China Business

Blogging On China Law And Business In Difficult Times


I have been feeling somewhat irrelevant lately.

Really big things are happening in China and I clearly see the incongruity (absurdity?) of my continuing to chug away on posts relating to joint ventures, intellectual property, and how the rule of law is rising in China. Trust me, I am not blind to what is going on in Tibet. But how should I react online?

I have been reading superlative coverage of the situation on many and that coverage reinforces my thinking that there is little place for a bunch of China lawyers in this debate, especially since we are in Beijing and Seattle.

I am an international lawyer, not an observer. I am a lawyer with a little l, meaning my focus is on how to get things done, not on how things should be done. This blog’s focus is international law and business. This blog has a very large Chinese readership (including a shocking number of Chinese lawyers and law students) and I do not want them to be cut off from this blog. I do not have any inside knowledge. I am not terribly well versed on either the history or the politics of the region. It would be be presumptuous for me even to try to compete with those who do so please view my silence as common sense not a lack of caring.

I urge everyone interested in China’s rule over Tibet (and who is not interested?) to read more about this.

Being a lawyer however, I cannot depart without a last word. Not sure why I never thought of this before but in reading so much excellent stuff on Tibet of late I had a quasi-revelation: what we read in the Chinese press is from the Chinese press. It is what the government wants us to believe; it is not necessarily what the government itself believes. Now I know this is obvious, but it does bear remembering in times like these.

UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that there is a somewhat similar post on Ogilvy China Digital Watch [link no longer exists], at least as to the strange feeling of blogging as though nothing has changed:

You’ll pardon me I hope if weltschmertz is preventing me from blogging about anything related to digital marketing. Watching things melt down on Wall Street and, more urgently from where I sit, tracking the fallout cloud from this whole fuster cluck up on the Roof of the World, I can’t help thinking I woke up this morning to witness the beginning of The Great Unraveling. Hopefully the Asian markets won’t react too badly to the Bear Stearns debacle, and (this I hope in vain!) opinion leaders won’t leap to their usual blithe condemnations of Beijing. Believe it or not, the situation’s not black and white.

31 responses to “Blogging On China Law And Business In Difficult Times”

  1. Dan,
    It seems to me that CLB has always had a narrow focus, which has enriched the substance of your posts. That is, instead of being overly broad and general, the posts on CLB are quite substantive. However, I understand your general frustration regarding the desire to comment on events occurring in China that might not have a direct relation to Chinese business law. It’s an odd position to be in. On the one hand, you see events that are deserving of comment (even if you aren’t an expert in the field) but, on the other hand, you’ve got real world concerns that could be damaged by making a flippant editorial. The events you reference are being sufficiently covered by the excellent websites you mentioned above. I think you’re doing everything a reasonable person can do while maintaining the integrity of CLB.

  2. The “Peking Duck” link is wrong. It should be .org not .com. The current one takes you to a restaurant site. Perhaps with all that is going on right now, some crispy skin duck and pancakes would be nice.

  3. Dan,
    you have my support for this blog. If you feel too confused, you best take a pause. What we see by now is still the improvement of law enforcement in China – the authority has taken considerable restraint. But when people are lighting government buildings and police stations (as happened in Xia*e), there is little a lawyer can do.
    Yours truly

  4. As you can see many China-focused blogs have been talking about “what was going on in the western part of China” for days, have they experienced any problems from the government? I don’t think so. I think the Chinese government expected wonton condemnation from the west and foreigners alike. If you want to say something I’d say go ahead and say it. The fact you are a lawyer doesn’t take away your say.

  5. Dan, I’ll echo Travis: succinctly stated and warranted, under the circumstances.
    I myself cover the decidedly trivial topic of Beijing speech and culture, so I’ve been a bit torn over the same issue. After reading this post, I’ve decided the show can go on and I’ll deal with the roof of the world in the same manner — pointing to some of the really good coverage out there.
    Side note: it appears that Net Nanny is getting more serious, btw, by successfully blocking even anonymoused click-throughs to some of the more controversial links above. Not sure how that works but have never seen it before.

