A long time ago (before we even started this blog, I believe) one of our summer associates, Ben Kostrzewa, compiled a Chinese-English translation of fifty common legal words. I have had that list on my computer ever since and I just come across it again and figured I would run it on here so others might take advantage of it. Not even sure why this list was compiled but it appears to have been aimed at least as much to assist the Chinese lawyers with whom we work as to assist our clients doing business in China.

At this point I have my doubts that I would choose all fifty of these words for such a list, but since the translations are accurate and since they have already been compiled, we are going with it.

If you notice any inaccuracies, please let us know my commenting below. Similarly, if you want to add to the list, please do so.

诉讼-Sue, Litigate

机构-Agency

上诉-Appeal

法案-Bill

案件/案例-Case

民法-Civil

控诉-Complaint/Charge

宪法-Constitution

合同-Contract

证明有罪/定罪-Conviction

有限公司-Corporation

法庭-Court

债权人-Creditor

犯人-Criminal

债户-Debtor

契-Deed

被告人-Defendant

义务-Duty

产业-Estate

证据-Evidence

行政-Executive

联邦制-Federal/Federalism

理由-Grounds

判决-Judgment

司法-Judicial

陪审团-Jury

法律-Law

责任/义务-Liability

制定/通过 法律-Legislate

抵押-Mortgage

动议-Motion

过失-Negligence

可转让的-Negotiable

文书-Instrument

意见-Opinion (Not Judge’s Decision)

当事人-Party

原告/申诉人-Plaintiff

辩护-Plead/Pleading

财产-Property

管理/调整-Regulate

权利-Right

证券-Security (bond, stock)

判决-Sentence

法律-Statute

证据Testimony

产权书-Title

侵权行为-Tort

托拉斯-Trust

认定-Verdict

遗嘱-Will

见证/证人-Witness

The Off The Record Blog just did a short, sweet, blunt post on the law in China that is only half right. The post is entitled, the “The Law is an ass and there you have it.” It consists of the following quote from “a prominent Chinese lawyer during a private discussion about China’s new Labor Law”:

“The problem with Western companies doing business in China is that you think laws are about compliance; Chinese companies realize they are just obstacles to be avoided.”

In fact, that is only half the problem. The problem is that BOTH the Chinese lawyer and the Western companies are acting rationally and correctly. The Western company has to comply because it will be an easy target if it does not. The Chinese company, on the other hand, can game the system and probably do just fine.

There is also a flip side to this. I had lunch earlier this week with co-blogger Steve Dickinson and Ben Dietz, a lawyer in my firm and who handles US side legal work for Chinese and other foreign companies. We discussed how difficult it is representing Chinese clients in the United States because they tend to spend so much time and effort seeking to avoid clear laws even when following the laws would be relatively painless and far less risky.

Looking on the bright side (at least for us lawyers), China is very slowly becoming more legalistic and I see the new labor law as a prime sign of that. That law probably comes closer than any other law in China in terms of having an equal impact on foreign and Chinese companies because much of its enforcement will come from disgruntled employees and ex-employees, as opposed to from the government.

Last month, we posted on China’s new bankruptcy laws, scheduled for a June, 2007, enactment.  We titled that post, “China’s New Bankruptcy Laws: Good For Business,” because it looked like China would soon have a comprehensive bankruptcy code that would facilitate lending and collection.  The new law will put creditors before employees and my post talked about how the law was being delayed until June, 2007, so China’s state owned enterprises (SOEs) could file for bankruptcy before June, 2007, to avoid coming within the new provisions.

Now it has become clear that China’s 2000+ SOEs will not come within the purview of the new laws until at least the end of 2008.  This means that until such time as the SOEs are covered by the new bankruptcy laws, their employee wages and health benefits will have priority over any creditor claims.

This is bad news and it indicates China’s reformers have lost out on these laws. This failure to include SOEs in the new law likely will slow down the purchasing of SOE companies through bankruptcy restructuring buyouts.  It will also likely hurt the Chinese banks ,which have made big loans to SOEs.  It appears the fear of employee dislocation has trumped business sense and China’s new bankruptcy laws, though certainly a step in the right direction, are not so good for business after all.

Just thought you should know….

I have never so enjoyed writing a blog post title as this one.

Just about everybody in the United States thinks we have too many lawyers. For proof of this, go here, here, and here.

But China is different.  Way different.  In China, lawyers are greatly respected and official policy says there are too few.  You heard me: too few lawyers!

Today’s People’s Daily has an article discussing how China has only 121,889 lawyers and parts of the country have no legal services:

However, the proportion of lawyers to the total population was just 0.9 per 100,000, far lower than most Western countries, according to a report on Lawyer Law implementation inspection last October.

Most lawyers worked in the metropolitan areas of east China, leaving underdeveloped western areas with a shortage of professional legal services, including 206 counties with no lawyers.

By way of comparison, there are approximately 190,00 lawyers licensed to practice in the State of California alone.  I wonder how many of them are studying Mandarin?

China Digital Times (always an excellent source for China news) recently blogged [link no longer exists] on a Harvard Law Journal article by Columbia University Law Professor and Director of the Center for Chinese Legal Studies, Benjamin L. Liebman.  Though I remain mindful of our focus on the business aspects of China law, as opposed to its more esoteric and academic aspects (see Chinese Law Prof Blog for an excellent academic treatment of China’s laws and legal system), this is an area where academics and practicality intersect and the thesis of this article is both valid and important.

Entitled, “Innovation Through Intimidation: An Empirical Account of Defamation Litigation in China,” the article analyzes 223 recent defamation cases in China and concludes that these cases facilitate “ordinary persons challenging state authority” and reflect “growing use of the formal legal system by local authorities to resist central Party-state control.”  Professor Liebman states that defamation litigation encourages “ordinary persons to use such cases to protect their own interests,” and makes courts to become “increasingly important arbiters of individual rights,” legitimizes “the role of courts in Chinese society,” and “may also increase official accountability.”   

In layman’s terms, this article posits that China’s courts are becoming a stronger venue for dispute adjudication, are more independent of the government than widely believed, and may even be serving as a check on government. 

China Law Blog’s own Steve Dickinson gave a speech last year before the Northwest China Council on how China’s courts, for the most part, act independently of the Chinese central government on all but the more politically charged cases.  In a nutshell, Steve contends that Beijing wants its courts to check local power structures and recognizes that China’s citizens and businesses will take their grievances to court only if they believe the courts are fair.  The Western press consistently underrates the extent to which Chinese citizens are becoming increasingly reliant on and trusting of the courts for dispute resolution and the extent to which the courts are increasingly succeeding in this task. 

The reason all of this is important for business is because there is a persistent stream of thought that the law in China does not matter.  That stream is wrong and the bottom line for business is that China’s laws do matter and China’s courts are not powerless to enforce them. If you are doing business in or with China, you should do so with at least the same degree of legal caution as you exercise in doing business in the United States, England, or anywhere else. Chinese laws matter.

What do you think?

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