I often get emails from readers asking me to write about a particular topic. There are two topics on which I frequently receive emails and on which I virtually never write. Proposed laws and China diplomatic meetings with foreign countries.
Just about every time there is a rumor of a major new Chinese law, I get an email from someone asking me to write about it. I virtually never do. This happened most recently regarding the news that China would soon be requiring all computers sold within China to come with built in web filtering software.
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.
I am absolutely thrilled our readership is so internationally diverse, but this also means that I often receive emails from people wanting me to cover their country’s diplomatic relations with China. I never do this because China is always engaging in diplomatic meetings with some country somewhere. I do not see this as news. The press virtually always describes these meetings as positive and they almost always seem to end with a comment on how both countries expect increased trade and how some economic/business/aid package has been agreed to. This is not news. This does not warrant analysis. This is mutual public relations. Move along.
This is not a blanket rule (though I do not think I have yet to cover such a story) and I do reserve the right to cover some future major China diplomatic breakthrough. But for now, I will leave these stories to Xinhua.
Am I off base here?

  • pros and cons

    To the extent the government would gauge negative reaction from this website, then it would be worthwhile to discuss proposed laws.
    Also, though discussing proposed laws that may never become law might seem futile, the arguments for and against the law might still be beneficial to us readers, especially in context of existing laws.

  • “I will leave these stories to Xinhua.
    Am I off base here?”
    I would suggest that anything media-related that’s left to Xinhua is going to be pretty much off base.

  • I’d leave the meetings alone. But some proposed laws may be worth discussing.

  • Rob

    Hi Dan,
    I believe that you’re right on base here — in leaving the “public reaction gauge” to the other dial-twiddlers. Substantive legislation, its interpretation and enforcement, appears to offer enough headaches.
    In fact, the Youth Dam thing, with so many defects, like just about any damn thing designed by committee, now looks like it won’t be getting very far very fast.
    The next product recall? We dare not speak of actionable liability…

  • Etienne

    Even if all of this is true, if you have a business in China (and I do) we need to stay on top of potential laws because those laws could greatly impact us and we need to be ready for them. Are you aware of any computer monitoring service that does this for various types of businesses? I don’t think there is one, but there should be.