China’s new Civil Code in German translation

December 15, 2020

Roughly six months after the enactment of the new Civil Code of the People's Republic of China, Knut Benjamin Pißler, Head of the Centre of Expertise on China and Korea at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law, has prepared the first German-language translation of the legislation. Representing the work of a team of current and former Institute staff members, the entire code can be found in a Chinese-German format in the German Journal of Chinese Law (Zeitschrift für chinesisches Recht).

The translation benefits from a thorough knowledge regarding the development of Chinese law as well as an understanding of Chinese legal culture that goes beyond the mere foreign-language aspect. Until the adoption of the new Civil Code, Chinese civil law was encompassed in a variety of individual laws, which have now been replaced by a comprehensive civil law codification. One of the special achievements of the translating team is the introduction of paragraph headings with explanatory footnotes. These footnotes detail, inter alia, the previous legal situation as well as changes in the law’s content and terminology as compared to earlier provisions.

By making the Chinese Civil Code accessible to a German-speaking readership, a first step has been taken towards further academic projects and publications. The bilingual version of the law prepared at the Institute has indeed already seen use at two academic gatherings. A two-day seminar at the Sino-German Institute for Legal Studies of the Universities of Göttingen and Nanjing considered among other topics the challenges posed by the new Civil Code for research on Chinese law. The German-Chinese Lawyers Association included a lecture at its 2020 annual conference on the question of what future effects the Civil Code will have from an entrepreneurial perspective.

Zivilgesetzbuch der Volksrepublik China, Zeitschrift für chinesisches Recht/German Journal for Chinese Law (ZChinR/GJCL), Issues 3+4 2020 

The German translation is accessible at SSRN.

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