Book chapter: China’s bilateral investment treaties

Tue 08 September 2020

By Jayne He


A book chapter titled “China’s Bilateral Investment Treaties” co-authored by two members of UNSW Law’s Herbert Smith Freehills China International Business and Economic Law (CIBEL) Centre has recently been published online on SpringerLink and will be published by Springer in hard copy in 2021.

The chapter is co-authored by the Co-Director of CIBEL Professor Heng Wang and CIBEL member Dr Lu Wang and has been included in the book Handbook of International Investment Law and Policy edited by Julien Chaisse, Leïla Choukroune, and Sufian Jusoh. 

This chapter focuses on the changes and trends in Chinese bilateral investment treaties (BITs) and relatedly investment rules of China’s free trade agreements (FTAs). It analyses the changing context of China’s bilateral investment rulemaking and compares China’s BITs since the 1980s to present and analyses the major features in China’s recent BIT practices. The chapter also discusses the shifts in investor-state dispute settlement.

The authors argue that “China’s role has shifted from that of a capital importer to that of both a capital importer and exporter” and China’s BITs are affected by such shift. The authors compare the BITs of China since the early 1980s to present to explore the evolution of China’s investment treaties. Chinese investment treaty development is driven or motivated by a combination of internal and external factors. 

China has one of the highest numbers of international investment agreements (IIAs), consisting of 126 BITs and 23 FTAs or treaties with investment rules. The recent BITs seem to be clearer in the substantive standards to avoid misusing or misinterpretation in the event of arbitral tribunals. 

China’s BITs are affected by both interpretative and substantive changes in the latest practice. It is predicted that “China’s shifted approach in the new generation BITs is likely to have broader Implications”. Going forward, China may formulate China-style BITs that differ from those of advanced economies like the USA.