The 4th Civil Division of China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC) is an adjudication division within the SPC. It mainly supervises and guides the handing of foreign-related cases in court at all levels nationwide.
In general, the SPC’s 4th Civil Division (hereinafter referred to as “the 4th Civil Division”) is primarily responsible for the following: (1) hearing maritime cases and foreign, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan related civil and commercial cases at first and second instance, (2) reviewing and retrying such cases of lower courts for their decisions that have entered into force, and (3) providing trial guidance to lower courts in such cases.
Based on our observation, the 4th Civil Division’s responsibilities also include:
(1) Drafting judicial interpretations. The SPC’s judicial interpretations are binding to local courts at all levels nationwide. Among others, in terms of judicial interpretations on matters related to foreign related cases, it is the 4th Civil Division that undertakes studies and research, prepares the draft, solicits public views, and providing clarifications.
(2) Issuing replies to lower courts. In case of any question arising from pending foreign related cases tried by local courts, the lower courts may request for instructions from appellate courts, and even from the SPC. The 4th Civil Division is in charge of responding to lowers courts. The SPC’s replies are not only binding to the lower courts regarding particular cases, but also highly persuasive to all local courts nationwide.
(3) Reviewing cases where local courts intend not to recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards. If a local court intends to render a ruling against the recognition and enforcement of a foreign arbitral award, it has to request for approval by the SPC. The 4th Civil Division is in charge of reviewing such requests from local courts. (CJO Note: this system is highly likely to be applied to the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments, which we expect will be specified in the forthcoming SPC’s judicial interpretation in the near future.)
(4) Participating in lawmaking. The 4th Civil Division’s opinion plays a vital role in the legislation led by the National People’s Congress, China’s legislative body.
(5) Providing judicial safeguards for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In 2015, the SPC issued the “Several Opinions on Providing Judicial Services and Safeguards for the Construction of the ‘Belt and Road’ by People's Courts” (关于人民法院为“一带一路”建设提供司法服务和保障的若干意见), in which the SPC commits to providing judicial safeguard for the BRI and actively engaging in the cross-border dispute resolution. The 4th Civil Division undertakes essential work in this regard.
The 4th Civil Division consists of Judge Wang Shumei(王淑梅) as Director, Judge Gao Xiaoli(高晓力) as Deputy Director, Judge Xi Xiangyang（奚向阳）, Judge Song Jianli (宋建立), Judge Ding Guangyu (丁广宇), Judge Yang Lei(杨蕾) and other judges. Judge Zhang Yongjian(张勇健) and Judge Shen Hongyu(沈红雨) also served in the 4th Civil Division. Former Director Judge Liu Guixiang(刘贵祥) also served in the 4th Civil Division.