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CISG CASE PRESENTATION

China 28 November 2001 High People's Court [Appellate Court] of Jiangsu Province (Shanghai Shen He Import and Export Ltd. v. Japan Itochu Corp.) [translation available]
[Cite as: http://cisgw3.law.pace.edu/cases/011128c1.html]

Primary source(s) of information for case presentation: Case text

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Case identification

DATE OF DECISION: 20011128 (28 November 2001)

JURISDICTION: People's Republic of China

TRIBUNAL: High People's Court [Appellate Court] of Jiangsu Province

JUDGE(S): Unavailable

CASE NUMBER/DOCKET NUMBER: Unavailable

CASE NAME: Shanghai Shen He Import and Export Ltd. v. Japan Itochu Corporation

CASE HISTORY: 1st instance Jiangsu Province Wuxi Middle Level People's Court 16 October 1998; 2d instance Jiangsu Province High People's Court 3 May 1999; 3d instance Supreme People's Court 25 September 2001 [remanding case back to Jiangsu Province High People's Court]

SELLER'S COUNTRY: Japan (defendant)

BUYER'S COUNTRY: People's Republic of China (plaintiff)

GOODS INVOLVED: Styrene


Classification of issues present

APPLICATION OF CISG: Unclear. However, CISG provisions are cited.

APPLICABLE CISG PROVISIONS AND ISSUES

Key CISG provisions at issue: Article 77 [Also cited or relevant: Articles 35 ; 74 ]

Classification of issues using UNCITRAL classification code numbers:

77A [Obligation to take reasonable measures to mitigate damages]

Descriptors: Mitigation of loss

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Editorial remarks

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Citations to case abstracts, texts, and commentaries

CITATIONS TO ABSTRACTS OF DECISION

(a) UNCITRAL abstract: Unavailable

(b) Other abstracts

Unavailable

CITATIONS TO TEXT OF DECISION

Original language (Chinese): Click here for Chinese text of case; see also CISG-China Case [HPC/13]: <http://aff.whu.edu.cn/cisgchina/en/news_view.asp?newsid=88>

Translation (English): Text presented below

CITATIONS TO COMMENTS ON DECISION

Unavailable

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Case text (English translation) [second draft]

Queen Mary Case Translation Programme

Jiangsu Province High People's Court

Shanghai Shen He Import and Export Ltd. v. Japan Itochu Corp.

28 November 2001

Translation [*] by Zheng Xie [**]

In March 1996, Japan Itochu Corporation Nanjing Representative Office [Seller] negotiated with Jiangsu Jiangyin Jiangcheng Chemical Material Corp. [Buyer] for the sale of styrene. The [Buyer] authorized [Buyer's Agent], Shanghai Shen He Trade Corp. (restructured in 1998 as Shanghai Shen He Import and Export Ltd.), which had foreign trade authority, to sign a contract with the [Seller].

[Buyer's Agent] and the [Seller] executed Sales Contract No. JHI9605 [the Contract]. The Contract contains the following provisions:

Goods: 1,500 tons of styrene made in Japan or South Korea;
Unit price: US $650/ton CFR Jiangyin; Total price: US $970.500;
Payment method: Irrevocable L/C within 90 days after the bill of lading;
Specifications: 10 PPM MAX, 15-20 PPM, etc.

The parties also stipulated the destination port and shipping date, etc.

The sequence of events thereafter was:

   -    On 2 April 1996, the [Buyer's Agent] issued an irrevocable L/C through Shanghai Pudong Development Bank to the [Seller]'s bank; the total amount was US $975,000, with the payment period within 90 days after the bill of lading.
 
   -    When the goods were loaded in Japan, the specification recorded in the inspection certificate issued by Japan Commodity Inspection Bureau was 12.5 PPM.
 
   -    On 24 April 1996, the goods arrived at Jiangyin Port, China and the Jiangsu Import and Export Commodities Inspection Bureau (the "Commodities Inspection Bureau") inspected samples of the goods.
 
   -    On 25 April, the goods were unloaded at Jiangyin Petro-Chem Company Binjiang 301 Warehouse (Jiangsu Sujiang Transportation bonded warehouse).
 
