While public–private partnerships (PPPs) have surged worldwide since the 1990s, they have been met with growing skepticism during the last years. A recent revision of Germany’s constitutional rules on motorway construction and observations on the use of PPPs published by both the German and the European Courts of Auditors illustrate this new caution. These two examples fit into a general trend towards a revival of the public sector, which can be summarized under the cross-level umbrella term “publicization.” It would, however, be remiss to replace the uncritical euphoria that once surrounded privatization with a similarly undifferentiated euphoria regarding publicization. Rather, it is crucial to identify the most appropriate solution for the fulfilment of each public task from the “toolbox” of publicization on the one hand and privatization on the other hand in order to ensure the most effective completion of public functions.
Under the public utilities franchise system, the executive branch may transfer the task of providing public utilities services for the common good to a private party. It should undertake to regulate and prevent the private party from pursuing its own interests to the detriment of public interest while discharging its duty under the public utilities franchise. Since any public interest must be enjoyed by all individuals, we can say that the obligations owed under administrative regulations aim at the ultimate goal of increasing individual welfare. In the public utilities franchise system, regulations of this kind can be divided into six different categories: maintaining and promoting necessary market competition, ensuring the continuity of public utilities services, ensuring non-discriminatory provision of public utilities services, ensuring the quality of public utilities services, ensuring reasonable charges for public utilities services, and ensuring the conservation of energy and protection of the environment while providing public utilities services. The absence of governmental regulation of the provision of public utilities and of reforms in such services in China has harmed both public interest and the rights and interests of consumers. Some of the problems caused include chaotic market access for public utilities, no guarantee of the sustainability of public utilities, the failure of the universality of public utilities, declining quality of public utilities, sharp rise in the prices of public utilities, insufficient regulations on the conservation of energy and environmental protection, and so on. In order to achieve the effective implementation of the administrative regulations and obligations therein with respect to public utilities and the maximization of public interest, the Chinese government should enhance its consciousness of regulating public utilities, improve the legal system to regulate public utilities, perfect the regulatory system for public utilities, and establish a system of liability to compensate for failures in regulation.
Based on research on a number of judicial decisions regarding concession and Public–Private Partnership (PPP) agreements, this paper demonstrates the problems and dilemmas of China’s current PPP dispute resolution mechanism and clarifies three fundamental issues: concession≠PPP; concession agreement≠administrative agreement; and disputes related to administrative agreements≠administrative disputes. On the grounds of these conclusions, the paper argues that the logical chain of China’s existing PPP and concession dispute resolution mechanism is untenable. The logic of the current mechanism starts from the definition of an administrative agreement; it then classifies concession agreement as administrative agreement; and finally subjects the disputes over concession agreements to administrative litigation. Yet, this starting point is problematic because the definition of administrative agreement and the distinction between public and private law attributes are difficult to determine precisely, as they lack the necessary theoretical clarity and uniqueness. Overall, the current legal situation of PPP in China is far from being satisfactory because a statutory law on PPP is absent, the existing laws and regulations on administrative agreements are primitive, and the judicial practice has not yet established unified and clear criteria. Against this backdrop, this paper proposes a possible way out. First, we should critically reflect on the current administrative agreement and PPP agreement theory. Then, we should apply the method of legal fact research, adopt doctrinal tools of the legal relationship theory and contract construction theory, and eventually establish a multiple dispute resolution mechanism to resolve disputes effectively.
Punitive damages have several functions that are worthy of serious research. For instance, punitive damages could help to compensate victims for moral damages suffered and offer more sufficient ex-ante compensation in cases of wrongful death or bodily injury, thus compensating for the losses suffered by victims more completely; they could punish private wrongs more effectively and provide a means of personal revenge within the law, incidentally deterring and preventing future wrongs; they could be used to correct abuses of power or status by the rich, large corporations, or the government; and they could be used to complement criminal law, etc. In order to fully realize the advantages of this institution in the Chinese society, we should expand its application in China’s tort law and carefully design the scope of its application, including the subjects to which it would be applicable and the amounts that would be allowable. In the short term, the application of punitive damages could be expanded through specific individual legislation, increase of the amounts of compensation for mental damages in individual cases or local legislation. In the long term, a general clause on punitive damages should be established in tort law in China’s future Civil Code, stipulating that “punitive damages can be applied to those who have performed tortious acts that deserve severe moral condemnation, due to the actor’s malicious intent or indifference or disregard for others’ rights.”