Interview: Zhao Ping, Jincheng Tongda & Neal, China

LTA is honored to interview Mr. Zhao Ping, an influential lawyer in Mainland China. Mr Zhao is a former Judge in PRC Courts. He is currently the director and senior partner of Beijing Jincheng Tongda (Shanghai) Law Firm, and a member of the management committee of Jincheng Tongda Law Firm. He is an expert in dispute resolution and a senior arbitrator.

Zhao is currently the director and senior partner of Beijing Jincheng Tongda (Shanghai) Law Firm, and a member of the management committee of Jincheng Tongda Law Firm.

He received a Bachelor of Law Degree from China University of Political Science and Law, Master of Law Degree from China University of Political Science and Law; Master of International Comparative Law from Kent Law School, Chicago, USA and EMBA in CEIBS.

LTA : Mr. Zhao, as a former Judge in PRC Courts, you are an expert in dispute resolution and senior arbitrator. Could you share with us your professional background?

Zhao : I have eight years of court work experience as a judge. Hence, I have a deep understanding of civil and commercial disputes and can navigate complex cases with clear legal logic. With careful strategic planning and overall action plan, I can assist clients to maximize their prospects of success when dealing with civil and commercial cases. The nature of disputes I handle includes: real estate, finance, investment, intellectual property and international trade. In particular, I have special niche in handling multi-national cases and international cases, as I appreciate the core issues which lies at the heart of the problems. The cases I handled in the past, in which I acted for SAIC, BYD, Zhongbao Ke Holdings, Shanghai Telecom, Fudan Guanghua and other companies, all achieved satisfactory outcome.  During the SARS epidemic, I handled a case in which I acted for a telecommunications company in resisting unlawful enforcement. I assisted client to seek legal redress from the lowest level of local courts all the way up to the Highest People’s Court. Having taken the case through 4 levels of court, I managed to assist client to seek redress to rectify unlawful enforcements, which safeguarded the client’s interest to the maximum extent.


I currently act as: Arbitrator of CIETAC, HKIAC, KLRCA, CMAC, BAC/BIAC, SHIAC, SHAC, and Wuhan, Qingdao, Chongqing, Hainan, Weihai, Ningbo, Langfang Arbitration Commission; Executive Council Member of China Academy of Arbitration Law; Director of Professional Committee on Real Estate Arbitration of China Academy of Arbitration Law; Member of Arbitration Commission of All China Lawyers Association; Director of Research Commission on International Trade of Shanghai Bar Association; Executive Council Member of China University of Political Science and Law Arbitration Institute; Member of Shanghai Municipal Administrative Reconsideration Committee; Member of Shanghai Putuo District Administrative Reconsideration Committee; Part-time Legal Adviser for the People’s Government of Shanghai Baoshan District; Part-time Legal Adviser for Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce; Member of the Competition Enforcement Expert Tank of Shanghai Administration for Industry and Commerce; Member of the Legal Advisory Group for the People’s Government of Shanghai Pudong New District; Special Mediator of People’s Professional Mediation Center of Shanghai Pudong New District.

The legal journey

LTA : How did you start your legal journey?

Zhao : My legal journey began in 1987, when I applied to pursue my studies of law with the Chinese University of Political Science and Law.

From 1987 to 2017, it has already been 30 years since I started my journey in law. During this journey, I have played three roles: first, I was a student. From 1987 to 1991, I was an undergraduate student of the Faculty of Law of China University of Political Science and Law. From 1994 to 1997, I was a graduate student of Civil and Commercial Law of China University of Political Science and Law. My second role, I had been a judge. Since my graduation in 1991 up to 1999, I was in Hebei Province Xingtai City Intermediate People Law sitting as a judge. My third role is a lawyer. After resigning as a judge in 1999, I have joined Shanghai Guo Yao Law Firm as an attorney, which marked the start of my journey as a lawyer. From 2002 to 2009, I, together with several like-minded alumni of China University of Political Science and Law, founded Shanghai Eternal Law Firm. In early 2010, I joined the Jincheng Tongda law firm as senior partner, is now the Managing Partner of the Shanghai Office. Since then, I was appointed as the head of the International Trade Business Research Committee of the Shanghai Bar Association and many other public appointments. And so my legal journey continues.

