Protesting Too Much

June 9, 2013

China will continue to create fair, justified and open conditions for foreign businesses, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said in Chengdu on Thursday.

Zhang made the remarks while meeting with attendees of the 2013 Fortune Global Forum, which opened on Thursday in Chengdu, capital of southwest China’s Sichuan province. (Xinhua)

You see one of these stories every month, with a Chinese leader making the same “Don’t worry, we like you” speeches to foreign investors. Seems to me that if you think this sort of PR is necessary, it means that there is an underlying problem that might need to be addressed.

Unless of course you believe that there is a vast conspiracy in the international community to bad-mouth the foreign investment environment in China through the spreading of vicious lies, in which case, never mind.

Smithfield-Shuanghui Deal: CFIUS, Food Quality, and More

June 2, 2013

I missed quite a few good China stories during my trip to India, but this proposed takeover of Smithfield Foods by Chinese meat powerhouse Shuanghui (also trades under the oleaginous name Shineway) is probably the most important one in the cross-border biz world. This deal will be valued at $4.7 billion, making it #1 in terms of Chinese overseas direct investment in the U.S.

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US-China Accounting Dispute Resolved?

May 25, 2013

I’m not so sure about that, but here’s an update:

The U.S. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board announced a deal Friday with Chinese regulators to access documents held by Chinese auditors, defusing but not fully resolving serious disputes with China.

The Memorandum of Understanding with the China Securities Regulatory Commission and China’s Ministry of Finance will let U.S. and Chinese regulators request and get help from each other in obtaining documents for their investigations.

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The Chindia Post that Wasn’t

May 25, 2013

China’s relationship with India has been in the news over the past few days, mostly because of the visit of Premier Li Keqiang to Delhi. Coincidentally, I am also in Delhi at the moment (been here for a week, studiously avoiding this blog thus far). I’m here negotiating the border dispute visiting some colleagues and negotiating a couple deals for my employer.

This is the point where I am supposed to point out all the differences between the two nations and explain why/why not the bilateral relationship is going in the right/wrong direction, as the case may be. If I throw in some amusing observations about how and to what extent Indian culture is different from China, all the better, particularly if I can refer to toilet habits and/or diet — even better, an eyebrow-raising story about a severe case of Delhi Belly (no, I have been lucky so far).

To be honest, though, my view of the country so far has been from behind either a car, plane or hotel window, and whatever I bloviate about would be useless crap. So I’m not going to bother. Well, one exception: yes, it has hovered around 46 degrees here this week, but it’s not as bad as it sounds since it’s rather arid here at the moment. In other words, it’s a dry heat.

Instead of empty travelogueing, I’ll try to catch up on my news and maybe even try to throw out a post or two this weekend about what’s going on at home. You know, something I actually know about.

An Interesting Byproduct of the Recent Apple Bashing in China

May 14, 2013

You recall the fun and games when the Chinese media went after Apple as part of the Consumer Day “celebrations,” right? CCTV led the charge, followed by various Op/Eds and in-depth reporting on the U.S. MNC’s product warranty policy. Whether Apple was in violation of the law or not, it certainly was slammed upside the head with a great deal of negative PR, which made fanboys around the world cry “Leave ‘em alone already!”

When the perception is that Apple has been unfairly targeted, it means, among other things, that the next time someone criticizes Apple in China (by “someone,” I mean an official someone), it will look like a continuation of a witchhunt. To some degree, I think Apple, at least for a few more months, has a bit of a free pass when it comes to China attacks, at least in the eyes of folks offshore and probably local cultists.

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‘Meat Is Murder’ and Other Meat-related Crimes

May 7, 2013

No one is talking about murder yet, but it’s just a matter of time. The latest food quality scandal in China is humming along steadily at the moment, with accusations flying, arrests being made, and protestations being hastily issued by restauranteurs and others in the food biz.

All this turmoil just because mutton was replaced with rat and fox meat to save a few shekels? Apparently so. As of last month, we only had to worry about whether our lamb was being fried in “gutter oil,” but that’s now old news. These days, you need to worry about whether that “lamb” that’s being fried in gutter oil is in fact lamb or some other animal, perhaps one with whiskers and sharp, pointy teeth.