  6. Hi, Dan,
    The Peking Duck link got me to a restaurant. 🙂
    I think the .com should be .org
    By the way, love your blog, read it everyday.

  7. Dan:
    Poor dear! Don’t feel sad that you provide us with little ‘l’ info. We need little ‘l’ info. Because you understand the exciting and relevant happenings better than most of the rest of us will subtley inform your posts. I’ll hear about the world and big ‘L’ from print sources.
    If you need a rest, take one, but try not to be gone long.
    L & P

  8. excellent post, I wish I would have read it before I wrote my rambling entry. I hope this will only be a minor flare up and the status quo will return, but on a day like yesterday, madness takes over.

  9. By staying disengaged in the apparent frenzy of reactions to the situation out West, you have done many a huge service and favor, and here is why:
    First and most importantly, you shine a bright light for the China law blogosphere, and you will continue that service for countless readers in China. As you stated, a huge number of readers are Chinese students and lawyers. For many, who do not and might not have the opportunity to study and understand America and how Americans view Chinese law/legal system, you are the single most important, authoritative, yet comprehensive and easily accessible source. For many students, you provide free training on legal writing, analysis, and clientele building in an authentic American fashion; for many Chinese lawyers, your posts and your blog are, I bet, very helpful for them in their practice, at least in taking a broad view on legal issues; and for many readers outside China, your service is immeasurable. And because of the importance and popularity of CLB, it is a tall tree, exposed to wild winds; it is a large target, vulnerable to the all-too-powerful blocking machinery. A blocked CLB, due to a few posts on a sensitive political event, will become more difficult for many who need it to access. Whether a few posts on THE issue we are all discussing will serve any tangible good is debatable; a blocked CLB surely won’t serve any good to many readers. So, by staying away, you have prevented collateral damage and unintended consequences.
    Your Chinese readers will thank you for it.
    Second, CLB will continue to be what it is best at — China Law. As you alluded to, we all have our limitations, and sometimes knowing those limitations turns out to be our strengths. After all, no single individual can easily change the fate of that region in China by writing comments. Not being able to write and post freely on that region does not diminish CLB’s value because, if CLB cannot be a beacon of light for … that region it can be still be the best darn blog out there on China law, impacting numerous people, young and senior, Chinese, non-Chinese, and those in-between. Simply put, be the best at what you can be best at, and choose your battles wisely–that is precisely what you did.
    Third, silence does not mean callousness in this instance. Your blog has been responsive to many events over the years, i.e. VT shooting, and your personality/value system bursts itself vividly onto the web pages. People will know, understand, and appreciate your position; at least loyal readers will.
    As a loyal reader of CLB, I have been thoroughly impressed by what you have done so far in your posts, and in between the lines of your posts. As a Chinese living in America very concerned about the events, I felt that it is time I stood up and reaffirm your sound judgment on blogging about the events in that region

  10. Kaiser’s comment that you quoted sums up the gutless nature of people in China to make money, no matter what is going on or who has to suffer. He is a panda licker to a T. How many times does he or any other “in China for business” person walk by an old apartment full of pensioners being kicked out and think to himself “sucks to be them…which 5 star restaurant shall I dine at tonight?”
    As for the Great Unraveling, this isn’t anything new, just ask grandpa and grandma. Reckless excess leads to an ugly reality. Bush and his henchmen, including Bernanke, are doing whatever it takes to plug the leaks until Hillary, Obama or McCain takes office, then all bets are off and they’ll take the blame.
    The IOC is doing whatever it can to persuade athletes from having even more reason to boycott, whether it is asthma or a shocking and unrealistic sense of humanity and morals.
    Sadly, man’s and the West’s institutions are as much the world’s sick man as is Beijing.

  11. Well Dan, you could write about the sticky PR and legal situation that US companies might be in for supporting the Olympics despite what is going on or what the fallout might be if any decide to pull their support.

  12. Kudo’s to all the kudo’s above.. All so well put.
    Now if I could only get back to my real work and not get sucked into reading all that is out there, I might be able to pay my bills…..ugh…
    am sure there others who feel that way too when events are so compelling and interesting.
    Keep up the great work, and take a break if you have to.

