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China wants to be global maritime judicial center

Tuesday, 16th March 2016

"China will seek to become an international maritime judicial center to better protect its national sovereignty, maritime rights and "core interests", said Chief Justice Zhou Qiang.

Citing figures to bolster his case Sunday, he said China already tops the world with the biggest load of maritime court cases and is also home to the most extensive maritime judicial system.

Zhou, president of the Supreme People's Court, said China's 10 maritime courts handled some 16,000 cases last year, up from 12,000 in 2014 and 11,000 in 2013.

"[We] must improve the work of maritime courts and build an international maritime judicial center," he said in his report on the court's work to some 5,000 lawmakers and political advisers.

He added that being a global hub will also help China implement the national strategy of becoming a "maritime power", a goal first cited after a Communist Party conclave at the end of 2012 that saw President Xi Jinping take power.

It will also serve Xi's "One Belt, One Road" strategy of reviving two ancient trade routes to Europe.

Zhou did not reiterate the steps to becoming a global hub that he had outlined for the first time at a work conference last December.

These included properly defining the scope of the maritime courts, setting common standards in adjudication, deepening international exchanges and beefing up publicity of China's maritime judicial work.

He had also revealed China's other reasons for becoming a hub, saying it could take part in setting international maritime guidelines and use influential case rulings "to enhance international maritime law with Chinese wisdom".

China's ambition is set amid simmering tensions arising from territorial spats in its neighboring seas, which are regarded as part of its core interests.

Sino-Japanese tensions have eased over the Diaoyu/Senkaku isles in the East China Sea. But friction has intensified in the South China Sea, where China faces overlapping territorial claims from Taiwan and four ASEAN countries.

There are also concerns over how China would respond to an international court ruling in the coming months on its dispute with the Philippines in the South China Sea. Beijing has refused to take part in the hearing before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

Susan Finder, a Hong Kong- based expert on China's judiciary, said China's ambition could be part of "a push to move the locus of maritime dispute resolution from London and other centers in Europe to China, where Chinese parties will encounter a more familiar dispute resolution system".

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Language: English
Contact: Kor Kian Beng

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