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Lessons in US-China Diplomacy: Parsing the Special 301 Report

May 5, 2013

The annual Special 301 Report on worldwide intellectual property protection was recently released by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. I always look forward to this, not only to see what the China section looks like to catch up on big-picture IP issues, but also to get a snapshot of the bilateral situation between the two countries.

This year, it seems to me that the language shows just a bit of frustration on behalf of the USTR authors, which I find leaking out from between the lines. They tried very hard to be as diplomatic as possible, but perhaps just a little too much. I’ll let you be the judge.

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PRC Official: IPR Reputation a Result of “Groundless Labeling”

May 4, 2013

Um, wow, not sure where to start with this one. Look, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who has consistently written for as long as I have that China’s IP situation is improving, that it isn’t as bad as most folks think, and that the stereotypes are generally unfair.

But I also temper that with frequent acknowledgements of the many problems over here with the IP protection system. The situation downright sucks in some geographical areas and industry sectors, and depending on the product and type of IPR in question. When apologists fail to fess up to the problems, they come out sounding pretty lame.

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A Writing Tip for Lawyers Doing Newsletters

May 1, 2013

As someone who has been writing legal newsletters (or similar) for about 15 years, I speak with authority on this subject. I’ve also helped to train a boatload of lawyers with respect to drafting a variety of documents, both formal and informal.

The problem is that most lawyers are wholly unfamiliar with the concept of “audience.” Let me use the example of acronyms, since this will help me get to the point that much faster. Say you’re a private practice lawyer writing a brief email to your client, specifically an in-house lawyer who specializes in PRC corporate law. Would it be acceptable to use “MOFCOM” to indicate the Ministry of Commerce in that email? I would say yes.

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Michael Jordan Reputation Rights Case Begins in Shanghai

April 29, 2013

Normally I wouldn’t bother you with the news that a case I have already discussed many times has kicked off. No real news to report here, at least not yet. However, after reading the coverage in Xinhua, I just felt obligated to pass along this little treasure from the alleged infringer’s crack legal team:

The defendants argued that the word “Qiaodan” is simply a translation of the common surname “Jordan,” instead of the full name of the former NBA player. The real intention of using the Chinese name “Qiaodan” is to mean “grass and trees in the south,” said lawyers for the Qiaodan Sports.

You might be thinking these guys are hacks, but I’d like to disabuse you of that notion. Only true professionals can issue statements like that with a straight face. That sort of in-your-face, unabashed bullshit is a work of art. I know that if called upon, I would be unable to put forward that argument without erupting into belly laughs. My ass would be fired immediately.

Kudos to those lawyers. They are true professional advocates, and a credit to our profession.

China Arbitration Follies

April 28, 2013

A while back, I wrote about the feud between the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC) and, well, itself, specifically Beijing (aka headquarters) and its sub-commissions in Shanghai and Shenzhen. The latter two went rogue, with Beijing saying that the “CIETAC” moniker was no longer available to them and that anyone choosing to arbitrate with CIETAC in those locations would have to go through Beijing from now on.

The inevitable break between these organizations has occurred, and now both Shenzhen and Shanghai must go it alone without the valuable CIETAC brand. Good luck to them, but as a recent article put out by law firm Hogan Lovells illustrates quite well, bizarre and complicated branding is not going to help.

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If China IP Had an Album Cover, This Would be the Artwork

April 26, 2013

If I told you to think about intellectual property enforcement in China and asked you what was the first image that popped into your head, I’m betting it would look something like this (courtesy of China Daily):

Nothing is more iconic than the old steamroller picture. It’s also a great symbol of the statistics-driven way the enforcement system here is evaluated, and how futile and unimpressive the simple destruction of a few thousand DVDs is.

As usual, if you can’t see the image for some reason, go to the China Hearsay page directly.

AmCham Business Surveys: Not Exactly Scientific, but Undeniably Useful

April 22, 2013

The American Chamber of Commerce in China regularly publishes surveys of its members, which routinely include criticism of the government/legal system/business climate and complaints about anything from IP infringement to protectionism. So I’m not too surprised to see this pushback from the Ministry of Commerce put out by Xinhua:

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U.S. Fails to Name China blah blah Currency blah {yawn}

April 15, 2013

Not exactly my most eloquent post title, but really, did anyone out there actually notice that once again, the U.S. Treasury Department decided that China shouldn’t be on the list of currency manipulators? Yes, the wire services ran little blurbs, as did the major papers that have good China coverage. But they were just going through the motions. The only folks who care anymore these days are paid lobbyists and paid politicians, and who gives a shit what they think, anyway?

