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Project Details
Funding Scheme : General Research Fund
Project Number : 17609419
Project Title(English) : Enforcement of Arbitral Awards under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI): Regional Harmonization of the Public Policy in Context of the BRI Asia 
Project Title(Chinese) : 一帶一路倡議下的仲裁裁決執行:一帶一路亞洲的區際公共政策融合 
Principal Investigator(English) : Dr Gu, Weixia 
Principal Investigator(Chinese) : 顧維遐 
Department : Department of Law
Institution : The University of Hong Kong
E-mail Address : guweixia@hku.hk 
Tel : 39174368 
Co - Investigator(s) :
Panel : Humanities, Social Sciences
Subject Area : Social and Behavioural Sciences
Exercise Year : 2019 / 20
Fund Approved : 449,000
Project Status : Completed
Completion Date : 31-12-2022
Project Objectives :
To provide a systematic comparative review of the public policy exception and how its indeterminacy in definition hinder the formation of an integrated economic region under the BRI.
To contribute to the international comparative literature on harmonization of public policy in international commercial arbitration in context of the BRI Asia with (a) EU and (b) OHADA as the comparators, both of which adopted a “regional public policy exception”.
To study the theoretical foundation for harmonizing the public policy exception, with reference to (a) “Three Metaphors of Norm Migration” of international legal norms proposed by Roderick A. Macdonald; and (b) the competing paradigms of “seat theory” and “delocalization theory” of international commercial arbitration.
To examine dispute resolution circumstances among BRI Asia nations, and formulate recommendations of framing those circumstances for the reform of the “regional public policy exception” in context of BRI Asia, with China taking the lead.
Abstract as per original application
(English/Chinese):

Realisation of objectives: In the original GRF research proposal, the PI set forth four project objectives. Despite facing unforeseen global challenges, the project has achieved significant milestones, though with some adaptations in methodology and execution. First, the project has successfully conducted a comprehensive comparative review of the public policy exception in the context of the BRI. This was accomplished through extensive doctrinal research and analysis of relevant international arbitration laws and practices in BRI Asia. The review highlighted the indeterminacy of the public policy exception, underscoring its impact on economic integration under the BRI. Second, the project has made a significant contribution to the international comparative literature on the harmonization of public policy in international commercial arbitration. Comparisons with the European Union (EU) and the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA) provided valuable insights. While in-person workshops with European and African legal experts were limited due to travel restrictions, virtual conferences and online collaborations proved to be effective alternatives. Third, the theoretical exploration of harmonizing the public policy exception has been conducted rigorously and thoroughly, with particular reference to the "Three Metaphors of Norm Migration" and the competing "seat theory" and "delocalization theory." The PI has successfully navigated these complex theories and contextualized them within the BRI framework. Fourth, the examination of dispute resolution circumstances among BRI Asia nations has faced some logistical challenges due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions. However, the PI creatively adapted by utilizing innovative digital methodologies and virtual platforms. While physical field visits were not feasible, virtual interactions with the local legal experts in the BRI jurisdictions provided rich information, enabling the formulation of comprehensive recommendations for reforming the regional public policy exception. To be more specific, the PI has initially planned several research trips or field visits to selective leading arbitration jurisdictions in context of BRI Asia (e.g., Beijing, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Dubai). These trips were integral to the project's original design, intended to gather firsthand insights and data from key BRI Asia jurisdictions. However, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions were imposed, making overseas travels and physical attendance at international research conferences unfeasible. This unprecedented situation significantly limited the PI's ability to conduct these planned field visits. Consequently, the budget allocated for overseas travel and conferences remained largely unutilized. In response to the constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the PI took proactive steps to adapt to these constraints and adeptly pivoted to alternative methods of engagement and research, reallocating resources to enhance digital research tools and access to virtual conferences and online databases. Although extensive travel outside of Hong Kong for field trips and research visits was not feasible, the PI actively participated in numerous virtual conferences closely aligned with the project's theme. These digital platforms facilitated valuable interactions and exchanges with experts and practitioners from various BRI jurisdictions, effectively compensating for the inability to conduct in-person visits. Furthermore, the PI's esteemed position as a listed arbitrator in several leading arbitration institutions across key BRI Asia jurisdictions, including Beijing, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong, significantly bolstered the research. This prominent role enabled the PI to maintain and deepen connections with arbitration experts, not only within these cities but also in other critical jurisdictions like Singapore and Dubai. These connections and the insights gained through virtual engagements have proven instrumental in overcoming the limitations brought about by the travel restrictions, ensuring the continuity and richness of the research despite the unprecedented global challenges. In addition, the PI has benefited tremendously from the GRF budget item, “Research Assistants”. The budget for hiring research assistants (RAs) has been deployed effectively in the sense that the RAs helped a lot in collecting literature in the initial period of research. The RAs were also critical in the footnote checking and bibliography compilation stage when the manuscripts were completed to be submitted to journals and book publishers. However, it is worth mentioning that the PI had a big eye surgery in November 2022. Before the eye surgery, there were eye discomforts and pains due to the diagnoses of macular hole, starting in the second half of 2022. The eye pains and disease had prevented the PI from hiring more RAs and working with RAs in the later stage of the project. To conclude, the PI is happy to submit that despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the PI’s own health conditions, the research objectives have all been satisfactorily achieved, and the research funds are properly used. Major findings and research outcomes arising out of the GRF project will be summarized below, under Section 6.
