In Episode #9, we discussed the latest developments in Hong Kong with Erik Mitbrodt, a Canadian attorney, former resident of the city, and an alumnus of The Chinese University of Hong Kong. We cover:

This podcast audio has been transcribed by an automatic transciber.

Fred Rocafort 0:08
Global law and global business go hand in hand, but never seem to keep pace with each other, developing and developed nations wax and wane their importance in the global stage. While consumption and interconnectedness both increase, laws and regulations change incessantly, requiring businesses to stay nimble. How do we make sense of it all? Welcome to global lawn business, hosted by Harris Bricken International Business attorneys. I’m Fred Rocafort

Jonathan Bench 0:34
and I’m Jonathan Bench. Every Thursday, we take a bite sized look at legal and economic developments and locales around the world as we try to decipher global trends in law in business with the help of our international guests. We cover continents, countries, regimes, governance, finance, legal developments, and whatever is trending on Twitter. We cover the important the seemingly unimportant, the relatively simple and the complex.

Fred Rocafort 0:58
We hope you enjoyed today’s podcasts. Please connect with us via email and social media to comment and suggest future topics and guests.

Welcome everyone, to another global law and business podcast. Today we will be doing something a little bit different. Given recent events in Hong Kong, we wanted to discuss what is happening in the city. As most of you will know, China’s National People’s Congress approved a decision recently that would enact a national security law for Hong Kong. This comes after a turbulent year in Hong Kong, during which protesters and police have clashed regularly adding a twist to the story. Earlier this week, the US Secretary of State certified that that Hong Kong does not enjoy a high degree of autonomy paving the way for measures that could take away some of Hong Kong special treatment under US law. Jonathan and I have both lived in Hong Kong. And as a result, the topic has special resonance to us. For that reason, more than a formal interview, we wanted to have a conversation about Hong Kong. To help us explore just what is happening in Hong Kong and what the future holds for the city. We have invited Eric Mitbrodt, Canadian attorney and former resident of Hong Kong. Eric was my classmate at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and is a great friend of mine. Before we get started, we’d like to acknowledge that no Hong Kongers, or Chinese, for that matter, are participating in this conversation. That is partly for security reasons, as not many people who live in Hong Kong are eager to express their views openly about the subject. This also in part so that we can present an international lawyers perspective on what’s happening there. with that alternative, Eric, please, if you if you could give us a brief introduction about who you are and what you do, and tell us about your particular connection to Hong Kong.

Eric Mitbrodt 3:12
So, I guess my starting point is that I don’t have a family connection to Hong Kong. I’m kind of a person who adopted Hong Kong. I suppose the first time I went there was just basically as a tourist for a day. And then somehow a few years later, I decided to go to law school in Hong Kong. Part of that decision was based on my options here in Canada, some of the options would be to in Canada or to go to a beautiful city like Saskatoon or Windsor. So, so Hong Kong had a bit more appeal from that aspect So that’s, that’s kind of my beginning of the connection to Hong Kong. I first went there, I guess around 2010 and then began Law School in 2011. And so I was there for about three years. So I actually did the Juris Doctor program in Hong Kong. So that is the program that is for people who want to become lawyers in Hong Kong. I actually didn’t go through with PCLL, which is the legal practice training program, which typically lasts about two years for solicitors or a year for barristers. So I did the degree but not the practical portion. required to become a Hong Kong lawyer and said I came back here to British Columbia, where I did my articles here in my hometown And then after that I worked here in Victoria and then in Vancouver for about three years or so.

Fred Rocafort 5:09
Well, Eric, before we, before we go any further, I think it might be useful to two quick things. And perhaps Jonathan has has more questions. But I, if you could just follow up briefly, as you brought up the difference between barristers and solicitors. I think for some of our of our listeners, it would be good if you could explain that distinction and also, perhaps clarify what I’m what articling is all about as that’s not a term that we really use here in the States.