   -    On 5 May of the same year, the Commodities Inspection Bureau issued an inspection certificate showing that the specification is 2 PPM which does not comply with the Contract. However, on 24 May, the Commodities Inspection Bureau sent a written notice to the [Buyer] advising that, because of a mistake, the content should be corrected to read 11 PPM, and that this content does not comply with the Contract. The [Buyer] sent written notices to the [Seller] regarding this on 15 and 21 May, requesting negotiation on the matter. On 17, 24 and 28 May, the [Seller] responded to the [Buyer] alleging that the content of TNPC was consistent with the Contract and had no quality defect.
 
   -    On 30 May, the [Buyer] added 11.8 Kg TNPC to the styrene as per the [Seller]'s request.
 
   -    On 24 July 1996, the [Buyer's Agent] on behalf of the [Buyer] paid the [Seller] the contract price of US $ 974,840.10. (equal to RMB 8,120,223.06 according to the foreign exchange rate on the same day), and also paid import duty and value added tax in the amount of renminbi [RMB] 2,233,233.17.
 
   -    From June to September 1996, the [Seller] and the [Buyer] negotiated on the issues of transfer of risk, quality of the goods, damages, etc., but did not reach any agreement. Then, the [Buyer] filed this lawsuit against the [Seller] before the Jiangsu Province Wuxi Middle Level People's Court requesting the Court to rule that the [Seller] should compensate the [Buyer] for the damages and bear the litigation fee, etc.
 

[PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE]

During the first instance, the Jiangsu Province Wuxi Middle Level People's Court arranged a negotiation between the parties on 15 October 1996, as per the parties' request. The parties reached agreement that the [Buyer] would resell the styrene under the Contract at a price not less than RMB 5,300/ton before 19 November 1996. However, the [Buyer] was unable to do so.

The Court of First Instance verified that on 10 April 1996, the [Buyer] and Jiangyiin Petro-Chem Company signed a bonded storage agreement stipulating that the stored goods are 1,500 tons of styrene; the storage fee is RMB 95/ton/day for the first 25 days and RMB 3/ton/day after 25 days; the storage time is from 24 April 1996 to 24 June 1996.

The Court of First Instance also verified that, from 10 April 1994 to 20 April 1996, the [Buyer] had signed contracts with Changzhou Zhong He Chemical Industry Ltd. and Shanghai Mao Xing Industry Corp. for the resale of the styrene:

   -    The quantities were 800 tons and 700 tons, respectively;
 
   -    The unit prices were RMB 7,400/ton and RMB 7,500/ton respectively;
 
   -    The delivery date was May 1996;
 
   -    The quality requirement was "according to qualification certificate of import commodities inspection."

Because the styrene received from the [Seller] was not in compliance with the specification set forth in the contract that [Buyer]'s Agent had entered into with the [Seller], the above two contracts were not performed.

After hearing this case, the Jiangsu Wuxi Middle Level Court ruled that:

   -    The [Buyer] had negotiated with the [Seller] on importing styrene and authorized the [Buyer's Agent] with foreign trade power to execute the Contract with the [Seller] and the Contract the parties entered into was valid.
 
   -    The [Buyer's Agent] issued the L/C in accordance with the Contract, but the styrene delivered by the [Seller] did not comply with the Contract. The [Seller] breached the Contract and should therefore compensate the [Buyer's Agent] for the damages.

The Court of First Instance sustained the [Buyer's Agent]'s claim for damages caused by the defect of the goods as per the [Buyer]'s request. The [Seller] knew the goods were not in compliance with the Contract, but it did not take any reasonable remedial measure although the [Buyer] requested this many times, nor did [Seller] respond to the [Buyer]'s requests. Therefore, the [Seller] should bear the main liability for this dispute. The inspection certificate issued by Japan Commodities Inspection Bureau specified "the sample was obtained from the storage, and the content of TNPC is 12.5PPM."

According to the United Nations Convention on Contracts for International Sales of Goods (CISG), a seller shall guarantee that the goods comply with the contract, and shall be liable for any defects of the goods when the risk is transferred to the buyer. The quality of the goods was not in compliance with the Contract when the goods were loaded, so the Court of First Instance did not sustained the [Seller]'s allegations that:

   -    The delivery term is CFR and that:
 
   -    The inspection certificate issued by Japan Commodities Inspection Bureau demonstrated that the goods complied with the Contract;
 
   -    The risk of the goods was transferred to the [Buyer] when loaded on board; and that
 
   -    Even if the content of TNPC was not sufficient, the [Seller] is only liable for the expense incurred for adding additional TNPC, because these allegations have no legal or factual basis.