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Michael Jordan’s China Lawsuit Takes a Sad Turn

April 10, 2013

You may recall that Michael Jordan sued a Chinese sportswear company in 2012, claiming that they infringed upon Jordan’s Chinese name and several logos that were similar to those used by Jordan or his sponsors. The case was filed in Shanghai and basically has just sat there for many, many moons (I assume pending settlement negotiations). A minor news blip on the radar today: Qiaodan (it was reported) filed a suit against Jordan.

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Finally, a Worthwhile “Apple: What Have We Learned?” Article

April 5, 2013

You’ve probably read more than one story about Apple’s current troubles in China. This latest kerfuffle involves a broadside against Apple’s warranty and repair policies by local media (e.g., CCTV, People’s Daily) and at least one consumer agency.

Why have I avoided it? While it’s big news for Apple, and for all you Cult of Mac folks out there (oh yeah, and journalists/pundits), I can’t find anything here that can really be put in the “new” category. In other words, all we’ve got is another huge multinational that is being singled out by the government here.

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Baidu v. NYC Dissidents Kicked on a Technicality

March 31, 2013

You might remember a strange little case that was filed back in 2011 by some Chinese dissidents in New York. Their weak ass sadly untested argument was that Baidu was censoring search results such that their anti-China content did not come up when folks did a search. The plaintiffs argued that this was a violation of the U.S. constitution.

While fascinated by the case, I nevertheless said it was a big fat loser, and last week, it was indeed tossed by a New York federal judge. However, the decision did not go to the merits of the case, but rather procedural issues. The case thus appears to be only temporarily dead, but don’t be fooled by this; in fact it’s actually completely dead, as I explain below.

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Expat Exodus: Emigration Me-Too-ism

March 30, 2013

After the latest “Why I’m Leaving China” column came out and the usual tongues started wagging, I realized that many of these missives are simply thinly-veiled advertorials. “Hey, I’m leaving China after a bunch of years, and by the way, here’s the name of my new company and a brief bio of my past achievements. If you have some money or an biz opportunity, ping me and we’ll do lunch.”

Congratulations to Marc van der Chijs for getting some free pub, not to mention grabbing yet another opportunity to tell everyone that he can run long distances (enough already, please).

I was glad to see that Matt Schiavenza, international raconteur and friend of the show, responded with an Atlantic blog post, reminding everyone that there is in fact no expat exodus. Someone has to keep the tongue waggers honest — thanks, Matt.

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Fan Bingbing, Token Chinaman

March 30, 2013

Earlier today Marvel announced it will be releasing a Chinese version of its upcoming blockbuster, Iron Man 3, which will differ from the film that audiences outside of China see.

The announcement also included the detail that Chinese actress and singer Fan Bingbing will be cut out of the non-Chinese version of the film. (The Diplomat)

Kudos to Marvel and DMG for rolling with the punches and localizing content to get the most out of a theatrical project. If putting in special bonus “China” content makes Beijing happy and gets the film better distribution over here (and, I assume, more ticket sales), then I guess it’s win-win.

But I’m just wondering what Fan Bingbing feels about all this. Happy to get a paycheck and be part of a big title, sure. On the other hand, kind of a hit to the old ego, eh? “Sorry, honey, you’re good enough for the local version of this flick, but you’re still not up to snuff when it comes to the top international markets. Come back when you grow up.”

If it was me, I’d be kind of pissed off. And if I was representing a top Chinese actor, the next time a foreign studio came calling, I’d insist on a “will appear in foreign release” clause in my contract.

Siri Litigation Still Alive in Shanghai, But for How Long?

March 28, 2013

I dimly recall talking about this case last year, I believe shortly after the iPad dispute was resolved. I’m too exhausted to poke around in the China Hearsay file room to find my previous post, but I assume I said something like “It’s too early to tell what’s going to happen, and we would need a formal patent analysis before any conclusions could be made.”

Guess what? The Shanghai court convened an evidentiary hearing yesterday and . . . I still have very little to say because we don’t yet have a patent analysis to talk about.

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