Eric Mitbrodt 5:41
Generally, in the Common Wealth countries, they they have something called articles or practical training as an opponent, become a lawyer. So here in British Columbia, for example, typically after you finish law school, you Have to actually be hired by a law firm and work for them for about the limits 11 months, plus a six month course. And once you’ve successfully completed that, including the bar exam, then you get to become a member bar over in Britain and Hong Kong and quite a few other Commonwealth countries. They have a fairly strict two by the tune what we call barristers and solicitors. I guess the easy way to explain it is the barristers are the litigators are the people who go into court and in some jurisdictions, they still wear the wig and very traditional attire. And the solicitors are the lawyers that have direct contact with the clients and they typically instruct for the barristers, and it was quite a serious division and there still is in England and Hong Kong. So there’s certainly Things that solicitors are allowed to do. While barristers have exclusive rights. For example, in Hong Kong, the barristers are the only lawyers who can appear in the higher courts or solicitors cannot. Whereas in the United States, any lawyer can appear in court, and more or less is allowed to, you know, work in any area, whether it be in the office or in the courtroom. Now, in Canada, we kind of have this hybrid. We’re still more British than the Americans, but our lawyers have a more merged profession.

Fred Rocafort 7:37
Thank you for that. Turning back to Hong Kong. I’d like to I’d like to ask Jonathan to tell us about his own connections with Hong Kong.

Jonathan Bench 7:46
I spent two years in Hong Kong in the early 2000s. And I was there as a volunteer for my church. So I was pretty much fresh out of high school had one semester of college done. I had had 12 weeks of very intensive care. Anthony’s language training before I went to Hong Kong, and, and I was from small town, Wisconsin for a little town called platteville, which is 10,000 people. I had been to Chicago once or twice, I’d never been to New York. And I really didn’t know what what a big Metropolis was like. And so for me, my real first impression flying into Hong Kong, was seeing the, you know, coming into the tower or coming in and seeing all of the towers. It was like, it was like something out of a Lego Land, right, where you’re flying in and see these mountains. And then these just towers everywhere, huge towers. And I thought, wow, this is a this is a real place where businesses is conducted, right? That must be why there’s so many tall buildings. And I didn’t know until I arrived, of course, that those are all housing complexes. And so seeing them 40-50 plus stories high. That was a real eye opener for me. So I spent, I spent two years there. You know, every day basically out on the streets talking to people working on, you know, mostly in Cantonese as well. And so my my viewpoint i think is on Hong Kong is influenced quite a bit by my interaction with what I would call everyday people on the streets of Hong Kong and less so with, you know the business and legal community there. What about you, Fred, can you fill us in a little bit on your your Hong Kong introduction.

Fred Rocafort 9:27
I have lived in Hong Kong for a total of eight years more or less spread out over three different time periods. The first time was from 2005 to 2007. I was just coming off a tour as a consular officer in Guangzhou I had left the the US government and was eager to experience life in Hong Kong after having gone there many many times while I was posted in Guangzhou The second time was when I went to Hong Kong to study a Master’s at the at the Chinese University, which is where where I met Eric. And the third time, which is the most recent, most recent stint there, I worked in in the city for for about five years, and was there until until about a year and a half ago. So all in all, about about eight years living and working in the city. Cantonese is very limited. So I did not have that experience that Jonathan had of being able to, to freely communicate with Hong Kongers in their native language. However, my my, my Mandarin was good enough that it allowed me at least some communication with with folks who perhaps would have been out of reach if you If English was the only means of communication available. turning a little bit to what’s what’s happening now, We, in the introduction, we talked about this national security law. That is that is heading Hong Kong’s way. There’s plenty. There are plenty of articles out there for people who really want to get into the weeds of what the law will mean, in terms of its language and possible impacts. But I’d love to hear Eric’s impressions on what he feels will, will happen or what what could happen in the aftermath of of this law’s enactment?

