English Translations Of Chinese Laws: Don’t Call Us

Pretty much every week someone asks one of our China lawyers for an English translation of a Chinese law or cites one of our blog posts as an explanation for a decision they made or are contemplating.

China’s laws are too precise/too vague/too changing/too real world/too dependent on regulations to use English language translations of one or two laws for making final decisions. An English language translation can give you a good “feel” for a situation or a starting point for how to proceed, but the risk of that translation being very wrong or just wrong enough to cause you to make a big mistake is just too great for you to rely on it without more.

And every year or so we get a company that comes to us as a new client seeking our help in getting them out of some sort of trouble with the Chinese government for having violated some law due to a mediocre translation or one that simply did not include all of the laws and regulations on the subject. In figuring out how to legally proceed in China, even a good translation is usually not nearly enough because decisions on how to proceed might require interpretations of local regulations,  or even knowledge of local quirks.

Many times one of our China-based lawyers (or even one of our China lawyers in the US) will get on the phone and call a Chinese government official (or two or three ) to get their views on how the relevant government body interprets/enforces particular laws/regulations and/or treats particular situations. Chinese government officials are usually willing to talk these things out and they are often surprisingly helpful, even if they do not always provide the expected or desired answer. These calls are always done without the need for mentioning any company names.

So what do our China attorneys tell those who ask for English language translations of Chinese laws?  We send them the following form email:

I am sorry but because we do not work from translations of Chinese laws (we find them too risky and unreliable) I do not know where you can find translations of the particular laws you seek nor am I aware of the best site or sites for such translations generally. I wish you the best of luck in your search.

What have you found out there?