General Rules of the Civil Law of the People’s Republic of China


On March 15, 2017, the General Rules of the Civil Law of the People’s Republic of China (hereinafter the “General Rules of the Civil Law) were promulgated, which will take into effect on October 1, 2017. The General Rules of the Civil Law are regarded as the most basic and framework legislation in the civil field, which has a milestone significance in the history of civil legislation in China. This means that China has taken an important first step on the path of the civil law codification.

The full text of the General Rules of the Civil Law includes a total of 11 chapters and 206 Provisions including supplementary provisions. Comparing to the General Principles of Civil Law with respect to the contents of rules and principles, the General Rules of the Civil Law have established and included many important new requirements, which are worthy of attention.

We hereby select part of most important new rules in the chart below to draw your attention.

Article Remark
Article 9 All civil activities conducted by civil subjects shall be conducive to saving resources and protecting the ecological environment. The environment protection principle is regulated in the civil law system for the first time.
Article 10 Civil disputes shall be resolved in accordance with the law; where there are no relevant provisions prescribed in the law, customs may be followed but public order and good customs shall not be infringed upon. The policies are removed from one of the legal resources and customs are kept as one of the legal resources.
Article 16 Where a foetus is involved in inheritance or acceptance of gifts or other protection of the interests of the foetus, the foetus shall be deemed as having civil rights. However, if the foetus was born dead, the capacity for civil rights shall be deemed as non-existent since the beginning. The regulation regarding the benefit protection of a foetus is confirmed explicitly in the civil law system for the first time.
Article 19 A minor aged 8 is of limited capacity for civil conduct and shall be represented in the performance of civil juristic acts by his/her legal agent or shall obtain the consent or acknowledge by such agent. However, a minor may independently perform any civil juristic act that has a nature of pure benefit without obligation or the performance of which is compatible with his/her age and intelligence thereof. The starting age of the limited capacity for civil conduct is reduced to 8 from 10 according to the society development of China.
Article 76   The legal persons established for the purpose of obtaining profit and distributing to shareholders and other investors are legal persons for profit.

The legal persons for profit include limited liability companies, company limited by shares, and other corporate legal persons.

Four types of legal person are explicitly regulated in the civil law system. Meanwhile, the basic information, structure and requirements of each type of legal person are regulated accordingly.
Article 87   Legal persons established for the purpose of public welfare or other non-profit purposes, which do not distribute earned profit to the investors, founders or members, are non-profit legal persons.

The non-profit legal persons include public institutions, social groups, foundations, and social service agencies.

Article 96   The governmental legal persons, the legal persons of rural collective economic organizations, and the legal persons of basic-level People’s self-governing organizations are the special legal persons.
Article 102   The non-incorporated organizations are organizations that have no legal personality but may lawfully engage in civil activities under their own names according to law.

The non-incorporated organizations include individual-owned enterprises, partnerships, and professional services without legal personality.

Article 111  Natural persons’ personal information shall be protected by law. Any organizations and individuals who need to obtain personal information of others shall obtain the information according to law and shall ensure the information safety. It is not allowed to illegally collect, use, process or transfer the personal information of others. It is illegal to buy and sell, supply or publish the personal information of others. The protection of individuals’ personal information is explicitly regulated in the civil law system for the first time in order to enhance such protection.
Article 127 The provisions on the protection of data or network virtual properties shall be abided by. The civil law regulates explicitly for the first time that the principle that the data and virtual properties shall be protected.
Article 132 The civil subjects shall not abuse the civil rights and damage the national interests, the social public interests or the legitimate rights and interests of others. The civil law regulates the principle explicitly for the first time that abuse of civil rights shall be prohibited.
Article 188  The limitation of action of an application to a people’s court for protection of civil rights are three years, unless otherwise provided by law.

Limitations are calculated from the date on which the right holder knows or ought to be aware of the damage to the rights and the obligor, unless otherwise provided by law.

If it has been more than 20 years since the date of the damage, the People’s Court shall not give protection; in exceptional circumstances, the People’s Court may extend the limitations in accordance with the application of the right holders.

The normal limitation period of legal action is increased to 3 years (from 2 years).