Eric Mitbrodt 11:44
Yeah, um, I always think of Hong Kong is, I don’t know who was quoted as but it’s a city living on borrowed time, you know, from the very beginning, you know, 1997 we knew that, that there was 50 years left I think the surprises were how fast things have changed and moved to what the worst case situation 47 may have been when I was there. Most of the lawyers and professionals I spoke to thought that perhaps Hong Kong by 2047 would get another extension or something like that, that perhaps will be another 50 years after 2047 because you know why kill the to goose that lays the golden eggs as they they often said, so yeah, it’s a big surprise. I of course, everybody will know that they they tried to pass the security legislation back in 2003 and shutdown riots, but which stands out as interesting is the new leadership in Beijing. They feel so threatened, I suppose or that Hong Kong is such a risk that they feel the need to basically amend the Constitution of Hong Kong in order to fit this in. And it’s such a drastic measure that is sure to get, you know, in political struggle. I mean, I guess what stands out to me about it is that they are that concerned that they’re resorting to extreme measures, which five years ago, they never would have considered doing. When I was in Hong Kong. My nickname for the city was the libertarian Disneyland. It felt like one of the freest places in the world. And it was this place that kind of, uh, I guess you could call it some kind of a libertarian experiment where, where you’ll you’ll find these tropical islands off of the coast of China, remove taxes, remove most regulations and invite almost anyone who wanted to move live there and do business and and have a hands off approach, and that basically worked for a long time. So the, the implementation of the security law kind of ends that whole thing, because I think a lot of, you know, expatriates, foreigners who will be a lot more nervous to go work and live in Hong Kong knowing that the government, Mainland China will have the ability to actually rescue them or move them to mainland China, or sanctions, if they step out of line, you could end up in jail once this law has been put into place. And I think the harm while it’s self apparent the harm right,

Jonathan Bench 14:45
I think I think you are making great sense. You know, as I’m, I’m thinking about projecting myself into Hong Konger’s seats, you know, being under British rule being, you know, having having those freedoms as we would call trying to picture if I were planted now as a Hong Kong native, and feeling like I had a 50 year lease on life, knowing that things might get a little different, but then I had the 50 year guarantee, I would be extremely upset. But my sense of self preservation might kick in, as I’m trying to weigh in the balance. How much of my own autonomy Am I willing to give up in exchange for this, this rule that I can’t escape? It’s, I guess it with everything political, there’s no easy answer, right. There’s no easy way to think about it. And certainly from a, you know, part of me from as a father of five kids, if I’m, you know, I want my kids to have the opportunity to make their own choices. But if I’m China as the father of Hong Kong, and my primary role, my primary concern is stability. That is, you know, it’s seems to me that that the mainland government under Xi has really decided that that pacification is is not the right way to do it that the strong arm control, you know, if we’re going after Tibet, we’re going after Xinyang going after Hong Kong to show that you have to toe the party line or else. And so I think that that acceleration by 25-27 years is is really quite a shock to everyone is as we’re sitting back and I’m sure you know, a lot of Hong Kong citizens, the ones that didn’t get out before 97 because of course, they knew this was coming right, the ones that could get out before 97, went to you know, went to Australia, went to New Zealand, went to the UK, went to Canada went to the US. And so we’re largely left with the group that didn’t have the economic or or business or political wherewithal to to exit when they saw this coming because there was a lot of nervousness in 96 you know, leading up to the 97 turnover and a lot of You know, a lot of companies didn’t know what to do. For instance, I know the I think it’s the HSBC Bank. Is that the right one? The the one with the fancy twisting building with the with the lights on they’re all lit up downtown. One of the bank buildings downtown was built was built in purposely like a, like a tinkertoy set so that it could be taken apart and relocated if it needed. It needed to be and we’re talking about 120 story building, right. And so everybody knew leading up to 97 that there was a huge question mark as to how the CCP was going to deal with Hong Kong. And I think those of us who would be considered China hawks or China followers weren’t necessarily surprised. Of course, we’re disappointed at how things have turned so quickly. As the 2047 deadlines apparently been moved up to 2019 2020 What do you guys think?

Eric Mitbrodt 18:00
Yeah, that’s what it feels like to me. I like to turn it around and try to think as if I was the Communist Party of China. Of course, their goal is to stay in power. And if we look at history going back over thousands of years, you know, China has periodically fallen apart as split into warring, warring factions. So, there must be something about Hong Kong, that we’re probably a bit blind to being from the west. Because basically, we have free speech, freedom of expression, rule of law are things that we just believe to be God given rights, so to speak. there there’s something about Hong Kong that has really scared the leadership and push them to take extreme measures, because obviously they thought about this. A lot. For whatever reason, they’ve come to the conclusion that they have to the nuclear option is probably but take extreme measures. And of course, this is going to cause a lot of damage reputationally in terms of business, and so on. I might be getting my my stats a little bit wrong, but I think I remember around the time that the handover, Hong Kong made up something like 10% of all of China’s GDP, and now it’s something like 1% or 2%. So the goose’s golden eggs are, there’s many more golden eggs with the eggs comparatively being laid by Hong Kong are much less valuable since there’s so many more of these golden eggs from their other big large financial centers.