Secrets of success

LTA : Could you share with us your secrets of success?

Zhao :  I would not describe my legal career as “successful”. Perhaps the more accurate description is that my legal career is building from strength to strength with spiraling upward trend. During this process, there are 3 keys : (1) Perseverance.  Whatever cause one pursues, once we have made up our mind, we must follow through to the very end persistently and never give up. If we ever encounter difficulties, or in the face of setbacks, we must bravely overcome the challenges and keep going, building up our strengths to move on; (2) Keep an open mind. As we grow older, our experiences have accumulated. For senior lawyers, it is not impossible that one might often have certain “inertia” and rely on our old experience. This might be a stumbling block if we encounter new situations or circumstances. Hence, we need to keep life-long learning, to learn from pioneers and to learn from the younger generations; (3) Set up long-term goals. Many people who initially choose to pursue the legal career might be motivated by the desire to earn a high income, but this cannot be the ultimate goal. The practice of law, in the long run, carries a higher purpose to serve enterprises, to enhance social and economic prosperity, to serve the community and endeavoring to achieve rule of law in the society.

LTA : Your outstanding legal qualifications, career achievements are impressive. We are interested to hear more stories about some challenging or interesting cases or transactions you handled in the past. Would you mind sharing with us?

Zhao : I recall there is a case in which I acted for a small company as respondent in an arbitration case. We were up against a giant company which is the applicant.

In that case, the small company obtained license to use certain technology, and at the same time purchased the giant company’s chips to be used on the mobile phones manufactured by the small company. The parties executed two sets of contracts i.e. the sale and purchase agreement, and the license agreement. The sale and purchase agreement is a framework agreement and pursuant to the terms therein the small company placed orders to the giant company to purchase chips and would settle the price of the goods. On the other hand, no payment was payable under the license agreement, which only contains the restriction that during the contract term the small company cannot purchase products from third party companies.

The cause of the dispute arose out of the fact that the chips produced by the giant company cannot fulfill the needs of the small company. Hence, the small company had to turn to third parties for supply of chips which was discovered by the giant company. The giant company commenced arbitration proceedings, claiming huge damages against the small company for breach of contract.

Our key lines of defence are as follows: (1) to prove the necessity and legitimacy of the small company’s conduct in purchasing chips from third party company; (2) in the event that breach of contract is found, endeavor to minimize the exposure of loss and damage.

Our reaction plan is to make a counterclaim. We argued that as the giant company failed to supply goods in time, this had caused huge loss and damage to the small company and the giant company is liable for such loss. We appreciate that it is difficult to substantiate this, as the subject agreements were drafted by the giant company and it is difficult to prove that the giant company had failed to fulfill the orders in time. Nevertheless, the lawyers for the giant company made a fatal mistake, as the request for arbitration was only on the basis of the license agreement and they did not make any claim under the sale and purchase agreement. They claimed that the small company’s counterclaim was not the same dispute as their request for arbitration and they insisted to defend. In the end, the arbitral tribunal held that the small company’s counterclaim is unfounded. The small company withdrew its counterclaim.

The outcome in the award:  In this case, on the face of it the giant company had won. However, in practical terms the giant company was trapped in a dichotomy, i.e. at the time of its request for arbitration, it only requested for damages representing the sales value of the chips, while the sales of the trips could only be achieved through the terms of the sale and purchase agreement. Its claim for damages had no basis under the license agreement because no payment was payable thereunder. Only through combining the two agreements can the giant company attain its objective. But the giant company has excluded the sales agreement in the arbitration. In the end the arbitral tribunal held that even though the small company was in breach of contract, but in accordance with the license agreement no compensation was awarded to the giant company. In reality, the small company achieved final victory.