Summary of objectives addressed:
Objectives Addressed Percentage achieved
1.To provide a systematic comparative review of the public policy exception and how its indeterminacy in definition hinder the formation of an integrated economic region under the BRI.Yes100%
2.To contribute to the international comparative literature on harmonization of public policy in international commercial arbitration in context of the BRI Asia with (a) EU and (b) OHADA as the comparators, both of which adopted a “regional public policy exception”.Yes100%
3.To study the theoretical foundation for harmonizing the public policy exception, with reference to (a) “Three Metaphors of Norm Migration” of international legal norms proposed by Roderick A. Macdonald; and (b) the competing paradigms of “seat theory” and “delocalization theory” of international commercial arbitration.Yes100%
4.To examine dispute resolution circumstances among BRI Asia nations, and formulate recommendations of framing those circumstances for the reform of the “regional public policy exception” in context of BRI Asia, with China taking the lead.Yes100%
Research Outcome
Major findings and research outcome: First, an important finding is the need for harmonizing the public policy exception in arbitral enforcement in the BRI Asia. This project finds that there is a significant level of harmonization in arbitration laws among BRI countries, primarily due to the widespread adoption of the New York Convention and the UNCITRAL Model Law. Such harmonization would enhance legal certainty and investor confidence, crucial for the success of the BRI. This project unveils the necessity of harmonization of legal norms from the dual standpoints of a normative jurisprudential perspective, and the practical benefits of enhancing commercial efficiency under the BRI. Second, the project envisages the future development in terms of the possible substantive contents of a regional or transnational public policy exception. With reference to similar harmonization efforts of the EU and the OHADA, this project proposes a “negative list” approach could be utilized in establishing the harmonized public policy exception. Third, this project unveils China’s pivotal role in the proposed harmonization initiative. As the leading nation in the BRI, China’s approach to arbitration, particularly its stance on the public policy exception is found to have a substantial influence on the overall effectiveness of dispute resolution within the BRI framework. The changing power dynamics of the Asian region developing under the BRI could also be analyzed as forming the catalyst for China’s increased role in pioneering international legal norms. Fourth, this research finds the correlation between the developmental stages of arbitration and the judicial interpretation of the public policy exception in BRI jurisdictions. While most countries are member states of the New York Convention, the actual enforcement records show variations. This project reveals that the judicial approach to the public policy exception is closely correlated with each jurisdiction’s stage of development in arbitration practices. This insight is crucial for understanding the nuances and complexities of arbitration enforcement in the BRI context. This project's findings not only benefits China but also have far-reaching effects on the global arbitration landscape. The research further lays a solid foundation for ongoing dialogue and development towards a more harmonized and effective legal framework for arbitral enforcement within and beyond BRI Asia. These findings offer valuable insights for policymakers, legal practitioners, and scholars, contributing significantly to the discourse on legal harmonization and economic integration in Asia.
Potential for further development of the research
and the proposed course of action:
This research opens several avenues for future exploration, particularly in the dynamic and evolving context of the BRI. One potential direction is the deepening engagement with the spirit of the New York Convention (NYC), particularly in promoting and facilitating the enforcement of arbitral awards within the BRI context. This would involve researching how BRI countries can align their arbitration practices more closely with the NYC's principles, ensuring more efficient and consistent enforcement of arbitral awards. Another area for future research is the reconciliation of arbitral awards with cross-border mediation. Because of the recent enactment of the Singapore Mediation Convention, there emerge a number of cross-border mediation enforcement in light of the BRI context. The exploration of how cross-border mediation enforcement interacts with arbitration will become an important research area. This future research would propose ways to reconcile these two dispute resolution mechanisms within the BRI framework, ensuring that arbitral awards resulting from combined arbitration-mediation processes are effectively recognized and enforced. These prospective research paths not only promise to extend the academic discourse but also have the potential to offer insights for policymakers and legal practitioners engaged in the BRI.
Layman's Summary of
Completion Report:
This project delves into how Asian countries involved in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) handle international commercial disputes through arbitration, focusing particularly on the complex issue of ‘public policy exception’. The New York Convention and the UNCITRAL Model Law have harmonized arbitration laws, yet “public policy” remains a grey area. As each country has its own different and varied interpretations of this term, it leads to unpredictable outcomes and higher transaction costs in resolving cross-border business disputes, which is against the BRI’s goal of economic integration and commercial certainty. Drawing upon experiences of the EU and OHADA, this study proposes ways to make the interpretations of "public policy" more consistent across countries, and further advocates for the creation of a “transnational public policy”. It argues that the BRI provides a golden opportunity for China to take the lead in considering the possibility of harmonizing the public policy exception in international commercial arbitration within the Asian Belt and Road nations. This study is significant not just in an academic sense but also practically, offering guidance to legal professionals and policymakers in fostering a unified economic region across Asia.