Fred Rocafort 20:00
One thing that I’d like to follow up on and that you both both Eric and Jonathan have have brought up is keeping in mind the the China aspect of the equation I think that for for some people it’s easy to miss that part of it right I mean, if you’ve if you’ve spent meaningful time in Hong Kong it’s natural to to focus on on things from from that perspective and to perhaps wonder how is what is happening in Hong Kong in any way impacting China you know, why would they take such dramatic steps and I think, you know, the two of you have have alluded to this, right. I mean, if I also lived in Shenzhen for for a couple of years across the border, and you’re from some places in Shenzhen from some apartments in Shenzhen, you can you can literally see Hong Kong, you can you can you can look into you know not, not that Not the city center, but certainly into some other rural area. So it’s important not to underestimate just how much exposure people in the mainland and especially in South China, and especially in a city like Shenzhen, which is a very important city. And the same thing with Guangzhou which is a city that’s not that far away, where people share a common language with Hong Kong. The point is, there is a lot of exposure to what happens in Hong Kong. And I’ve always thought about that about what example is being set by the people in Hong Kong, and how the the authorities up in Beijing will want to limit the negative impact that developments in Hong Kong can have on their own population on on the mainland, side of the border. Turning perhaps turning towards The personal dimensions of this one thing. I mean, we could of course talk about what is it that we, that we like about Hong Kong? And I’m sure that there’s plenty that we could talk about, but perhaps to frame this a little bit more narrowly. Let me let me ask both of you this question. If you could never go back to Hong Kong, what would be the one or perhaps two things that that you would miss the most?

Eric Mitbrodt 22:31
Yeah, that’s a that’s a pretty tough question. Because there were, there are so many things that I really liked about Hong Kong. And I could say it from a personal perspective. It’s one of the few places I’ve lived, where the longer I was there, the more I liked it. It’s kind of like peeling an onion, there’s there’s layer upon layer, on layer. And even after two or three years, they’re still discovering new places. New Use things to do areas. So, so that was an interesting part about it. It’s probably the most international city I’ve ever lived. Being that, you know, you could be sitting in a bar and meet me to Russians at one table, you know, people from from England and another people from Indonesia or Philippines or India. So, it has this eclectic mix of all these people doing interesting things from around the planet. And somehow everybody, at least in my experience, seem to get along and interact with one another. I think Fred can attest that, you know, when when we would go out on on the town, we’d often end up in these conversations with this fascinating people from from just random places in the world. And so I think I would say that probably The thing I would miss is just that, that, that international mixing of cultures and the type of people that Hong Kong attracts, because everybody who’s there is doing something interesting. There’s usually some interesting business or project or recent that they’re there. I mean, you even see Sub Saharan Africans flying in who get weaker, two week long visas, and they come in and they buy up a bunch of supplies and then bring them back to to whatever country they may be from, and sell those wares there. yeah, so that makes it very interesting. I can also add, I mean, just the actual nature, like the physical layout of the city is is really great. I think something like half of the territory has been preserved as parks So there they are basically these wild parks and in those parks there, hundreds of kilometers of hiking trails that are extremely scenic. They could be a tourist attraction on their own. And you can spend days and weeks hiking them and you always end up somewhere very interesting. So you could start your hike in, you know, 5100 story skyscrapers Five minutes later, you’re in a, a jungle type environment. You can walk up some mountains in the forest, wild animals, snakes, all that stuff, and then you end up in a fishing village on the beach loves.

Fred Rocafort 25:38
What about you, Jonathan, what would you miss the most?

