In a post last week, China Cell Phone Chargers — Capitalist Market With Socialist Characteristics, we questioned the propriety of Beijing mandating all cell phone chargers go USB. The always excellent How the World Works Blog just came out with a “follow up” post, entitled, “Cellphone Charger Authoritarianism,” [link no longer exists] positing that Beijing’s willingness to move markets may be exactly what is needed for energy conservation:

Two more Chinese data points:

  • On May 31, China’s Ministry of Information Industry ordered that, starting June 14, all cellphones intended to be sold in China must be designed according to a “universal cellphone charger standard” that requires a uniform USB plug interface. According to MII, 100 million chargers are thrown away every year in China. Under the new law, any charger will work with any phone, which should eliminate the waste.
  • On June 12, China’s government recommended a moratorium on new grain-based ethanol plants. The price of pork has jumped 43 percent in the last year, in part due to surging corn prices. Enough is enough, decided the commissars, and from now on, new ethanol plants must use non-food items as their feedstock, such as cassava or sugar-cane.

The common denominator — unilateral decisions by an authoritarian government. The contrast with how energy policy is currently formulated in the United States, as basically a vast bidding war between special interests moving their bought-and-sold politicians like so many pawns, could not be more stark.

Which is not to say that How the World Works endorses totalitarian rule — far from it! — but it does pose an interesting question. Which country will ultimately be more successful at adapting to an energy-constrained future, the one that allows car companies to thwart efforts to raise fuel economy standards for decades at a time and refuses, at the behest of oil companies, to do anything about global warming, or the one that can decide, in one fell swoop, that all cellphone chargers be as one?

Interesting question. We are used to seeing discussions like this when comparing India and China, but it comes as somewhat of a surprise to see it used to compare the United States and China. Since I believe innovation (not government) is going to solve the big energy issues, and since government tends to stifle innovation, my feeling is that the government, should keep its hands off my cellphone.

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Photo of Dan Harris Dan Harris

Dan is a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

He primarily represents companies doing business in emerging market countries, having spent years building and maintaining a global, professional network. 

Dan is a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

He primarily represents companies doing business in emerging market countries, having spent years building and maintaining a global, professional network.  His work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

He was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), is rated 10.0 by AVVO.com (also its highest rating), and is a recognized SuperLawyer.

Dan is a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and constantly travels between the United States and Asia. He most commonly speaks on China law issues and is the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog. Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed Dan regarding various aspects of his international law practice.

Dan is licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at his firm, Dan focuses on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.