A lot is happening these days in and with China and around the world. Obviously.
At the beginning of this year, much of our law firm’s legal work centered around helping clients deal with the US-China trade war. That feels like ages ago, as today our international lawyers have been consumed with helping companies (and NGOs and even countries) figure out how best to deal with a more aggressive China, with rapidly increasing shipping costs, with product shortages, and with factories closing — temporarily and permanently because of COVID. Our newest most common call is from clients wanting to move their manufacturing Mexico “as quickly as possible,” which usually is not at quickly at all.
The coronavirus is still making people sick and killing people and still disrupting/delaying company plans and actions. Our social media pages reflect all this, oftentimes with a much stronger and more controversial viewpoint than on this blog, where where we are at constant risk of the great firewall. On our social media, you will see a lot more controversy and a more individualism as between our various lawyer-writers. There we can let loose and fully express ourselves, and we do.
It is also on social media where we get the most heat. It is there that we are constantly accused of hating China AND being China apologists. Truth is that we both love and hate China — not so different how we feel about the rest of the world. We all have spent huge chunks of our lives in China and working to smooth relations between China and the rest of the world. It is from this where we have come to love China.
But we are above all else are lawyers trained to analyze things objectively and to advocate for our clients. And we have also been trained to give our clients the truth as best we can and then work with them in using that truth to plan and enact their next moves. This requires we not be emotional or loyal to any one side of anything before we have completed our research. This requires we sometimes defend China and at other times be harshly critical of it.
Things are tough with China right now as huge swaths of the world are mad at China for having suppressed news about the coronavirus (rather than suppressing the virus itself) and demanding real access to find out what did happen in Wuhan that so harmed the world. Way back in October, 2018, in Would the Last Company Manufacturing in China Please Turn Off the Lights, we started emphatically telling people how China had become riskier and why they should be looking at other countries to make their products. This angered many. We had been beating that drum on social media before that and we have been beating it ever since. See e.g., our June, 2019 piece, Has Sourcing Product From China Become TOO Risky?
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 diversify production elsewhere.
Increasing exclusions and harassment of foreigners is influencing these decisions and every day we get emails from foreigners who tell us they are leaving China for this reason. See “They see my blue eyes then jump back”– China sees a new wave of xenophobia. 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 still has a de facto ban on the entrance of foreigners, so for the immediate future, foreign companies have no choice in this. In the last year the number of WFOE formations our lawyers have done is down at least 50%. But the number of deals where our client licenses its technology or brand name to China have more than doubled. Many of our clients are moving their manufacturing out of China, but most of those same clients have retained at least some of their manufacturing in China.
The big issue remains diversification. China’s factories going dark during the peak of the coronavirus convinced foreign companies that manufacture exclusively in China that they must diversify. Recent material and product shortages are accelerating this desire to diversify.
But the coronavirus is slowly dissipating (sort of) and that will create new opportunities for companies looking to do business in China or grow their business in China. And on that, most of the international lawyers at my law firm remain optimistic. Once the world truly gets past the coronavirus, doing business with China should for the most part, return to a greater semblance of what it once was.
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 on this blog 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 this blog.
Global Law and Business Podcast. We have been remiss on here in touting our incredibly topical and incredibly interesting Global Law and Business Podcast, operated by Harris Bricken international lawyers, Jonathan Bench and Fred Rocafort. I have not missed an episode and they’ve all been great, with many incredible and I find myself constantly “mandating” clients listen to them. I thought of the podcast today because it just received yet another of many honors, having been chosen a Top Ten Business Law Podcast.
If you want to know more about law and business in India, listen to this recent episode with India super lawyer, Jayesh Kothari. For incredible insight on companies leaving China for Mexico, listen to the episode with Andrew Hupert, who himself left China for Mexico. If you want to get background on what is going on in Myanmar, you absolutely must listen to the episode with Robert Walsh, who has spent nearly two decades in Myanmar and is fluent in Burmese. If you want to get a better understanding of Haiti’s current situation and its history, the recent episode with Haiti expert (not a word we use loosely) Robert Fatton, Jr., is a must-listen. And because our law firm has been in the forefront of international cannabis law, the podcast has included top cannabis law/business experts from Uruguay, Taiwan, Ireland, Germany, and Singapore.
It has had guests from India, Mexico, Israel, Nigeria, China, Australia, Chile, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Korea, Poland, Uruguay, Belgium, Malaysia, Brazil, and Puerto Rico discussing their homelands and worldwide experts discussing (among other things) Cyberwarfare, Global HR, Cannabis in Asia, Infrastructure Finance, International School Law, Iran, Public-Private Partnerships, Artificial Intelligence, Cyrpto and Blockchain, International Sales, Forex Monetary Policy, Climate Change, Toys, Coaching Athletics, and East Africa, and all with an international bent. I urge you to check out these and the other podcasts as well, and be sure to stay tuned to future podcasts as well.
All of these podcasts can be found on our Global Law and Business Podcast page, both as audio and as written transcripts. To stay abreast of upcoming guests, I urge you to follow the Global Law and Business Podcast’s twitter account, @globallawbiz.
Harris Bricken Presenta. We also recently started a second podcast, Harris Bricken Presenta. This one entirely is entirely in Spanish and it too focuses on international law and business, but with a view towards engaging the nearly 600 million people in the world who speak Spanish. Adrian Cisneros Aguilar (our lead lawyer in Mexico) and Frederick Rocafort will be leading the charge on this one, but we expect our other Spanish speaking lawyers (especially those out of our Spain offices) to be joining in as moderators from time to time as well.
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 also). 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 posts are often its most read. And here’s a little confession: the Canna Law Blog consistently gets anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 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 just a few months before COVID shut things like that down and at that conference, 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 rights it. That blog has won just about every single 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 team has handled more international trade and customs matters involving cannabis than any other. Our Canna Law Blog Facebook page has nearly 170,000 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 nearly 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.
Linkedin. We have a thriving China Law Blog Group on Linkedin that serves as spam-free forum for China information, networking, and discussion. This group is always growing and now totals more than 13,000 members. We are one of the few China groups on Linkedin in 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 and join our China Law Blog Group on Linkedin. Please do join us there.
Individually, many of us post often on Linkedin about China matters and we are also always accessible there. You can find our China lawyers and China trade specialists on Linkedin as follows, some of whom post there more than others:
My personal Linkedin page has more than 10,000 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 3-5 times a week.
Facebook. Our China Law Blog Facebook page, is thriving as well with just under 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.
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 also urge you to check out and follow Fred Rocafort from my firm as well, (@RocafortFred). Until recently, Fred was living in Hong Kong/the PRC 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 and now splits his time between Seattle and Salt Lake City, is also a frequent poster on Twitter about all things China and all things international business 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.
We also have robust Twitter accounts in Spanish (@HarrisBrickenES, a/k/a Harris Bricken en Español). That account is mostly run by Fred Rocafort and Adrián Cisneros Aguilar and Arlo Kipfer, all three of whom are fluent in Chinese, Spanish, and English and all three work with our clients moving production or investment from China to Latin America or to Spain, both for Chinese and for American/European/Asian companies.
Not exactly social media, but we also with COVID really stepped up our webinar schedule and over the next few months we will be putting on a series of free webinars on global real estate investing.
As many of you have noticed, we recently revamped the look and feel of this blog, though there remain a few more updates to go. Please let us know what you think of our new look.
And please join us on social media so we can continue engaging with you online in discussions about China and the world.