Jonathan Bench 25:41
I think Eric saying the the Metropolitan mix of so many international people together was so unique to Hong Kong. And that certainly be something I mean, I’m a people person. So certainly my friends that I have in Hong Kong and these were friends from Indonesia, from Thailand from Hong Kong, of course. from Mainland China, just where you could find people from everywhere I met a good friend who is an Indian woman of Indian descent, who was from South Africa and moved to Hong Kong and married a Hong Kong guy. And so seeing that seeing the mix, and it seemed It was such a free mix between all the races there, it was such an interesting and refreshing thing to see. All of the, you know, seemingly everyone mixing without any any kind of animosity, no, there was always fighting seemed like between one group or another, and sometimes it was racially based, but for the most part, you see, you see people getting along in such a small space, which is really fun. I think I want some of my favorite memories are of the Hong Kong flower blooming in I think February, which was interesting to me coming from the Midwest where February is a very dead month and so it was fun to be that far south, and to see that much alive in Hong Kong and that made me understand why the flower was chosen, why was featured on all the currency. And so for me, that’s a, that’s a very great memory, I still have some of my currency from Hong Kong and that, you know, the bright pink and white. Those images call up quite a bit of good memories for me. And so I associate I will always associate those with Hong Kong and that’d be very sad to not see that I assume it would be akin to those who love seeing the Japanese cherry blossoms bloom as well.

Fred Rocafort 27:29
You guys have obviously mentioned many, many of the things that I also miss. I would like to mention once again, the natural resources that that Hong Kong has, when I find myself missing a place. Often what I think about is hiking trails. as Eric put it, right you’d you’d you’d start off somewhere and then they end up in a place that is totally different, fascinating place. And there were so Many of them, you could repeat, but there was really no need for it. If you wanted to, you could you could explore a new trail every every weekend. Related to that I one of our mutual friends talk to me often about what he would call urban hiking and in Hong Kong was a great place for that you could set off from your apartment and choose a direction and potentially walk for hours on end. Seeing new neighborhoods discovering things that you hadn’t noticed and something that I think cannot be stressed enough. You do this in a framework of safety. Hong Kong has very, very low crime, low crime rates and in a very efficient framework. No matter where you ended up, it would be easy to find a way to get back whether by taking the metro the MTR or a bus I also miss the the daily life you know that the regular the little things that I would do on a daily basis, you know, go downstairs to the Japan home center to buy, you know, some Tupperware or go to to the 711. Around the corner, there was something about how easy it was to to fit in. I don’t mean integrate, perhaps. But yeah, I was able, during the eight years that I lived in Hong Kong, I never really felt as if as if I didn’t belong. I never really felt the oppression of living in a foreign land in the way that I felt pretty regularly in mainland China. One more thing that I’d like to add in this regard, which is somewhat connected to Hong Kong and some of the same issues are present. I also miss Macao. It’s not just Hong Kong, I also miss the other SAR. Obviously things are a little different in some ways, but to me, regular visits to to Macao were a regular part of my life in Hong Kong, it was one of my favorite experiences there to be able to hop on the ferry, and in an hour be somewhere that was interesting as well, but at the same time, pretty different from Hong Kong in significant ways. So, that that is definitely one of the things that I’ve added that I will that I will miss. I’d like to just very briefly ask the opposite question, I guess, before we wrap up, which is, you know, Eric, Jonathan, what were some of the things that you didn’t like about Hong Kong? Some of the things that you will not miss?

Eric Mitbrodt 30:41
Well, um, I guess the saddest part about Hong Kong is you always knew that it was on borrowed time, and that it wasn’t going to last. I mean, we were always hoping that, you know, in 2047, the mainland government would have been enlightened and, and maybe borrowed a lot of the the ideas of Hong Kong and maybe China would have become more like Hong Kong that’s what we are all secretly hoping that they would you know, the rest of China would be more like Hong Kong rather than the opposite. And so I think that feeling of like impending doom that things are getting worse even when I was there like there was this feeling of kind of being the last holdout or being surrounded it is something that that was quite dark. And then the other thing just practically speaking, of course is the cost of living there. And you know, I’m I’m from BC Vancouver and the cost of living here is very high also but but even there, it’s even worse. The size the apartments are tiny. Everything is quite expensive and honestly, the wages For most people compared to the cost of living, are very low. So, especially around young people that they, I think there’s a general feeling that people can’t get ahead. A lot of people have to live with their parents and tiny apartments until they get quite old. And the competition for jobs and resources is extreme, because they had such open borders. A lot of foreigners or people from Mainland China could easily out compete the locals for jobs because there’s always someone in the world who’s who’s willing to work for less and do more. So I think a lot of the young people in Hong Kong, there’s a certain feeling for some young people that maybe they had nothing to lose and the odds and everything was stacked against them. And so this is just my own personal theory, but I think that actually played a lot into the the unrest and unhappiness is just a general feeling of things are getting worse and that there’s a certain lack of opportunity for young people in Hong Kong. So those are probably the two most negative things that I would that I wouldn’t miss about Hong Kong.

