Back when the media was getting all hot and heavy (sexual reference intended) on China’s plans to require internet filtering software, I did a post, entitled, “Two China Things Of Which We Dare Not Speak (And Sex Is Not One of Them).” In that post, I explained why we virtually never write about proposed laws and why I had not written anything on the filtering software.
I gave the following reasons:
I do not like writing about proposed laws for the following reasons:

1. There are so many laws already on the books and being enforced that need coverage more. Laws on the books will impact you right now. Proposed laws may or may not ever come into being.
2. China has a very real habit of saying it will institute a new law and then never doing so. It floats new laws to gauge reaction. If the reaction is negative, the law oftentimes never comes into being.
3. China has a very real habit of instituting new laws and then never enforcing them. This often happens when the new law is negatively received.

Today, China officially backed down (no surprise). Or, in the words of the immortal Gilda Radner, Never mind.
China is billing it as a delay, but I can virtually guarantee this software will never be heard from again. I say this for two reasons. One, the people did not like it and Beijing does NOT want to go against the people on something like this. Since there is absolutely no reason to believe the people will ever start liking something like this, there is absolutely no reason to believe the software will return. Two, I know movement has been slow, and I know it has been in fits and starts, but if we were to draw a straight line through the rises and falls, freedom is on a fairly inexorable march in China.
We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming….
UPDATE: E-Commerce Times interviewed me on this last week and quotes me in their story today, entitled, “China Wobbles on Green Dam:

It was never really clear whether or not Beijing would enforce the edict, according to Dan Harris, a partner in international law firm Harris Bricken and an expert on China.
“What they’re doing is floating an idea and seeing what the reaction is,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “In the last five years, there probably have been thousands of laws China said it’s going to enact and hasn’t. Or it has enacted them but hasn’t implemented them.”

FURTHER UPDATE: Sky Canaves has a great post up on the WSJ China Journal, entitled, “Green Dam and the Politics of Consent,” discussing how popular “consent” plays a huge role in China’s governance. This post nails it completely.

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Dan Harris

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

I mostly represent companies doing business in emerging market countries. It has taken me many years to build my network and it takes constant communication and travel to maintain it. My 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.

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

I am a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and I constantly travel between the United States and Asia. I most commonly speak on China law issues and I am the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog (www.chinalawblog.com). 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 me regarding various aspects of my international law practice.

I am licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at my firm, I focus 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.