A lot is happening these days in and with China and around the world. Obviously.
Much of our law firm’s legal work has lately been focused on helping clients deal with a China that is internally fracturing and slowly but surely decoupling from the rest of the world. Today I just saw that China’s exports to the United States are down a whopping 24 percent the first five months of 2023. Our international lawyers have been consumed with helping companies (and NGOs and even countries) figure out how best to deal with a more political China, with higher China costs, with product shortages, and with factories closing — temporarily and permanently because of China’s reeling economy. Our newest most common call is from clients wanting to move their manufacturing to Mexico/Thailand/Vietnam/India “as quickly as possible,” which usually is not quickly at all. We are setting up way more companies in Mexico these days in Mexico than in China. But we have never in our history had so many projects that involve extricating companies from their China joint ventures or from China entirely or involve helping companies try to get product (or a refund of their payment) from already-paid Chinese factories that now lack sufficient funds to make anything.
Our social media pages reflect all of this, oftentimes with a stronger and more cutting edge perspective than on this blog, where we are at constant risk of the great firewall and where our focus is more on the practical aspects of dealing with China than with politics. On our social media, you will see a more controversy and more individualism as between our various lawyer-writers. There we can let loose and fully express ourselves. And we do.
Without a doubt, the two biggest issues most companies that do business in or with China are facing these days is whether to stay or go and/or whether to continue having their products manufactured in China or to diversify their production elsewhere. Many of our clients are “splitting the difference” by setting up and/or growing their businesses in China, but doing it more than ever with trusted locals instead of expats. China to a certain extent has a de facto ban on the entrance of “new” foreigners, so for the immediate future, foreign companies have no choice in this. Our law firm has done hardly any China company formations in years, but the number of deals where our client licenses its technology or brand name to China or contracts to have its products or services sold in China via an in-country Chinese distributor have more than doubled, as have the number of times we are called in to help an American/European company looking to buy another American/European company with a China subsidiary. Many of our clients are moving their manufacturing out of China, but most of those same clients have kept at least some of their manufacturing there.
The big issue remains diversification. China’s factories going dark during the peak of the coronavirus convinced foreign companies that manufacturing exclusively in China is too risky. This belief has only intensified since Russia started its war against Ukraine and started increasing its aggressiveness against Taiwan and various neighboring countries.
In an effort to remain visible to our many readers in China, we are careful about what we write here on the blog. There are words we avoid using and topics we avoid discussing because we want our reach to include China and if China does not like something, its government has this “magical” ability to make it go away. And there is a lot China does not like these days. Facebook and Linkedin and Twitter give us a greater ability to speak freely. The below is a quick update and listing of what we are doing these days outside of this blog.
HB Blog/Canna Law Blog. In addition to this blog, we have two other blogs that frequently cover international law issues as well — and sometimes even China issues. These are our HB Blog, which has become somewhat of a catch-all for international and other blog posts that are less relevant to our China Law Blog readers, and the Canna Law Blog, which focuses on cannabis law, hemp law, CBD law, and more recently psychedelics law. Though the Canna Law Blog for the most part focuses on domestic U.S. law issues, it frequently posts on international (hemp, cbd, cannabis, and psychedelics) issues as well, and those international posts often garner the most readers. And here’s a little confession: the Canna Law Blog consistently gets more readers each month than this blog. Just to give you an indication of how important that blog is, I attended the leading legal blogging conference a few years ago and two of the speakers highlighted that blog as THE best example of a blog that has become incredibly well-known in addition to the law firm that writes it. That blog has won just about every prestigious blog award possible and I would guess its readership surpasses that of just about every other legal blog out there. I have no way of proving it, but until someone proves me wrong I will persist in believing that our international cannabis lawyers have been involved in more international cannabis transactions than any other law firm and our international trade law team has handled more international trade and customs matters involving cannabis than any other. Our Canna Law Blog Facebook page has nearly 165,000 followers!
Harris Bricken YouTube. Our Harris Bricken YouTube Channel is used mostly to provide people with free and easy access to our various webinars. If you want to watch an amazing Ted Talk, go here to join the more than 125,000 who have already watched Hilary Bricken (who Chambers describes as being “close to a legal legend in this space as we have. She’s very strong and so smart, one of the best.”) give a Ted Talk on “Big Marijuana.” I promise you will not be disappointed. If you want to learn more about dealing with your international law matters, check out our International Law Webinar page where we’ve saved most of our webinars for your free viewing.