Contrary to [Seller]'s position, on 16 October 1998, the Jiangsu Province Wuxi Middle Level People's Court ruled that the [Seller] should compensate the [Buyer's Agent] for:

   -    Damages of RMB 2,404,765.55 + Storage charges of RMB 75,150 + Loss of profits of RMB 814,732.37 (total: RMB 3,970,988.92); and
 
   -    Loss of interest on the difference of prices, totaling RMB 171,526.86 (calculated at People's Bank's loan rate at the same time from 24 July 1996); and that
 
   -    The [Seller] should bear the litigation fee of RMB 29,860.

The [Seller] objected to this ruling and appealed to the Jiangsu Province High People's Court [the Court of Second Instance].

[PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COURT OF SECOND INSTANCE]

After hearing this case, the Jiangsu Province Higher People's Court ruled that:

   -    The [Buyer's Agent], with the [Buyer]'s authorization, signed the Contract for international sales of goods with the [Seller], and that this Contract was valid.
 
   -    During the performance of the Contract, the [Seller] did not fully perform its contractual duty with the result that the goods which the [Seller] delivered were not in compliance with the Contract. This was confirmed by the China Commodity Inspection Bureau. Therefore, the [Seller] breached the Contract and should bear the relevant civil liability. According to the relevant law, the aggrieved party's loss should be foreseeable when the parties sign their contract.

The dispute arose because the content of TNPC in the goods which the [Seller] delivered did not comply with the Contract. The nature of TNPC is such that it can be added anytime as per different requests.

   -    In this case, when the [Buyer] raised objection to the [Seller] regarding the content of TNPC, the [Seller] asked the [Buyer] to add TNPC so that the content could comply with the Contract. And the [Buyer] accepted the [Seller]'s advice and added TNPC.
 
   -    Thereafter, the content of TNPC objectively complied with the Contract and, at that time, the performance periods of the contracts between the [Buyer] and its customers had not expired, but the [Buyer] did not perform these contracts and caused the loss to be enlarged.
 
   -    According to the CISG [Article 77] and the Law on Economic Contract Involving Foreign Interest of the People's Republic of China, the other party to a breach of contract shall take reasonable measures to mitigate the damages (including loss of profits) caused by the breaching party and the aggrieved party is not entitled to the enlarged damages caused by that party not taking reasonable measures.
 
   -    According to the above law and the CISG, because the [Buyer] did not take reasonable remedial measures, i.e., performing the contracts with its customers after adding TNPC, with the result that the damages were enlarged, therefore, the [Buyer] is not entitled to the enlarged damages.

The [Seller] alleged that after the parties disputed on the content of TNPC, the [Buyer's Agent] did not take remedial measures, but caused the loss to be enlarged, so the [Buyer's Agent] should bear the enlarged loss. This allegation was sustained. The Court of Second Instance held that the ruling on the scope of the [Seller]'s liability by the Court of First Instance was therefore inappropriate and should be corrected and, on 3 May 1999, the Jiangsu Province Higher People's Court [Court of Second Instance] ruled that:

   1.   Jiangsu Province Wu Xi Middle Level People's Court's Ruling (1996) Xi Jing Chu Zi Di 167 Min was revoked;
 
   2.   The [Seller] should compensate the [Buyer's Agent] for only the storage charges and the fee incurred due to adding TNPC, totaling RMB 203,000; the litigation fee of first instance is RMB 29,860, of which the [Seller] should bear RMB 5,972, and the [Buyer's Agent] should bear RMB 23,888.

[THE APPEAL BY THE BUYER'S AGENT TO THE SUPREME PEOPLE'S COURT]

The [Buyer's Agent] objected to the Jiangsu Province Higher People's Court's Ruling (1999) Su Jing Zhong Zi Di 67 Min, and appealed to the Supreme People's Court.

