Contracting in China? Mistranslations Can Kill You In Court, So Get an English to Chinese Legal Translator In Your Corner
Quality English to Chinese legal translators are extremely rare. Every company doing business in China needs accurate English to Simplified Chinese contact translation services. There is little question that China is a major player on the world stage with regard to trade, manufacturing, and business deals in general. Indeed, the current political discourse surrounding China’s conduct in the steel trade, and possible tariffs in response, serves to put a spotlight on China’s significance in the world economy.
That significance means that more and more deals will be done with China. In that vein, it appears that many business deals are done with English-language contracts in China, or some combination of English-language and Chinese-language contracts.
That said, there are two major rules to keep in mind when starting with an English-language contract with Chinese companies. Follow these rules to save yourself considerable resources in breach of contract litigation. And the key to following both rules comes from hiring a quality English to Chinese legal translation service to help your business.
1. Typically the Chinese-language contract controls; so control the Chinese-language contract.
Under Chinese law, contracting parties are free to choose the language of their contract. If, however, a contract is in both English and Chinese, and the parties fail to choose which contract controls, then a Chinese court or arbitration panel will see the Chinese-language version as controlling.
Similarly, if a contract is in English only and the contract is litigated in China, a Chinese court or arbitrator will have the contract translated from English to Simplified Chinese. More often than not, the translation will be very poor, and the parties will end up spending time and money fighting about mistranslations, rather than the primary contract dispute.
Finally, with contracts with Chinese State Owned Enterprises (of which there are many), Chinese language and law control, and any disputes will be litigated in China.
What does this mean for your business? The overarching message here is that you need to enter into a contract with a high-quality Chinese-language contract at the outset. You, and your company, do not want to be at the mercy of an English-language contract poorly translated into Chinese, or a Chinese-language contract that is not of your own making.
So the moral of this section is to get a high-quality Chinese legal translation service in your corner from the get-go. That way, you can take your English-language contract, with which you are most comfortable, and ensure that it is accurately translated into Simplified Chinese. With that Chinese version in hand, you will know that any Chinese court or arbitrator that deals with the contract will be dealing with language and a translation of which you already approve.
2. Legalese will get you into trouble in China; keep it simple.
We are all aware that contractual language can get pretty arcane, technical, dense, and quite difficult to understand and even ambiguous. Just try to read any online agreement when downloading an app or computer program, and you know what we mean. In fact, most English-language contracts drafted by American lawyers begin with a long definition section that defines all the terms in the contract. Those hyper-technical, dense, “fine-print”-type contracts don’t fly in China. Simply put, the Chinese use simple contract language.
Worse yet, if a Chinese businessperson can convince a court (or the court decides on its own accord) that the contractual language cannot be understood, then the language is thrown out. In many cases, Chinese businesspeople win the day in court because the court determines that the Chinese side of the deal did not understand the contract.
To be clear, Chinese courts, lawyers, and businesspeople will only deal with contracts that follow Chinese law. Chinese law, in turn, is more focused on basic terms of a deal and the motivation of the contracting parties. Therefore, lengthy contract provisions that were drafted to avoid case law or certain legal precedents are not fully honored, if at all, in Chinese courts.
Furthermore, Chinese businesspeople will likely not object to overly complex contract language when making a deal. Rather, they will simply sign the contract knowing that the complex, overwritten provisions will be rejected by a Chinese court anyway. Thus, foreign contract drafters with convoluted contractual provisions are simply shooting themselves in the foot by drafting such complexity into a contract.
What does this mean for your business? Simplicity is key in dealing with Chinese businesses. A seasoned English to Chinese legal translation service can help you translate your business contracts to Simplified Chinese.
That kind of foresight is vital to business deals with China. The best part is that English to Chinese legal translation services pay for themselves. Stated differently, the considerable money you save by avoiding litigation will likely be far more than the money you pay to a professional legal translation service.
In sum, if you want to use your English-language contract in a deal with a Chinese business in China, expect to have a Chinese-language version – in simple, non-legalese language – ready to go. The way to do that is by hiring a professional legal translation service that specializes in translating English legal documents to Simplified Chinese.
All Language Alliance, Inc. is the best investment you will ever make when you need your business’s contracts translated into Chinese. We have been serving law firms, multinational corporations, mid-size businesses, and health care organizations for decades. We provide the highest quality translations and top-notch customer service. Contact us to translate your legal documents to Simplified Chinese, to translate Mandarin Chinese law documents to English and to retain competent English to Mandarin deposition interpreters.
**This law document translation blog post should not be construed as legal advice. You should always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal needs.