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Classification of Law

Civil Law

China's legal system is a mixture of Roman civil law and Anglo-American common law systems.  Civil law operates in areas such as family relations, property, succession, contract, and criminal law, while statutes and principles of common law origin are evident in such areas as constitutional law, procedure, corporations law, taxation, insurance, labour relations, banking and currency.

Civil law systems are based on concepts derived from old Roman law, distinguishable by their reliance on having a comprehensive set of rules and principles codified and easily accessible to both citizens and legal professionals. Codified laws are regularly revised to reflect the current environment, and have stronger emphasis in civil law countries than any precedent set by earlier court cases. Civil law countries cover more than 65% of world’s legal system, including the majority of continental Europe, Central and South America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

eSignature Legality Summary

Under Chinese law, a written signature is not necessarily required for a valid contract – contracts are generally valid if legally competent parties reach an agreement, whether they agree verbally, electronically or in a physical paper document (i.e., Contract Law, E-Signature Law). The E-Signature Law specifically confirms that contracts can be electronically signed. To prove a valid contract, parties have to present sufficient evidence in court that the contract was formed electronically. Leading digital transaction management solutions can provide electronic records that are admissible in evidence under Chinese law, to support the existence, authenticity and valid acceptance of a contract.

Use Cases for Standard Electronic Signature (SES)

Use cases where an SES is typically appropriate include:

  • HR Documents, such as regular employment contracts, NDAs, privacy notices, employee invention agreements benefits paperwork and other new employee onboarding processes
  • commercial agreements between corporate entities, including NDAs, purchase orders, order acknowledgements, invoices, sales agreements, distribution agreements, service agreements
  • consumer agreements, including new retail account opening documents, sales terms, services terms, software licenses, purchase orders, order confirmations, invoices, shipment documentation, user manuals, policies

NOTE: While China’s legal framework recognizes the validity and enforceability of electronically-signed documentation and contracts/agreements, China is still in many respects a paper-driven business environment.

Use Cases That Are Not Typically Appropriate for Electronic Signatures or Digital Transaction Management

Use cases that are specifically barred from digital or electronic processes or that include explicit requirements, such as handwritten (e.g. wet ink) signatures or formal notarial process that are not usually compatible with electronic signatures or digital transaction management.

  • Handwritten - commercial and residential leases and real property transfer contracts (must be registered with an agency that only accepts handwritten signatures)
  • Handwritten – certain family law documents, including those pertaining to marriage, adoption, and succession
  • Handwritten – pledges and mortgages (must be registered with an agency that only accepts handwritten signatures)
  • Handwritten – corporate documents that must be registered (must be registered with an agency that only accepts handwritten signatures)
  • Handwritten – HR documents
  • Handwritten – securitization documents (must be registered with an agency that only accepts handwritten signatures)
  • Handwritten – government-related filings, including application forms for registration or licensing and assignment of intellectual property rights
  • Handwritten – certain commercial contracts, including major transactions of listed companies

DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is for general information purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice. Laws governing electronic signature may change quickly, so DocuSign cannot guarantee that all the information on this site is current or correct. Should you have specific legal questions about any of the information on this site, you should consult with a licensed attorney in your area.

Last updated: November 01, 2019

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