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With effect from 26 April 2024, the State Administration of Market Regulation’s Amended Anti-monopoly Compliance Guidelines for Business Operators notably features the provision of credit for antitrust programs verified by the authority.
The Guidelines set out for the first time the conditions and process for such credit to be granted. The specific prerequisites for granting credit and the type of credit granted varies, depending on the stage of enforcement. Compared with the original 2020 Guidelines, the amended version is more detailed and includes helpful guidance on key antirust risks alongside case studies.

On March 22, 2024, the Cyberspace Administration of China issued the long-awaited Provisions on Facilitating and Standardizing Cross-Border Data Flow (the “New CBDT Rules”), which took effect from the same date. With the New CBDT Rules being promulgated, the Chinese government finally released positive signals with moderate relaxation of its stringent control over CBDT activities since the promulgation of the Personal Information Protection Law of the PRC in 2021, and the implementation of CBDT security assessment and China Standard Contract for Cross-Border Transfer of Personal Information starting from late 2022.

On 27 February 2024, China published the amended Law on Guarding State Secrets, which will take effect on 1 May 2024. The Amended SSL enhances state secrets protection from multiple aspects, together with the Counterespionage Law amended in 2023, the National Security Law, and other national security related laws and regulations.

The introduction of the Standard Contract for the Cross-boundary Flow of Personal Information within the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (Mainland, Hong Kong) (comprising a set of standard contractual clauses, GBA SCC), together with its Implementation Guidelines marks a significant milestone in facilitating cross-border data flows between major cities in Guangdong province and Hong Kong, key cities in the Greater Bay Area (GBA). It provides an alternative to the existing requirements under the Personal Information Protection Law of the PRC to use one of three methods for transferring personal data outside of mainland China, namely by use of China standard contractual clauses (China SCC), obtaining certification from professional institutions and, if certain types of data are to be transferred or data quantity thresholds are met, submitting to a government-led security assessment review.

On 25 January 2024, the State Council of the People’s Republic of China promulgated the Interim Regulations on Administration of Carbon Emissions Trading (“Regulations”), which will come into force on 1 May 2024.
The Regulations set out the regulatory regime over carbon emission allowance (CEA) in the mandatory carbon market, while the Administrative Measures for Voluntary Trading of Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction (Trial), effective from 19 October 2023, regulate the China Certified Emission Reduction (CCER) in the voluntary carbon market.

China’s panda bonds market is gaining momentum and attracting great interest. The National Association of Financial Market Institutional Investors’ recent move in granting licenses to three foreign banks to be lead underwriters for panda bonds is a positive signal of China’s further opening up of its financial market. In an interview with IFR Asia, Shirley Wang and Samuel He of FenXun, Baker McKenzie’s Joint Operation platform partner, discuss what lies ahead in 2024 in the panda bonds market and what it means for foreign banks and bond issuers.

On 26 January 2024, China issued significantly higher merger filing turnover-based thresholds, with immediate effect. Notably, China has removed a hybrid threshold proposed in the June 2022 draft, which was based on both revenue and market value of target companies and purported to target high-value “killer” acquisitions.

On 29 December 2023, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China promulgated the amended Company Law of the People’s Republic of China (“2023 Company Law”), after its deliberation of four versions of draft amendments in the past three years. The 2023 Company Law will come into force on 1 July 2024.
The amendments cover a wide range of topics, including capital contribution and reduction, equity/share transfer and repurchase, corporate governance matters (such as organizational structure and responsibilities and duties of controlling shareholders, actual controllers, directors, supervisors and senior management, etc.), shareholder rights protection, company establishment and dissolution/liquidation, etc.

South Africa’s trade relationship with China is growing, resulting in several announcements regarding trade at the BRICS Summit in August 2023. Among the announcements was the news that Chinese companies had signed deals to buy South African products worth around USD 2.2 billion. Also announced were plans for China to import more South African beef and other South African agricultural products, as well as the donation of Chinese energy equipment worth USD 8.9 million to South Africa, in addition to a grant valued at USD 26.9 million to assist the country with its energy crisis.