After reviewing the case, the Supreme Court held that the Jiangsu Province High People's Court did not obtain sufficient evidence to verify the facts and mistakenly applied the laws in its Ruling (1999) Su Jing Zhong Zi Di No. 67 Min.

1. The Jiangsu Province Higher People's Court had concluded that:

"The [Seller] requested the [Buyer] to add TNPC so that the content could comply with the Contract; the [Buyer] accepted the [Seller]'s advice and added TNPC, and thereafter, the content of TNPC objectively complied with the Contract; at that time, the performance periods of contracts between the [Buyer] and its customers had not expired, but the [Buyer] did not perform these contracts and caused the loss to enlarge."

The Supreme Court held that this conclusion lacks evidence and that the facts are:

   -    After the [Buyer] raised objections to the [Seller] regarding the non-complying content of TNPC, the [Seller] sent many letters to the [Buyer] but did not request the [Buyer] to add TNPC many times.
 
   -    On 15 May 1996, the [Buyer] sent the first letter to the [Seller] alleging that the goods were not in compliance with the Contract.
 
   -    On 17 May, the [Seller] responded to the [Buyer] alleging that the content of TNPC was 15 PPM when the goods were loaded in Japan and had no defect, and advised the [Buyer] to apply cold spray to solve the problem. The [Buyer] applied cold spray as a remedial measure.
 
   -    Thereafter, the [Seller] sent a letter dated 22 May alleging that "the problem of content of TNPC is not a big defect," and the [Seller] sent a letter dated 24 May alleging that "the goods have no quality defects," but did not request the [Buyer] to add TNPC.
 
   -    The [Seller] did not request the [Buyer] to add TNPC until 28 May, and the [Buyer] added TNPC on 30 May. At that time, the performance period of the contracts between the [Buyer] and its customers had expired. In addition, the contracts between the [Buyer] and it customers stipulate the specification, the supplier's liability and period, and imported commodities inspection qualification certificate.
 
   -    The inspection certificate issued by China Commodities Inspection Bureau stated that "the contents of TNPC are not in compliance with Contract No. JHI9605." The above facts show that the [Buyer] failed to perform the contracts with its customer because the content of TNPC did not comply with the Contract, and the [Buyer] should not bear any liability.
 

Therefore, the ruling of the Court of Second Instance mistakenly concluded that:

"The [Seller] requested the [Buyer] to add TNPC so that the content could comply with the Contract; the [Buyer] accepted the [Seller]'s advice and added TNPC, and thereafter, the content of TNPC objectively complied with the Contract; and that at that time, the performance periods of the contracts between the [Buyer] and its customers had not expired, but the [Buyer] did not perform these contracts and cause the loss to enlarge."

2. That ruling mistakenly applied the law to hold that "because the [Buyer] did not take reasonable remedial measures, i.e., performing the contracts with its customers, after adding TNPC, the damages were enlarged; therefore, the [Buyer] is not entitled to the enlarged damages."

The disputes in this case arose because the content of TNPC of the goods delivered by the [Seller] did not comply with the Contract. The Courts of first and second instances ruled that the [Seller] breached the Contract. Because of the [Seller]'s breach, the [Buyer] failed to perform the contracts with its customers, had to sell the goods at reduced prices, and suffered the loss of storage charges and profits, etc.

Article 18 of the Law of the People's Republic of China on Contracts Involving Foreign Interest stipulates:

"If a party fails to perform the contract or its performance of the contractual obligations does not conform to the agreed terms, which constitutes a breach of contract, the other party is entitled to claim damages or demand other reasonable remedial measures. If the losses suffered by the other party cannot be completely made up after the adoption of such remedial measures, the other party shall still have the right to claim damages."

Therefore, the [Buyer] is entitled to compensation from the [Seller]. The Court of Second Instance mistakenly applied the law to rule that the [Buyer] is not entitled to compensation from the [Seller].

3. The Court of Second Instance ruled that the [Seller] did not fully perform the Contract which constituted a breach of contract, but did not rule that the [Seller] should bear the relevant liability. The Court mistakenly applied the law.

Article 74 of CISG stipulates:

"Damages for breach of contract by one party consist of a sum equal to the loss, including loss of profit, suffered by the other party as a consequence of the breach. Such damages may not exceed the loss which the party in breach foresaw or ought to have foreseen at the time of the conclusion of the contract, in the light of the facts and matters of which he then knew or ought to have known, as a possible consequence of the breach of contract."