LinkedIn. We have a thriving China Law Blog Group on LinkedIn that serves as a spam-free forum for China information, networking, and discussion. This group is always growing and totals more than 13,000 members, and we are one of the few China groups on Linkedin that is growing, not shrinking.
The members of our China Law Blog LinkedIn group are fairly evenly split between those who live and work and do business in China and those who do business with China from the United States, Australia, Canada, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and other countries in Asia. Some are international lawyers and some are China lawyers, but most are businesspeople and some are academics (students or professors). We have senior level personnel (attorneys and executives) from large, medium, and small companies and tons of mid-level and junior personnel as well.
What truly separates us from most (all?) of the other LinkedIn China groups is that we remove anything that smacks of spam or is not relevant for those doing business with or in China. Our hewing to such a tight line on what we permit means we do not get a large volume of postings, but this also means we do not waste people’s time on drivel or business pitches. If you want to learn more about doing business in China or with China, if you want to discuss China law or business, or if you want to network with others doing China law or business, I urge you to join our China Law Blog Group on LinkedIn.
My personal LinkedIn page has nearly 13,000 followers and that has led me to post more often there on all things China. I welcome new followers and new connections, though I warn you that I tend to be slow in responding to connection requests. I promise not to overwhelm you with posts: I post roughly 1-2 times a week.
Ngosong Fonkem, Robert Kossick, and Adams Lee are also experts on international trade-related issues. Ngosong focuses on trade compliance. He regularly presents in the U.S. and abroad on trade-related topics, sharing news of his speaking events on LinkedIn. Robert uses LinkedIn to discuss compliance and enforcement issues, as well as IPR. Adams mainly discusses China business on LinkedIn.
Shannon Brandao is the founder of China Boss newsfeed on LinkedIn, with over 20,000 followers. She is internationally regarded as a China expert, particularly on China trade and political risks. She uses LinkedIn to discuss her research on COVID-19 recovery, China-related business and geopolitical trends, as well as new ways of understanding China.
Fred Rocafort is prolific on Linkedin, where he usually posts on international IP and Latin American legal matters.
Fred Rocafort (who heads up our firm’s international practice group and is fluent in English, Spanish, and Mandarin) is a prolific Linkedin poster, mostly on international IP and Latin American legal and business issues. Go here for that.
Facebook. Our China Law Blog Facebook page is thriving as well, with nearly 25,000 followers (this is its number of “likes”). We use Facebook to post interesting, important and entertaining articles about China. Posts there get a lot of comments and discussion, often heated. We tend to be very open and opinionated and free-wheeling there. With so much going on with China and Hong Kong these days, our Facebook page has become a key source. I urge you to go there and “like” us so you can benefit from what we are doing there.
Twitter. I am also now posting a fair amount on Twitter at @danharris. I left Twitter for many years but I am now happy to be back as I enjoy the sheer immediacy of it. I most definitely do not hold back there but I also post on non-China things from time to time. I have more than 17,0000 followers there and that number keeps rising despite Twitter’s own travails. I am hoping to have 20,000 by the end of this year so please everyone go there and follow me!
I also urge you to check out and follow Fred Rocafort from my firm as well, (@RocafortFred). Until recently, Fred spent much of his life in Hong Kong and in Mainland China and his tweets (oftentimes in both English and Spanish) do a great job of bridging the various gaps between HK, the PRC and the West. In addition to posting on China and Hong Kong, Fred also often posts about Latin America. Jonathan Bench (@jonathan_bench), who spent around five years living in China, is also a frequent poster on Twitter about all things China, all things international business, and all things Web3, and I urge you to follow him too. We also have a China Law Blog feed, @chinalawblog and it would be great if you were to follow that too.
As some of you have noticed (and written us about), we have been “streamlining” our blog. This mostly consists of us combining posts into what we have taken to calling “super-posts,” in an effort to make the information we provide even more accessible and helpful.
And please join us on social media so we can continue engaging with you online in discussions about China and the world.