Profound impact : This case made me realize the importance of legal skills, and how assessment of the likely outcome would impact the result. As advocate of the small company, if no counterclaim was raised at first, or if I did not seize the chance to hardly attack the giant company’s fundamental mistake, the final victory for the small company cannot be achieved. Also from this case, I became acutely aware of the uniqueness of arbitration, the intricacies of arbitration and this is one of the reasons I maintained my arbitration practice.

Tips for cross-border lawyers

LTA : Mr. Zhao, in your opinion, what are the qualities of a good cross-border lawyer?

Zhao : In my view, (1) one must have a deep understanding of the law and be able to navigate the law.  On the face of it, the law is “dead”, but in fact it is “alive”. By “laws”, it includes not only local laws, it also includes foreign laws. International legal actives includes laws, i.e. apart from the law in the client’s home jurisdiction, it also involves laws of third party jurisdictions and also international conventions. At the same time, laws not only include substantive laws, it also includes procedural laws and conflict of laws. It not only encompasses statues, but also includes case laws. Further, it not only includes legal knowledge, but also includes the skills to apply applicable legal framework to achieve one’s commercial objective.

(2) One must be able to fully understand the needs of the parties, to understand their business objectives. That is, to understand the purpose of the parties, whether to facilitate the transaction, to obtain compensation, or long-term cooperation, or just to win the litigation or arbitration, to reduce losses. Only if one can satisfy the client’s objectives can one qualify as a competent lawyer. When one can facilitate the attainment of objective, can one maintain good and long term cooperation.

(3) One must have cross-cultural awareness and thinking. The culture of each country and region is not the same. When dealing with cross-border transactions, even if one cannot be expected to know the various cultures, one must have cross-cultural awareness and thinking. One must be able to understand that the problem cannot be viewed from one perspectives only, but to consider the needs and background of the parties in order to make comprehensive judgments.

(4) One must be able to master the foreign language well. As a cross-border lawyer, language is the basic skills set.

(5) One must be able to learn to cooperate well as a team. In handling cross-border cases, very often a single lawyer would not be able to handle it all alone. There are bound to be cooperations with a few lawyers or even a team of lawyers to make it work. Sometimes local lawyers would have to team up with lawyers in overseas jurisdictions. Therefore, to be able to work as team is a must, through which the legal team can cooperate and achieve mutual success and benefit.

Dealing with foreign legal matters

LTA : Mr. Zhao, we understand that one of your core practice areas is cross border cases. Could you share with us more about your experience in dealing with cross-border matters. What are the items or cases of foreign and cross-border elements that you mainly deal with?

Zhao : From my experience, there are some key points to note when handling cross border transactions : (1) one must choose the applicable law carefully. One must understand the differences and similarities between the laws in different countries and regions. For example, in international sale of goods, whether the laws applicable to a particular country’s laws relating to sale of goods would apply, or whether the “United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods” would apply in the contract should be clearly stated and agreed. A lawyer must be conscious of this when designing a transaction document or handling a dispute.

(2) One must be able to fully understand the background of the transaction, and then analyze and grapple the weak link, to understand the strengths and weaknesses of both sides, so as to better design the transaction structure, which can help prepare appropriate and water-tight legal documents.

(3) One must be able to approach the issues from the perspective of cooperation. Because cross-border transactions are often related to the parties to the transaction, and in international transactions, parties often have a common or cross target. If the target is achieved, both can attain mutual benefit; failing of which both parties’ interests may be harmed. Therefore, to achieve good transaction outcomes, one must give consideration from a cooperation perspective.

Nature of cases: At present, I mainly deal with domestic cases involving real estate and financial investment disputes. I also handle international cases which are mainly investment, trade and intellectual property disputes. Historically, there have been many international trade cases, and now there are more and more international investment cases, including the transfer of international patents and designs, international finance and other fields.

Beware of legal risks

LTA : What are the major legal risks that businesses should pay attention to when dealing with cross-border transactions? How should the risk be minimized?

Zhao : Businesses should watch out the various legal risks:

(1) the risk of conflict of laws under different legal systems. For example, Chinese law differs from US law, and the laws between different US states are different. In cross-border transactions, it is quite often that contracts have governing laws of different countries. Hence, objectively speaking there are legal risks.