According to Article 107 and Article 13 of General Principles of Civil Law of the People's Republic of China and Article 19 of the Law of the People's Republic of China on Economic Contracts Involving Foreign Interest, the liability of a party to pay compensation for the breach of a contract shall be equal to the loss suffered by the other party as a consequence of the breach. However, such compensation may not exceed the loss which the party responsible for the breach ought to have foreseen at the time of the conclusion of the contract as a possible consequence of a breach of contract.

Article 6 (1) of the Supreme Court's Answers to Questions Regarding Application of the Law of People's Republic of China on Economic Contracts Involving Foreign Interest stipulates:

"If a party fails to perform the contract or performs not in accordance with the Contract, except taking remedial measures or where the contract stipulates otherwise, the breaching party shall compensate the other party for its loss including damages of property or expenses incurred in order to prevent loss, and the anticipated interest if the contract was performed (i.e., profits in contracts of international sales of goods), but the total amount should not exceed the loss which could be foreseen when the contract is signed."

The Court of Second Instance ruled that the [Seller] should only compensate the [Buyer] for the storage charges and expenses incurred due to adding TPNC, totaling RMB 203,000, and should bear part of the litigation fee, but did not rule that the [Seller] should compensate the [Buyer] for other losses. This is unfair.

   -    On 15 June 2001, the Supreme People's Procuratorate of the People's Republic of China appealed to the Supreme People's Court according to Article 185 Clause 1 (1) and (2).
 
   -    On 25 September 2001, the Supreme People's Court ruled that Jiangsu Province High People's Court should rehear this case.

[THE REHEARING]

In November, after rehearing the case, Jiangsu Province Higher People's Court held that the Contract signed by the [Buyer's Agent] authorized by the [Buyer] and the [Seller] is valid. During the performance of the Contract, the [Seller] did not deliver complying goods, and China Commodities Inspection Bureau confirmed that the goods were not in compliance with the Contract, so the [Seller] breached the Contract. Therefore, the [Seller] should bear civil liability for the result. The Jiangsu High People's Court in the ruling of the second instance had concluded that "the [Seller] sent many letters advising the [Buyer] to add TNPC." However, after rehearing this case, the Court confirmed that:

   -    The [Seller] had only sent two letters advising the [Buyer] to add TNPC.
 
   -    In the letter dated 17 May 1996, the [Seller] had acknowledged that the content of TNPC was only 15 PPM.
 
   -    The [Buyer] could not add TNPC, because if the [Buyer] added more TNPC, the quality of the goods would not comply with the Contract, and the [Buyer] could be liable for such consequence.
 
   -    On 28 May, the [Seller] voluntarily advised the [Buyer] to add TNPC and the [Buyer] added 11.8 Kg TNPC on May 30. But at that time, the [Buyer] could not perform the contracts with its customers. Therefore, the conclusions set forth in the ruling of the second instance that were handed down by the Jiangsu Province Higher People's Court were not accurate, and that ruling should be corrected.

In addition, according to the introduction of styrene submitted by the parties, although TNPC is not a internal chemical element of styrene, it one element of the quality standard; the styrene without TNPC could not be sold as merchandise. The [Buyer] as a middleman authorized the [Buyer's Agent] to sign the Contract to purchase the styrene with TNPC 15-20 PPM according to the business cycle. The [Seller] knew that the China Commodities Inspection Bureau concluded that the quality of the goods was not in compliance with the Contract and should have voluntarily taken (or authorized the [Buyer]) to take reasonable remedial measures, but the [Seller] failed to do this. Therefore, the [Seller]'s defense that it advised the [Buyer] to add TNPC lacks sufficient evidence, so it should not be sustained.

