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In spite of earlier forecasts, and largely as a result of policy support, the International Monetary Fund recently raised its forecast for China’s 2017 economic growth to 6.7%. Meanwhile, the high-profile New Silk Road Summit, held in Beijing in May 2017, reconfirmed the Chinese government’s Belt and Road Initiative, which sets out its intention to dominate infrastructure projects in countries along the policy map’s route. Expected to involve Chinese engineering, procurement and construction contractors, equipment manufacturers and investors, as well as Chinese Policy and commercial banks, China’s top finance and projects lawyers anticipate significant work from the initiative, which is supported by large foreign currency reserves and state-owned enterprises.

Headline legal market news saw US firms continuing to retreat from on-the-ground presences in Greater China; following the 2015 closures of Chadbourne & Parke LLP’s Beijing office and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP’s Hong Kong and Shanghai offices, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP shut its offices in Beijing and Hong Kong in 2016 after a series of exits. The following year, Winston & Strawn pulled out of Beijing but retains offices in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Significant market moves included Daniel Dusek leaving Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP for Kirkland & Ellis’ corporate practice in Hong Kong; and Linklaters boosting its Shanghai base through the hire of project development and finance partner Andrew Ruff from Shearman & Sterling LLP. Linklaters also announced a spin-off practice in the Shanghai Free-Trade Zone, staffed by a team of around 20 lawyers, including three partners. This “best-friend” relationship will render Chinese law advice, which international law firms are prohibited from providing.

Among the PRC firms, Fangda Partners, King & Wood Mallesons, JunHe LLP and Zhong Lun Law Firm are widely recognised as the leading full-service firms, which are closely followed by Global Law Office, Grandall Law Firm, AllBright Law Offices, Han Kun Law Offices, Jingtian & Gongcheng, Dentons China and Jincheng Tongda & Neal.

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