China: Asset Preservation in China

Last Updated: 9 June 2013
Article by Maarten Roos and Tony Lu

International businesses that purchase from or sell to Chinese counterparts must always ensure that a proper contract is in place. Such a contract serves to summarize the terms and conditions of the deal, and can be the basis for any enforcement actions if the Chinese supplier or customer fails to execute as agreed.

Upon discovering a breach, negotiations usually takes place to see whether a solution can be found to both parties' satisfaction (or at least, acceptance). If no settlement is agreed, the foreign party can file a claim in court or arbitration.

In litigation / arbitration strategies, there is a special place for asset preservation. Chinese law expressly allows a claimant to apply to the competent court to put a restriction on the opponent's assets. The following two objectives are the most common:

  • Cash is king: If a claimant manages to put a lien on assets of the opponent, this will put the latter under pressure to reach a settlement. The fact that Chinese litigation can take years often creates a problem for the plaintiff, but when relevant assets are frozen, the problem becomes the defendant's.
  • Judgments and arbitration awards are notoriously difficult to enforce in China. Local protectionism is one problem to cope with, another is that it is relatively easy for asset-light defendants to hide or transfer their assets, making enforcement of an eventual judgment or award much less likely. The freezing of an opponent's assets results in near-certainty that if the case is won, then the claimant will be compensated.

Assets for Preservation

The kind of assets that are most often the subject of a preservation (or "freezing") order are:

  • cash (on a bank account of the target company, meaning that these funds cannot be used)
  • real estate / land use right (which then cannot be transferred)
  • machinery (which then cannot be transferred, and in some cases used)
  • ships (which then cannot leave port)
  • stock / fund (which then cannot be sold)
  • " company shares (which then cannot be transferred)

Procedures for Asset Preservation

Claimants can apply for the preservation of assets when filing the lawsuit, or after the lawsuit has been filed. Claimants may also apply for assets preservation before filing the lawsuitbut subject to very strict legal conditions. More generally, courts will grant plaintiffs the element of surprise by executing the asset preservation before notifying the defendant of the lawsuit, though this should be closely coordinated with the court and its preservation division.

In the case of arbitration, an application for preservation of assets is first submitted to the arbitration tribunal, which then forwards this application to the competent court. The plaintiff can then follow up directly with the court. The procedure is a bit more complex than for litigation, and in practice it is more challenging to ensure asset preservation before the defendant learns of the claim. Again, coordination (with both the arbitration tribunal and the competent court) should be a priority.

Chinese courts only accept applications forwarded by an arbitration tribunal in China, which means that the freezing of assets is not an option if the parties have agreed to arbitrate their dispute outside China. This is one (but not the only) good reason why many international companies prefer their contracts to establish that all disputes should be submitted to an internationally-respected, China-based arbitration tribunals such as the SHIAC (in Shanghai, the former CIETAC Shanghai sub-commission) or the CIETAC (in Beijing).

Requirements for Asset Preservation

When handling an application for freezing assets, the court will generally require payment of a guarantee as security for any damages resulting for illegitimate preservations. In addition, most courts will demand very specific information on the target assets. If both requirements are met and the case has been accepted by a court or arbitration tribunal, the court should normally proceed with the asset preservation.

  1. Guarantees

The purpose of the guarantee is to cover any potential losses to the target company, if upon hearing the case the court finds against the plaintiff. Courts generally prefer cash, but can also (sometimes) accept bank guarantees, the pledging of assets (incl. real estate), and company guarantees. In some areas, it is even possible to use third parties who ask a percentage of the claim to put up the guarantee amount.

There is no consensus on the amount to be put up as guarantee. Amounts vary between 15% and 100% of the value of assets to be preserved, and this proportion often depends also on the kind of assets. This can make asset preservation very expensive. In other cases, however, very little needs to be done to put the Chinese counterpart in financial difficulties, which makes it a particularly attractive strategy!

  1. Information on Assets

Courts have the power to investigate assets themselves. But due to their limited resources, they will rarely take the initiative. In practice, most courts will only respond to applications where the applicant provides details evidence on the assets that are the target of the preservation.

To freeze liquid assets - the most effective kind of pressure - the best approach is to find out the target's bank accounts. With sufficient detail, the court may be convinced to proceed to each bank and freeze all the accounts in question, up to the targeted amount.

Final remarks

Chinese companies are famous for being hard negotiators, and for refusing to compromise when they have a strong hand. International businesses that find themselves in a dispute in China, should be ready to play the same game. Once a dispute arises, the best way to approach the situation is to put the opponent under pressure.

Applying to freeze the opponent's assets, whether his bank accounts, real estate or machinery, can be extremely effective. While some courts have little experience dealing with such applications (especially if the applicant is a foreign company), others are surprisingly flexible and willing to please. Companies should always keep in mind: the successful freezing of assets considerably increases the chances of a favorable settlement or the enforcement of a judgment or award.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Maarten Roos
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.