  13. I think most everything great that can be said has, so let me add (with the qualifier that I think you’ve taken the right position with your blog) on the one thing I didn’t quite concur with.
    You wrote that as a lawyer, with a small ‘l’, you are not an observer and shouldn’t dictate what “should” be the case. I think however that as a lawyer you are certainly an observer of law and it falls within your domain to comment, professionally, on whether a law is working or is being ignored or is applicable or not. When I think of images of Pakistani attorneys throwing rocks to denounce manipulation of the legal system in their country I even begin to think there may be a positive duty on lawyers to cry foul when they are alerted to legal shenanigans. This in itself, I think, gives you warrant to comment on the situation (not that you should, only that you would be entitled to, within this blog, if you wanted to).
    All that said, there are many business/law issues that tangentially relate to this situation (though perhaps a number of these come from my own lack of knowledge of the Chinese business/law environment). Among these are how this will affect investment in that area or whether it is likely to lead to additional laws that investors should be alert to. I also do not know what the economic situation is in that area, relating to who can set up businesses, whether foreign companies are allowed in or not, and why this is the case. More directly, what is the legal recourse for people caught up in that situation right now (native, migrant, or otherwise?)
    Keep up the great work!

  14. Below is a link to a summary overview of the marketing effort in 2007 for the Beijing Ol*m*ic-s including the “Beijing Civility Campaign”. It gives some idea of how the Chinese believe that China is viewed in the eyes of foreigners:
    I’ve always thought that it’s amazing how sometimes the Chinese completely misunderstand how foreigners view the Chinese. For example, during the 50th Anniversary of PRC many years ago, I was intrigued by the fact that the Chinese seemed to think that foreigners admired China because it developed the hydrogen bomb. This shows a terrible misunderstanding what aspects of China that foreigners consider “great”.
    Unfortunately, some foreigners feed some of these misperceptions.

  15. This guy looks like a clown…
    Georgey Porgey,
    Pudding and pie,
    Turned his back on the T….[people in the west] and let them die…
    And that goes for wet noodle Brussesl, beer sucking London and passed-out-drunk Oz as well.
    Perhaps the first real sign of the The End of Times is that all of mankind’s institutions built to promote and protect the preciousness of human life have simultaneously failed. The UN, the IOC, DC, Brussels, the US media as a whole, etc

  16. Really, shouldn’t this post be called, “Justifying keeping my blinders on”, or “Come on, you didn’t really expect me to take a strong opinion on this did you?”. I strongly disagree with Mr. Kuo. The situation is definitely black and white. Do you side with the oppressors or with the oppressed? History will work out who the collaborators were.
    Something smells a little Vichy to me.

  17. @NHYRC – News to me that the US media (or the media of any other country for that matter) was created to “promote and protect the preciousness of human life”
    Otherwise, I don’t think that the various doings of those in positions of prominence in China is a reason for not doing business there – it just means that people should try to keep their hands clean and be sure they know who it is they are dealing with.

  18. The oppressed and the oppressors?
    Try the rioters and the law enforcement.
    I think the people there have 3 options
    1) Fight till the last standing man of theirs or the last standing man of whoever they feel are oppressing them
    2) Move out to where they don’t feel being oppressed
    Or 3) Learn to live peacefully with other settlers, learn Mandarin, get in the program.
    Do I see the 1992 LA riots or what? It’s a race/class conflict more than anything else. The rioters are those who’s left behind, they looted shops of their own people as well.

  19. from china, you forgot option 1a: kill the ones who fight back, move the meek survivors onto reservations far from their homeland, encourage them to sell trinkets. warning, may take several generations and eventual adoption of affirmative action (but you can get some kick-ass casinos out of it–great substitute for medical insurance).

  20. @From China with love:
    Difference is that {the Western region] primarily remains, and has historically always been the home of the T people alone. Your tone is reminiscent of a European settler in Africa complaining about the whining ‘blecks’ and wondering why they don’t just knuckle down, learn English and stop making mischief.