Fred Rocafort 33:19
What about you, Jonathan.

Jonathan Bench 33:21
For me the smells of Hong Kong were always the hardest thing to stomach literally right? There were so many smells and walking along. I have, very vivid memories of walking along a random sewer grate in Hong Kong, and this putrid smell wafting out and I’ve since learned that this is not only Hong Kong, this is a big city thing. Right? So the same thing in New York City is just particularly foul and wondering what is what could what mixture could have possibly made that smell and not wanting to think about that anymore. I have another really fun Memory of, of walking in Sai Wan, which is West Point in Hong Kong. And there’s this street of shops, that’s all dried fish, dried fish and dried other things and things for Chinese medicine. And we used to joke that. Yeah, I mean, all kinds of random body parts hanging there of animals. But the the salted fish was the most pungent smell. And I almost hold my breath, as I would walk past this street that was full of shops that were all selling dried fish. So I guess sense of smell is my strongest of my senses. And so so that’s particularly poignant. I think that the other thing that Eric touched on is, is the is that struggle, right? I mean, there’s the struggle of being in a big city, which I think is difficult Anyway, you know, where, where you have a big city where a lot of people can compete, where the working hours are long the school hours are long. And in maybe that’s just a typical, you know, typical to What I would call the Asian life. Right? You see that in South Korea, you see that in competitive parts of China. You see that in India? Certainly where, where the childhood is I knew it right as I knew it as a kid growing up in the Midwest of the US, where we certainly worked hard, but I was not expected to, to go to what they call them boo shavon, which is the Saturday tutor classes, right to go to those and I would see these kids, and I would feel bad for them because I thought they’re not getting a childhood. Right, if their childhood is significantly different than mine. And maybe that’s just my my elitist Western viewpoint on how childhood should be and what you know what a growing up experience should look like. But that was hard to see. And maybe, you know, by having access to China, you know, more space in China’s very densely populated as it is. And so I’m not sure that it will improve even if Hong kongers were forced to integrate entirely and had opportunities to go to mainland China. and relocate and have a different experience. Right? I mean, the the economic level between Mainland China and Hong Kong i think is still significantly different. And so I don’t expect that that struggle would change. But that was very hard thing for me to see. And, and maybe I’m just being a proudful Westerner and in pointing that out, how about you, Fred, what Won’t you miss about Hong Kong?

Fred Rocafort 36:21
Well, at a superficial level, I certainly won’t miss the crowds. I was fortunate in in many ways when I was living there, especially during the most recent stint that I spent there. I used to commute against traffic, which was which was incredibly important, because the during the times when I actually had to commute into the city, that was definitely one of the least enjoyable aspects of life there and something that definitely would ground me down. So I won’t miss you know those times when it was inevitable to, to deal with the with the, the density, right the the very high density of population density that that Hong Kong has at a more you know at a more spiritual level, you know as as you guys have pointed out definitely there there was that sense of dread. You know, one at one moment, I find myself feeling quite, quite euphoric about life in Hong Kong and about having the the privilege of living in such a wonderful place and then very soon I find myself fretting over the fact that that could be could be threatened, right? I think one perfect encapsulation of that. That feeling was during the 2014 protests I lived very close to one of the the hotspots in Mong Kok and I walking through the the protest sides and then seeing all of the the people standing up for what they wanted for Hong Kong was very encouraging very emotive experience but at the same time when I would talk about the the issue or explore it a little bit further, I couldn’t elude that feeling that in the end that it was probably not going to end well for for the city. This has been a fascinating conversation. I’m sure we could we could go on for many more hours. But this is probably a good time to just start wrapping up. One thing that we like to do, Eric on the podcast is share with listeners some of what we’re we’re reading where we’re going We’re listening to I know that you’re an avid consumer of information and podcasts and news. So I’d be very curious to hear what you’re reading or listening to these days.

