I woke up today to two very different emails.

The first came in anonymously (of course) and consisted of a vituperative attack on me, on my firm and, most pointedly, on this blog.  To summarize, none of us writing for the blog have a clue about China, we are lying to our clients/readers, and all of the problems and concerns we raise about China are actually due to our own shortcomings, not China’s.   I read this one first.

And just as I was about to start feeling sorry for myself, this next email came in from a reader in Germany (whose identifiers I have changed in the below):

Just wanted to say how much I enjoy reading chinalawblog.com and how many ” that’s so true” experiences I had so far reading it. I am in the logistics field and I lived in Beijing and Shanghai for ten years. Then returned to Germany to help German companies on their way to China.

During my time in China I met all those people coming 3 times a year on a biz trip telling me that doing business in China is “so easy because the business is lying on the street and you just need to pick it up” and one week later they were on their way back to their home countries and thought that they understand China. Even after ten years I would not dare to claim that for myself!

Please keep on writing!

Totally changed my mood for the better.

I remember being a panelist at a Shanghai event a few years ago when someone in the audience asked me if I was ever concerned about offending people with this blog.  My response went something like this:

No.  In fact, I worry about not offending people.  If we are not offending someone, we are not taking a stand.  And if we are not taking a stand, we are not interesting.  And if we are not interesting, we will not be read.

One of the advantages to being a founder of a small firm is that I do not have to worry about offending some people, I just have to make sure at least some people love us.  If only 5% love us and only 5% of those people hire us, that would be a huge amount of work.  The key is to say enough to be worth reading.

Also, if we failed to tell things exactly as we see them on our blog, we would get in all sorts of trouble because it is too difficult to remember what we say and to remain consistent.

I also remember meeting a high-up (but quite inebriated) expat executive many years ago at a Beijing bar.  He went on and on about how much he liked our blog because we were neither “panda haters” nor “panda lovers” and there are so few people out there taking a middle position on China.

And not so long ago, I was on a panel at an Economist Intelligence Unit/HSBC Business Without Borders event on doing business in China.  At the beginning of the event, the first two speakers (as I recall) pretty much lit into China (mostly regarding its lack of IP protection), and then it was my turn.  I knew in advance that the two speakers before me would be tough on China and I wanted to moderate that.

So I talked of how when China’s legal system and IP protections are compared to its emerging market peers, “it isn’t so bad at all.” Here’s the video:  Doing Business In China. Setting the Record Straight.

So what do you think?

  • Computer hiccup so resending. If you already got, then please disregard.
    Ah, don’t feel sorry for yourself. Everybody loves the China Law Blog.

    I was just thinking to myself yesterday that there are all these China “experts” writing books, blogs, appearing on news shows etc etc. proferring all this advice about how best to do business in China. But, you know, when it comes down to it there is nothing difficult about doing business in China as long as you exercise three things:
    Common sense. A lot of it
    Patience. A lot of it
    Due diligence. A lot of it.
    You need all 3. 2 out of 3 won’t cut it.
    The gist of most China Law Blog posts is common sense, patience and due diligence. I don’t agree with everything I read here but it is a damn good blog.

  • Omario

    Keep writing Dan!

  • Mike Black

    Please keep writing. I enjoy your posts and link to them frequently. They are helpful and often confirm my personal beliefs and experiences. At other times, your posts provide a different and valuable perspective.

  • Martin Jones

    When I lived in Shanghai for 3 years, I learnt a lot about that part of
    China by integrating myself as fully as possible with the local
    community. I endeavoured to learn about the history, the culture, the
    challenges and the mind set of Chinese people when doing business. I
    learned to speak Mandarin, albeit very badly, and I took a Diploma in
    Chinese Commercial Law from Renmin University in Beijing.

    invaluable support to me through all this were those regular “little
    pearls of wisdom” I got from reading the China Law Blog. I knew I can
    never hope to understand all of China but the China Law Blog provided me
    with the thought process to cope with events that were unexpected, or
    completely unexpected or “where the h.ll did that come from” unexpected.
    So keep up the good work. You have helped me more than any other Blog
    on China.

  • Ethan

    I speak Chinese and have been in China as a professional for 3 years. Your blog has been a huge help to me.

    There are better blogs out there about logistics, or innovation, or culture. But your’s is the best for general China business knowledge across industries.

    Don’t let haters get you down.

  • Anon

    Yep, solid blog. Whoever asked you about offending people is insane, and I’m actually a little bit surprised by your answer. Doesn’t seem like there are a whole lot of controversial conclusions being reached here. Pretty straight-shooting and to the point.

    On another note, thanks for the link to your comments on the Chinese legal system. That’s a topic I’ve been following pretty closely over the years, and I would be interested in hearing what the panelists before you said, for the sake of context. I did a quick search and couldn’t find anything. Do you by any chance know of a public source for video of the whole discussion (or at least their opening remarks)?

    My initial reaction is that comparing China to other emerging markets is in many ways comparing apples to oranges. What you said about the relative quality of the legal system/administrative agencies is true, but I’m not sure that’s really the heart of the problem, at least when it comes to IP.

    In other words, I hear a lot of concern about IP issues stemming from the successful implementation of a deliberate and controversial industrial policy, rather than from a lack of enforcement, corruption, or otherwise faulty institutional infrastructure. Good institutions can do a good job enforcing troubling laws/policies… Would be interested in your thoughts. Thanks.