  21. @anonymous,
    Actually, I heart the people [of that particular western region], _____detrmination is great… on paper.
    Fact is, [that western region] is strategically important to China, source of water, origin of Yellow and Yangtze and a lot more (India is not exactly a friendly country).. There is no way the rest of the 1.3 billion people will give their collective balls to someone else, especially after we see what is happening in that western region.
    Honestly, I was never aware that the people of that western region hate the Han and the Hui settlers, this is the first …… distubance I’ve witnessed (last time in 198_, there was no internet and I was too young to understand what was going on)
    I know it’s harsh to those western region people, but the reality is that they really only have the three options in my previous post.
    Tough luck for those western region people who want ind_____, but I rather have my 1.3 billion people living with the security they deserve.
    Btw, my opinions are probably different than most of the regulars here, hats off to Dan for fr___ speech

  22. @ I’m with that guy:
    Look at China’s track record with how its handled its other people. No res, no casinos, no state level sovereignty. Just dancing for the tourists and trinkets.
    The western media took on the role of institutional defenders of liberties 100 years ago when they were muck rakers, now they are just highly paid “personalities”.
    “it just means that people should try to keep their hands clean and be sure they know who it is they are dealing with.”
    That is the same kind of defense that US and British companies used when supplying the Nazis with guns before Kristalnacht and with computers, tanks and jet engine components while Poland and Czechoslovakia were being invaded.
    There are no clean hands.
    “Tough luck for those western region people who want ind_____, but I rather have my 1.3 billion people living with the security they deserve.”
    What security? Who protects them from plundering local bosses? Beijing? The Chinese court system? HAAAAHAHAHAHA. Naive

  23. A new video shot by an Aussie tourist
    That’s looting, not looking for food, isn’t it?
    That particular ethnic group sure lost a lot of sympathy from average Chinese people this time. I, for one, hope the government act decisively.
    Again, thanks for editing my previous post, I don’t know the cen— is that bad nowadays..

  24. @ Fron China, with love,
    They may have lost support among many if not most mainlanders, but I think you’ll find that many HK and certainly Taiwanese are expressing sympathy for the plight of those in the Western region.
    I’ll bet that even among a few mainlanders who are going along with Xinhua’s version of the course of events, there are a sneaking few who are jealous of how audaciously those out West are rejecting the CCP. Unlike Han Chinese who often profess their loyalty to party and state only to be slapped down anyway, those out west seem to be refusing to lick the boot that tramples them.

  25. I wholeheartedly endorse Dan’s sentiments.
    Incidentally, did Pfeffer really mean “wonton” condemnation from western governments? A pleasant image – presumably they too followed the link to the Peking Duck restaurant.

  26. Crime In China: BS Upon BS
    The Modern Lei Fang blog just did a post, entitled, Crime in China (Alternative Title: I call Bullshit!)” excoriating the Associated Press for “piling it on against China.” Lei Fang is angry at an AP article, “Foreigners Grapple With Crime in China,” w…

  27. @NHYRC – Supply weapons and technology useful to the government is exactly the kind of thing that falls into the ‘unclean hands’ bracket – but I don’t see anything wrong with manufacturing consumer products or being involved in non-military construction projects.
    PS – It’s news to me that Britain was supplying the Germans with tanks during the invasion of Poland, I think you’re going to have to come up with a source on that one.

  28. Gag! You’re better off avoiding the subject all together than posting this mamby-pamby item. Get over yourself and keep on doing what you do best.

  29. I like to have some tightly focused blogs. I don’t want everything blog to be overly broad in its. There are already too many of those. But it does you credit that you feel you need to make an indirect comment on it.

  30. … For the record I have struggled with the same sense of triviality expressed by Dan at China Law Blog. Covering the subject of “Beijing dialect & culture,” with sound, just doesn’t have quite the weight of life and death questions about self-determination. My way of dealing with this is to pause for a genuinely reflective moment of silence, acknowledge that fact, and then continue, appreciative of all the very thoughtful commentary put out by the China blogosphere and others…

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