Eic Mitbrodt 39:15 

Yeah. I always like talking about this subject. Of course, as Fred knows, really well, I’m a huge consumer of audiobooks. I like having people read to me. And a lot of people actually don’t like, my fiance, for example, she’s not into it. For whatever reason, I love people reading to me, and often on these audiobooks, the actual author will read to, which I think is great. So yeah, my recent ones, it’s actually quite, it’s good timing, because they were all kind of China based. And I’m sure you know, this book Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap by Graham Allison I just got through that one. It was fascinating and it just seems so much more relevant. I think it was written just a couple years ago and some of the nightmare situations actually seem to be coming to fruition. And his analysis of it seems seems pretty correct. I I’m not sure what you both think of it. I’d like to actually hear what your thoughts on the book is, maybe you’re not quite as maybe you don’t like it quite as much, or you have some more critical points. And then the other point and I unfortunately listened to but it was still fascinating. It was a biography of, of Mao, The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. And that was actually quite a disturbing book. It’s really really long. And I’m sure it’s from a Western perspective in it. I’m sure it’s banned in in China and probably even mentioning this book will, will get me in trouble. It’s extremely negative about him and really paints him to be one of the most evil people ever to live. But again, it’s a it was a fascinating, listen, in my case. And then just the third one that I thought was fascinating. This isn’t really as much of a china book, but still geopolitics. It was How to Hide an Empire, a History of Greater United States by Daniel Immerwahr. And that was really interesting because it was all about American colonialism and, and so on, you know, Puerto Rico, we’re friends from and, and their experience in the Philippines and, and kind of the, the thoughts and feelings and problems with Americans. Are the contradictions with Americans having an empire being being their origin? So those three I really thought were great and not for everybody, of course.

Fred Rocafort 41:52
What about you, Jonathan?

Jonathan Bench 41:54
So I’ve been reading listening to Body of Secrets Anatomy the Ultra Secret National Security Agency by James Bamford. And he is a journalist and very investigative journalist bent in the book, where he takes the NSA from its inception up through, I think 2011 or 2000, the attacks in September 11 2001. So it’s a long swath of the history of the NSA, and you get to see the inside view from the NSA perspective on significant events, you know, unfolding of Communist regime in Cuba, and how the US was eavesdropping on you know, allies and enemies all around the world. And so it’s not a it’s not written like historical fiction, it doesn’t move particularly quickly. But the you can tell that the facts are real because they’re, there’s so much great detail from, you know, from these operators who are in these, these ghost ships that were cruising around the world going at four or five or six knots an hour, as they’re scraping all of the lights tronic signals from from the coastlines. So interesting if you’re interested in the NSA and spy genre, and very much more of a journalistic bent than an entertainment bent. So my next book, I’ll have to go back to something more entertaining. But that’s where I am right now. So Fred, what about you?

Fred Rocafort 43:20
Well, I have a couple of Hong Kong related recommendations. There’s obviously a lot that’s being written about the subject. There’s a lot of great stuff out there. But just to just to highlight one article that I thought it was really, really good. It’s called the Infinite Heartbreak of loving Hong Kong by Wilfred Chan it was published on the nation on the 23rd of May. And, you know, right away the, the the title of the article, really really resonated. And I think it actually reflects some of what we’ve discussed here today, right? I mean, Hong Kong is a place that we all we all will love in one way or another, or at least, at least, have fond feelings towards towards the place. And and it’s been it’s been hard right? It’s even harder now to to deal with everything that’s going on right and see all these negative things or potentially negative things happen to to a place like that. The other recommendation of sorts that I would make is for people to go and actually read the decision that that the National People’s Congress approved that there’s good translations out there. And national security law Hong Kong is already a scary headline, but I think it is worth actually going into the language You know, we didn’t we didn’t really do that here today. But I encourage everyone to to take a look. It’s not very long. But you know, it’s one thing to talk generally about about these things. It’s quite another to see the the actual language. So that would be my my last recommendation. And on that note, I’d like to thank Eric for joining us. Really, really insightful and always a pleasure of course to to talk to an old friend. Thank you, Jonathan as well. We’ll be back next week with another podcast.

Jonathan Bench 45:32
We hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. We look forward to connecting with you want social media to continue to discuss developments in global law business, and tune in next week for another episode. We’ll see you then.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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About This Podcast

Every week, we take a bite-sized look at legal and economic developments in locales around the world as we try to decipher global trends in law and business with the help of our international guests. No topic is too big, too small, too simple, or too complicated. We plan to cover continents, countries, regimes, governance, finances, legal developments, and whatever is trending on Twitter.