Research Output
Peer-reviewed journal publication(s)
arising directly from this research project :
(* denotes the corresponding author)
Year of
Publication
Author(s) Title and Journal/Book Accessible from Institution Repository
2021 Weixia Gu  Dispute Resolution in China: Litigation, Arbitration, Mediation and their Interactions (London, New York: Routledge, 2021), 288pp.  No 
2021 Weixia Gu and Anselmo Reyes  Multi-tier Approaches to the Resolution of International Disputes: A Global and Comparative Study (Cambridge University Press, 2021), forthcoming, 544pp.  No 
2020 Weixia Gu  “A Conflict of Laws Study in Hong Kong-China Judgment Regionalism: Legal Challenges and Renewed Momentum”, 52(4) Cornell International Law Journal, pp. 591-642 (lead article).  No 
2020 Weixia Gu  “China’s Approach to the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Civil and Commercial Judgments and International Litigation Capacity Building”, 15(2) The Journal of Comparative Law, pp. 264-291.  No 
2021 Weixia Gu  “Multi-tier Approaches and Global Dispute Resolution”, Japanese Yearbook of International Law, Volume 63, pp. 147-166.  No 
2021 Weixia Gu  “China’s Law and Development: A Case Study of the China International Commercial Court”, Harvard International Law Journal Online, Volume 62, forthcoming.  No 
2020 Weixia Gu  “Reflections on the Key Ingredients for Successful Reform of International Commercial Arbitration in the Asia Pacific”, in Lei Chen and André Janssen (eds), Dispute Resolution in China, Europe and World (Spinger, 2020), pp. 131-152.  No 
2020 Weixia Gu  “Harmonising the Public Policy Exception for International Commercial Arbitration along the Belt and Road”, in Luke Nottage, Shahla Ali, Bruno Jetin and Nobumichi Teramura (eds), New Frontiers in Asia-Pacific International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution (Kluwer Law International, 2020), pp. 165-187.  No 
2021 Weixia Gu  “Arbitration in Comparative Perspectives”, in Marica Moscati, Michael Palmer and Marian Roberts (eds), Comparative Dispute Resolution: A Research Handbook, under the Book Series co-edited by Tom Ginsburg and Francesco Parisi, Research Handbooks in Comparative Law (London: Edward Elgar, 2021), pp. 311-326.  No 
2023 Weixia Gu  Deference from Foreign Enforcement Courts to Decisions of the Courts of the Seat Confirming An Arbitral Award, in DEFERENCE IN INTERNATIONAL COMMERCIAL ARBITRATION 299-315 (Franco Ferrari and Friedrich Rosenfeld eds., Kluwer Law International 2023).  No 
2022 Weixia Gu  Diversity of Med-Arb in International Arbitration, in DIVERSITY IN INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION 182-197 (Shahla F. Ali, Filip Balcerzak, Giorgio Fabio Colombo & Joshua Karton eds., Edward Elgar 2022).  No 
2021 Gu Weixia  Mapping and Assessing the Rise of Multi-Tiered Approaches to the Resolution of International Disputes Across the Globe: An Introduction, in MULTI-TIER APPROACHES TO THE RESOLUTION OF INTERNATIONAL DISPUTES: A GLOBAL AND COMPARATIVE STUDY 69-91 (Anselmo Reyes & Weixia Gu eds., Cambridge University Press 2021).  No 
Recognized international conference(s)
in which paper(s) related to this research
project was/were delivered :
Month/Year/City Title Conference Name
Washington DC, US New Frontiers of International Dispute Resolution and Private International Law in the Asia-Pacific  Chartering the New Frontiers of International Dispute Resolution in the Asia-Pacific (via zoom) 
Hong Kong Competition of BRI International Dispute Resolution  Belt and Road Initiative in Africa (via zoom) 
Hong Kong A Conflict of Laws Study of Hong Kong-China Judgment Regionalism  Securities Regulatory Cooperation for Cross-border Listings and Transactions Symposium (via zoom) 
Xiamen, China Choice of Law in Contract in Hong Kong  Regional Conflict of Laws in Greater China (via zoom) 
Oxford, UK China’s Law and Development: A Case Study of the China International Commercial Court  China and the International Legal Order (via zoom) 
Washington DC, US International Dispute Resolution during the Covid-19 Pandemic  International Law in the Asia-Pacific during the Covid-19 Pandemic (via zoom) 
Hong Kong Impact of Covid-19 on International Arbitration  Covid-19, International Law, and the Post-Pandemic International Order (via zoom) 
Hong Kong and Washington DC China and Investor-State Dispute Settlement: Status Quo and Beyond  China and Investor-State Dispute Settlement: Status Quo and Beyond( via zoom) 
Other impact
(e.g. award of patents or prizes,
collaboration with other research institutions,
technology transfer, etc.):

  SCREEN ID: SCRRM00542