments as Evidence in Civil Procedure in China” (论域外民事判决作为我国民事诉讼中的证据), collecting and analyzing relevant cases in China, from which we can gain an insight into the practice by Chinese courts. The article was published in “Chinese Review of International Law” (国际法研究) (No. 5, 2017).
According to a judicial policy document from the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) in 2004 collected by Dr. Li, Chinese courts had better not directly admit the facts found by foreign civil judgments. 
However, in practice, some courts believe that foreign civil judgments are valid and admit them as evidence directly. 
Other courts believe that upon recognition by Chinese courts, foreign civil judgments can be admitted as evidence in China’s civil litigation. In fact, upon recognition by Chinese courts, a foreign civil judgment can be regarded as a Chinese judgment. Therefore, it is more of a Chinese rather than a foreign judgment admitted as evidence.
The crux of the issue lies here: Why do some courts admit foreign civil judgments yet to be recognized as evidence?
The judges of these cases believe that if the foreign judgment is not admitted as evidence directly, the parties concerned and the court will have to collect, examine and find the evidence that has already been presented and examined in the foreign court, which will inevitably involve such issues as extraterritorial service of process, extraterritorial evidence collection, and ascertainment of foreign law. This will increase judges’ workload, delay the litigation progress, increase the litigation costs of the parties, and sometimes make it difficult for the parties to prove their rights and further result in unreasonable judgments.
A similar rule has been issued by the Guangdong High People’s Court, according to which, a foreign judgment can only be used as evidential material before it is recognized, and the court shall not directly use its facts found and decisions. As some judges indicate, the actual effect of the rule is that, as long as the parties do not present contradictory evidence in its rebuttal, Chinese courts will generally admit the facts found by foreign judgments.
However, some judges oppose the direct admission of foreign judgments as evidence on the grounds that some parties may use the rule as a strategy. They would first obtain a foreign judgment with favorable facts found thereby, and then file a lawsuit in China and present the foreign judgment as evidence. This will damage China’s judicial sovereignty if the foreign court is not competent under Chinese law, but through the admission of a foreign judgment, acquires de fatco (partial) jurisdiction over the case.
According to Dr. Li Qingming, Chinese courts can examine whether the foreign judgments have damaged China’s sovereignty, rights of the parties, and public interests first. If no, then the court should admit such foreign judgments as evidence.
Similarly, the SPC is also relaxing its attitude in this regard.
In 2016, Judge Zhang Yongjian (张勇健), then director of the Fourth Civil Division of the SPC, publicly agreed with the admission of foreign judgments as evidence. “If a party can prove the authenticity and legal effect of a foreign judgment or ruling, the Chinese court shall recognize the fact voluntarily admitted by the other party, and the fact stated in the foreign judgment or ruling without further requiring the party to present evidence therefor, until contradictory evidence is produced in its rebuttal”, said Judge Zhang Yongjian.
This judicial view is further confirmed in the SPC’s ruling “(2015) Min Ti No. 150” ((2015)民提字第150号) in the case of Dayou Xinya v. Li Ying & He Guoshun (大友新亚与李璎、何国顺财产损害赔偿纠纷) on 27 July 2018.  The SPC held that though the foreign judgment (a Japanese judgment) is yet to be recognized, it is possible for the Chinese court to, combing with other evidential material, admit it into evidence. 
Again, it is noteworthy that the SPC has not yet promulgated judicial rules or policies therefor. Given the current situation, probably the most prudent way is to first apply to the Chinese court for recognition of the foreign judgment (if applicable), and then to present the foreign judgment as evidence to the Chinese court.
 大友新亚、李璎财产损害赔偿纠纷一案，最高人民法院(2015)民提字第150号再审审查与审判监督民事判决书, available at http://wenshu.court.gov.cn/website/wenshu/181107ANFZ0BXSK4/index.html?docId=91cd965135ff42b8a8b2a99900aa104e.
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