Closed-Door Sessions, Americans and Chinese Wrestle to Resolve Business Arguments

Under the auspices of the International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution, an exchange program between Chinese and American mediators, attorneys, and businesspeople was convened on October 16-17, 2005.

Sixteen Chinese arbitrators and mediation administrators traveled, in some cases for three days, from Beijing, Guanzhou, Shanghai, and Nanjing to New York. Upon their arrival, they were greeted by their American counterparties at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York. In addition to mediators, private attorneys, and professors, the American delegation included representatives of such global corporations as General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Motorola Inc., and E.I. DuPont.
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The need for such a meeting was clear. Although many agree that business between Chinese and American interests is essential for the global economy, most also concur that the cross-cultural, cross-border difficulties are extraordinary, and doom many projects to failure. “Western businesses have legitimate  concerns about what happens when they encounter disputes with Chinese business partners,” commented Thomas J. Stipanowich, CPR’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “We seized the initiative to bring top-level colleagues from East and West to break new ground.”

During the two-day exchange, participants discussed legal and cultural obstacles to commercial mediation in China, the profound role of conciliation in Chinese culture, the differences between methods of commercial mediation in the United States and China, and different business expectations that are held by the two countries.

F. Peter Phillips summed up the outcome of the meeting in this way, “The real value of the meeting was to create – or in some cases to further – rich personal friendships. Relationships such as these will permit the effective exchange of information on an ongoing basis. Mediation is an art as well as a science, and we grow through knowing each other, not just reading about each other.”

The exchange is one of several activities undertaken by CPR in connection with its establishment, in partnership with CCPIT, of the US-China Business  Mediation Center.

The Center provides rules and a supply of trained, experienced neutrals, culturally sensitive, and well-versed in the business law of both countries to assist Chinese and American companies to resolve commercial disputes without arbitration or law suits. Meetings took place in an historic and appropriate setting. Mohonk Mountain House was the site of talks for a permanent international arbitration tribunal in the early 20th Century, in an effort to avoid war among nations by resolving disputes voluntarily through adjudication rather than military power.

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