(2) the credit risk of the counterparty. Even if the transaction framework is well structured, the legal documents are drafted well, but if the credit situation is poor, there will still be problems, and once the problem is difficult to sort out, it will be difficult to recover loss even through litigation or arbitration.

(3) the risk of dispute resolution. In the case of litigation, the laws and regulations of each country and region are different, the background and culture of the judge are different; if arbitration is used, the arbitration rules of the arbitration institution in each country where the transaction is located are different, and if it involves arbitration institution in the third party country, more costs would be involved.

To reduce the risk, one should:

(1) Contain the unpredictable risks. For example, reach agreement on the applicable law, the mode to resolve dispute; if desire to use arbitration, reach consensus on agreed arbitration institutions, seat of arbitration. The goal is to manage the risks.

(2) Do the preparatory work. For example, through legal due diligence, understanding of the parties’ business background. The more is done to know your transaction partner, the less likely there would be unpredictable risk. Even if there is a risk, you already have a timely and effective means to tackle.

(3) In the course of execution and performance of contracts, try to retain evidence, while taking into account the relationship between commercial transactions and the law. The two are both intertwined and distinct. “Intertwined” means the law protects the integrity of a commercial transaction. “Distinct” means there are many matters to be taken care of in business transactions which may not be appropriate from the legal perspective. Hence, it is necessary to retain the relevant legal documents, materials, etc. as evidence, in the event of a dispute, in a timely manner to enable that timely action can be taken to assert rights and interests.

China’s Belt & Road Initiative

LTA : According to your experience, what trends and developments do you see in the Chinese legal market since the “One Belt One Road” Initiative? What trends do you expect to see in the near future (including but not limited to legal markets, business operations and regional trends)?

Zhao : I have seen many changes recently. (1) On the one hand, FDI continues to be stable; on the other hand, the legal business of China’s foreign investment has increased significantly. (2) Arbitration, especially international arbitration, is becoming more common in China. The Chinese government and Chinese enterprises are increasingly aware of the importance and effectiveness of arbitration in safeguarding legitimate commercial interests. (3) The demand for international legal talent is increasing and the expectations for quality legal service are higher.

Regarding trends, on the whole, the “One Belt One Road” Initiative has provided more opportunities for Chinese lawyers. The arbitration market has seen remarkable developments ever since.

LTA : How should a lawyer be prepared for the challenges of the “Belt and Road” Initiative? Any advice to young lawyers on how to capture the opportunities?

Zhao : You should get ready and prepare yourself (1) to see how the future legal services market may change. (2) Depending on their stage of career, personal strengths, existing customers, the background of their law firm, there are 3 ways : (1) stick to the existing practice areas; (2) from the existing practice areas, try to develop further practice areas; (3) cooperating with other professions. Generally lawyers should not be encouraged to quit its practice, only under special circumstances should one consider this.

For young lawyers, one must be brave enough to try new practice areas, such as legal services relating to international infrastructure contacts. For young lawyers who have construction law background with good language skills, they must keep polish their skills and strengthen their knowledge and abilities.

Last but not least…

LTA : As a leading lawyer, we recognize that it is not easy to have work life balance. Do you have any hobbies or interests to relieve the stress from the demands of your busy practice?

Zhao : Modern lawyer’s work is really busy, especially when I am the managing partner of the firm, with other public appointments. I enjoy traveling, when I can go out of town to see more, to learn more and gain more experience. Of course I have to keep track of my clients’ needs and must never compromise the tasks entrusted by client, or the responsibilities and roles endowed upon me by my firm and the public.

Thanks to modern technology, which allows us to juggle between traveling and work. For example, while traveling in Europe, because of the time difference, I usually get up three hours earlier, to allow time to finish all work required ahead of time, so that on the one hand I can work efficiently, on the other hand, I can enjoy the joy brought about by traveling which can relieve the stress from work. This forms a positive cycle.

LTA : What makes you up to the best in your practice?