After the disputes on quality defects of the goods arose, the inspection certificate provided by the [Seller] proved that the content of TNPC was only 12.5 PPM, so the goods were not in compliance with the Contract. Because the [Seller] did not deliver complying goods, the [Buyer] could not obtain the qualification certificate issued by China Commodities Inspection Bureau. Therefore, the [Buyer] could not perform the contracts with its customers, and the [Seller] should be liable for the [Buyer]'s economic loss caused by this. The reasons for Supreme People's Procuratorator of the People's Republic of China to appeal are sustained by Jiangsu Province High People's Court. Article 80 of the Law of the People's Republic of China on Economic Contract Involving Foreign Interest stipulates:

"If a party fails to perform the contract or its performance of the contractual obligations does not conform to the agreed terms. which constitutes a breach of contract, the other party is entitled to claim damages or demand other reasonable remedial measures. If the losses suffered by the other party cannot be completely made up after the adoption of such remedial measures, the other party shall still have the right to claim damages."

Article 19 stipulates:

"The liability of a party to pay compensation for the breach of a contract shall be equal to the loss suffered by the other party as a consequence of the breach. However, such compensation may not exceed the loss which the party responsible for the breach ought to have foreseen at the time of the conclusion of the contract as a possible consequence of a breach of contract."

Article 74 of CISG stipulates:

"Damages for breach of contract by one party consist of a sum equal to the loss, including loss of profit, suffered by the other party as a consequence of the breach. Such damages may not exceed the loss which the party in breach foresaw or ought to have foreseen at the time of the conclusion of the contract, in the light of the facts and matters of which he then knew or ought to have known, as a possible consequence of the breach of contract."

Article 6 (1) of Supreme Court' Answers to Questions Regarding Application of the Law of People's Republic of China on Economic Contracts Involving Foreign Interest stipulates:

"If a party fails to perform the contract or performs not in accordance with the contract, except taking remedial measures or where the contract stipulates otherwise, the breaching party shall compensate the other party for its loss including damages of property or expenses incurred in order to prevent loss, and the anticipated interest if the contract was performed (i.e., profits in contracts of international sales of goods), but the total amount should not exceed the loss which could be foreseen when the contract is signed."

The Court of Second Instance mistakenly applied the law to determine that the [Buyer] was not entitled to the enlarged damages, so it should be corrected. And the [Seller] should compensate the [Buyer] for the loss of reduced price, anticipated profits, storage charges, fees of adding TNPC, etc.

[THE RULING BY THE JIANGSU PROVINCE HIGHER PEOPLE'S COURT AFTER THE CASE WAS REMANDED BY THE SUPREME PEOPLE'S COURT]

On 28 November 2001, Jiangsu Province Higher People's Court handed down the ruling (2001) Su Min Zai Zhong Zi Di 027 sustaining Item 1 of Jiangsu Higher People's Court's ruling (1999) Su Jing Zhong Zi Di 67 Min and revoking litigation fee in Item 2 of Jiangsu Higher People's Court's ruling (1999) Su Jing Zhong Zi Di 67 Min. The Court ruled that:

   -    The [Seller] should compensate the [Buyer's Agent] for the loss of reduced price, anticipated profits, storage charges, fees of adding TNPC, etc. totaling RMB 3,801,411.69.
 
   -    The [Seller] should compensate the [Buyer's Agent] for the loss of interest on the payments, totaling RMB 8,120,223.06 (at bank's interest rate from 1 June 1996 to 24 July 1996, and at bank's loan rate from 25 July 1996 to 14 November 1996).
 
   -    The [Seller] should compensate the [Buyer's Agent] for loss of the interest on the loss of reduced price, anticipated profits, storage charges, fees of adding TNPC, totaling RMB 2,984,571.69 (at the People's Bank's loan rate from 14 November 1996 to the day when this ruling was served). The amount of RMB 203,000, which the [Seller] had paid, should be deducted.
 
   -    The above amount should be paid off within 10 days after this ruling was served and the [Seller] should bear the litigation fee of RMB 29,860 for the first instance and RMB 29,860 for the second instance.


FOOTNOTES

* All translations should be verified by cross-checking against the original text. For purposes of this translation, Plaintiff of the People's Republic of China is referred to as [Buyer]; Defendant of Japan is referred to as [Seller]. Amounts in the currency of the United States (dollars) are indicated as [US $]; amounts in the currency of the People's Republic of China (renminbi) are indicated as [RMB].

** Zheng Xie, LL.M. Washington University in St. Louis, LL.M., BA in Economics, University of International Business and Economics, Beijing.

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Pace Law School Institute of International Commercial Law - Last updated May 11, 2010
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