By Tommaso  Mancini, International Agreements and Digital Law Area



On 1 January 2021, the first civil code of the People’s Republic of China entered into force, representing the most extensive work of systematisation and modernisation of Chinese civil law. The code has a basic structure in the Romanesque tradition and a pragmatic approach in merging different legal systems and institutions in an expedient manner.

1) The first book “General Provisions”:

  • enshrines the rights of the fetus and establishes a mutual obligation for parents to maintain and educate their minor children, and for adult children to support and assist their parents;
  • divides legal persons into: profit-oriented (limited companies, spas, etc.), non profit-oriented (foundations, public institutions, etc.) and special (government agencies, rural collectives, cooperatives, etc.).
  • defines intellectual property rights relating to: work, inventions, trademarks, designs, layouts, trade secrets, geographical indications, new plants, etc.

2) The second book on “Rights In Rem” subdivides property into: state property (of all the people, exercised by the State Council: land, natural resources, infrastructure, etc.), collective property (of urban and rural collectives and village communities), private property (on income, houses, means of production, objects of daily use, etc.).

3) The third book on “Contracts” provides for 18 typical contracts (sale and purchase, leasing, technological contract, guarantee, management of property, factoring, etc.). The code provides that the contract may be concluded by means of signatures, seals and fingerprints and specifies that the exchange of electronic data (e-mail and the like) shall be deemed to be in writing: the obvious aim is to facilitate all forms of electronic and distance negotiation, as well as all forms of on-line commerce.

4) The fourth book on “Personal Rights”:

  • regulates bio-rights and the donation of cells, tissues, organs and remains;
  • protects reputation as “the social evaluation of a party in civil legal relations in terms of morals, prestige, talent and credit among others”;
  • establishes privacy protection for personal information (name, date of birth, identity card number, biological information, address, telephone number, e-mail, health information and location information).

5) The fifth book on “Marriage and Family”:

  • recognises only heterosexual marriage, based on monogamy and equality between men and women;
  • sets the minimum age for marriage at 22 for men and 20 for women;
  • allows divorce, except if the wife is pregnant;
  • excludes divorce within the first year after the birth of the child or within 6 months after the premature termination of the pregnancy, unless there is a request from the wife or the consent of the People’s Court.

6) The sixth book on “Succession” admits two types of succession: necessary and testamentary. First-order heirs – legitimaries – are the surviving spouse, children born in or out of wedlock and parents; second-order heirs are siblings and grandparents. Heirs who lived with the deceased and helped him receive a larger share. A person who was financially dependent on the deceased may receive a share of the inheritance even if he is not an heir.

7) The seventh book on “Civil Liability” covers product damage, road traffic, dangerous activities, domesticated animals, buildings or objects, environmental damage and medical liability.

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