Zhao : From my view, (1) effectively solve client’s problems, get recognition by the client; (2) get recognition in the industry by various arbitration institutions, as well as by peer arbitrators and fellow lawyers; (3) while a decent income counts, when one gets more senior and has more experience, as compared to young lawyers, the satisfaction derived from a decent income has become a lesser motivation to do better; (4) to be able to contribute to the development of the cause of law and to promote the rule of law in my practice of law also gives me great pleasure and satisfaction. ♦




LTA: 您是怎么开始您法律之路?

律师: 我的法律之路,是从1987年报考中国政法大学法律系开始的。

我的教育背景是:1991 中国政法大学法学学士;1997 中国政法大学法学硕士;2008 美国芝加哥肯特法学院国际比较法学硕士;2008 中欧国际工商学院EMBA。




LTA: 你卓越的法律资歷、事业成就令人印象深刻。您能分享一或两个最具挑战性、有趣的案件或交易,这些案例或交易是您重要的里程碑,事业上的突破或对您的法律事业产生深刻的影响?

赵律师: 大公司(申请人)与小公司(被申请人)仲裁案件,我作为小公司的代理人。


答辩要点:① 证明小公司向第三方购买行为的正当性,即有其必要性、合理性;②即使在违约情况下,要尽力减少或免除损失。




LTA: 在你看来,一个好的跨境律师應应具備何种素质?

赵律师: (1) 要深刻地理解和把握法律。法律看起来是死的,但其实是活的。法律不仅包括本国法,也包括外国法。国际商事活动中的“法”,除了当事人所在国家的法律,还往往涉及第三方国家法以及国际规则。同时,法律不仅包括实体法,也包括程序法以及冲突规范;不仅包括法律条文,也包括案例;不仅包括法律知识,也包括如何运用有效的法律架构达到自己的商业目标。





LTA: 请与我们分享更多关于您处理跨境事务的经驗。您主要处理哪些范疇的具有涉外及跨境要素的项目或案件?

赵律师: 经验 – (1) 要选好适用的法律,要了解不同国家和地区法律的异同。例如,在国际货物买卖中,是适用某一国家的货物买卖相关法律,还是适用《联合国国际贸易销售合同公约》,这在合同中应明确有效地约定。至少律师在设计交易文件或遇到纠纷时,要意识到这一点。




LTA: 企业在处理跨境交易时应注意哪些主要法律风险?应如何最大限度地降低风险?

赵律师: 我认为有两方面要注意:

– 法律风险:

– 降低风险:


LTA: 根据你的经验,在中国的“一带一路倡议”中,你所在地区的法律市场有什么变化?您预期将在近期内看到什么趋势(包括但不限于法律市场,商业操作和区域合作的趋势)?

赵律师: 法律市场变化:

趋势方面,总体来讲,“一带一路” 对中国律师的要求提高了,同时为中国律师带来的机会也多了,对中国的仲裁市场发展起到了很大的促进作用。

LTA: 作為律师,应該如何为一带一路倡议带来的挑战做好准备?可否给予年轻律师建议,如何能充分捕捉一带一路的机遇?

赵律师 : 律师应为<一带一路>准备:



LTA: 作为精英律师,我们认识到,平衡繁忙的工作和下班后的生活并不容易。处理忙碌和緊張的执业压力殊不容易。你如何在工作和生活之间的張力找到平衡点?你有什么特别的兴趣或爱好来减轻压力吗?

赵律师: 现在的律师工作确实忙,尤其是在同时担任律所主任以及其他各类社会职务的情况下。我平常喜欢旅游,出去多看多学多感受,但我也深知,无论如何不能耽误客户的重要工作,不能影响自己的角色和责任承担。


LTA: 是什么让你在执业过程中带來最多的满足感?

赵律师: (1) 有效地解决客户的难题,得到客户的肯定;(2) 在业内得到诸多仲裁机构的认可,以及诸多仲裁员和律师同行的认可;(3) 执业收入也是一方面,但随着年龄的增长和经历的丰富,相较于年轻律师,收入带来的满足感已经越来越小;(4) 通过法律职业,为法律事业的发展贡献力量,在推动法治方面做力所能及的工作。 ♦

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