Ensuring Contract Enforceability in China: Understanding Liquidated Damages in China-Adapted Contracts

In international business transactions, understanding the legal provisions surrounding contracts is pivotal to fostering smooth business relations and protecting one’s interests. A notable aspect to highlight while dealing with Chinese suppliers is the understanding and application of liquidated damages as delineated in China’s legal provisions. Liquidated damages are pre-agreed damages specified in the contract, which stipulate the compensation payable by a party in breach of the contract to the other party. Let’s delve into the details of how these damages are perceived and implemented according to Chinese legal stipulations.


Liquidated Damages: The 30% Upper Limit Rule

The principal doctrine in the Chinese legal context is that the liquidated damages should not exceed 30% of the actual loss incurred. The 30% isn’t pegged on the total amount of the contract but on the tangible loss sustained due to the breach. This rule is founded on the principle of fairness and seeks to restrict “excessive liquidated damages,” a scenario where “liability” and “liquidated damages” are superimposed.

Even in the absence of a stipulated clause on liquidated damages in the contract, the breaching party is obligated to compensate for the loss invoked. This legal backing guarantees protection against breaches, fostering trust and fairness in business transactions.


Negotiation of Liquidated Damages

It is vital to note that liquidated damages are essentially set through negotiations between the involved parties and are not directly dictated by the law. This provides a flexible ground to work out a reasonable and fair settlement for both parties in case of a contractual breach.

In instances where the damages caused are significantly large, the parties have the liberty to elevate the liquidated damages, provided it does not transcend the 30% cap of the actual loss incurred. This safeguards against unjust enrichment and promotes equitable remediation in case of contractual violations.


Legal Recourse

If the contracted liquidated damages appear to be on the lower side, parties have a right to seek intervention from the People’s Court or relevant arbitration institutions to endorse an appropriate increase. Parties can agree that a fixed amount of liquidated damages, grounded on the breach’s circumstances, would be payable in the event of a breach. Alternatively, they may decide on a method to calculate the compensational amount arising from the breach, thereby tailoring the clause to suit the specifics of their agreement and anticipated risks.


Drafting China-Adapted Contracts

Given the intricate nuances in the Chinese legal system regarding liquidated damages, businesses aiming to collaborate with Chinese suppliers should prioritize drafting China-adapted contracts. Such contracts must meticulously detail the liquidated damages clause, providing for a well-defined method of calculating the same, grounded in the principle of fairness and equity. Your contracts should follow and be adapted to Chinese law, have jurisdiction set to Chinese courts, and be translated into Chinese to ensure enforceability in China. Engaging experts with profound knowledge of Chinese contract law can facilitate this process, helping to navigate the legal landscapes efficiently.



Engaging in business transactions with Chinese suppliers necessitates understanding China’s legal provisions on liquidated damages. The emphasis is on a negotiated and fair determination of liquidated damages, with an upper limit set to shield against excessive liquidated damages. By adhering to the 30% rule grounded in fairness and opting for China-adapted contracts, businesses can build robust and mutually beneficial relationships with Chinese suppliers, thereby fostering a landscape where fairness and equity are at the helm of contractual agreements.



FAQ: Understanding Liquidated Damages in China-Adapted Contracts

Q1: What are liquidated damages in the context of China-adapted contracts?

  • Liquidated damages are pre-agreed amounts that a party agrees to pay to the other in the event of a breach of contract. In China, the legal provisions stipulate that these damages should not exceed 30% of the actual loss incurred due to the breach.

Q2: How is the 30% upper limit of liquidated damages calculated?

  • The 30% upper limit is calculated based on the actual loss incurred due to the breach, not on the total amount of the contract subject matter. This approach is designed to maintain fairness and restrict excessive penalties.

Q3: Are liquidated damages stipulated in the law?

  • No, liquidated damages are not directly stipulated in the law. They are determined through negotiations between the parties involved in the contract, allowing them to agree upon a fair and reasonable amount based on the circumstances of the potential breach.

Q4: What happens if the liquidated damages agreed upon are too low?

  • If the liquidated damages are considered too low, parties can request intervention from the People’s Court or a relevant arbitration institution to advocate for an appropriate increase, ensuring a fair compensatory mechanism is in place.

Q5: Can liquidated damages exceed the 30% upper limit?

  • No, the legal provision mandates that the liquidated damages should not exceed 30% of the actual loss incurred. This limitation is grounded in the principle of fairness to avoid the imposition of excessive liquidated damages.

Q6: Do I always have to include a liquidated damages clause in my contract with a Chinese supplier?

  • While it is not compulsory, including a liquidated damages clause is highly recommended to safeguard your interests and foster a trustworthy and fair business environment. It stipulates the compensation payable in case of a breach, thereby providing a protective cover.

Q7: How can I ensure that my contract adheres to the Chinese legal provisions?

  • To adhere to Chinese legal provisions, it is advisable to engage experts with a deep understanding of Chinese law to help draft a China-adapted contract, which considers all the necessary legal nuances, including a well-defined liquidated damages clause.

Q8: What is the role of the principle of fairness in China-adapted contracts?

  • The principle of fairness governs the liquidated damages clause in China-adapted contracts, ensuring that the damages stipulated are not excessive and represent fair compensation based on the actual losses incurred from a breach of contract. This promotes equity and trust in business transactions.


Contact us if you need legal help in China, like drafting contracts that follow Chinese law, background investigation of Chinese companies, protecting patents, trademarks, copyright, and verification of contracts to the law in China, help with trade disputes and IP disputes in China, etc.


If you require our assistance or have further questions about our services, please do not hesitate to contact our Customer Relationship Manager, Jan Erik Christensen, at janerik@ncbhub.com. We look forward to hearing from you and helping your business succeed in China.

Contact us if you need help with drafting of contracts that follows Chinese laws and are enforceable in China, background investigation of Chinese companiesprotecting patents, trademarks, verification of contracts to the law in China, or help with other legal challenges that you have in China.

If you require our assistance or have further questions about our services, please do not hesitate to contact our Customer Relationship Managers Jan Erik Christensen, at janerik@ncbhub.com  or Milla Chen, at huimin.chen@ncbhub.com. We look forward to hearing from you and helping your business succeed in China.