Are Bilingual Contracts Necessary?

After AsiaBridge’s presentation regarding the importance of bilingual contracts at the Hong Kong sourcing fair hosted by Global Sources, some clients wrote me asking more about bilingual contracts. A few clients wanted to know, “Do you really think Bilingual contracts are necessary?”

I understand clients’ concerns. We’re dealing with China; if something goes wrong, many clients doubt a good contract will protect them from trouble. Periodically I hear comments like: ‘the Chinese legal system is slated against foreigners.’ I agree that China’s legal system is far from perfect, but I don’t think it’s slated. A Chinese person could feel just as confused as any foreigner when dealing with all these changing laws and regulations, although foreigners do face the cultural difference and language barrier.

The truth is, it’s not easy for Chinese to win a case, and it’s more difficult for them to recover his or her money, even if the judge rules in his or her favor.

So, why do we need a contract?

First, a well prepared contract gives out the signal: I care. Other people will think before acting against you.
Second, a good contract provides remedy if anything should go wrong.  Although it’s not easy to win a case, if you do your homework, you will find you can win!

In my opinion, doing business without a good contract is akin to parking your car in public with a broken window.

What do you think?

Sophie Mao is Sr. Partner at AsiaBridge, a Guangzhou based law firm offering Intellectual Property Protection, Bilingual Contracts, Mediation and Litigation. Sophie is based in Guangzhou.


  1. Heidi on August 2, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Hi Joseph,

    That’s a great question. Actually Bilingual contracts are the best to have because in China and in China’s court of law the contract that’s written in Chinese will be used and the English one won’t. It’s best to have a bilingual contract so that each side explicitly lists the expectations and so that in a court of law there won’t be any question about using the Chinese side of the contract. Hope this helps.

    Question answered by: Heidi Ruhling, Asiabridge Law’s Client Relationship Manager.

  2. Joseph on July 30, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    You are talking about a simple contract, not a bilingual contract. Is it necessary to make a bilingual contract or an English one should be enough?

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