This is part III of our relatively new series setting forth how we “really feel” about the issues that have generated controversy on our blog over the years.” Part I dealt with guanxi and the comments to that post alone have made it a great read. In Part II we talked of how we love joint ventures because they are typically our law firm’s biggest money maker, but we hate them because they so seldom work out for our clients.
We started this “How We Really Feel” series because we have taken many strong positions over the years, but in some cases those positions have been at least somewhat misunderstood and this new (and irregular) series is intended to clean up misconceptions.
This post is a bit different than the first two in the series because it is a mostly a link-over to an interview co-blogger Steve Dickinson recently did with the Chengdu Living (a must-read regional China blog) right after his talk at the Chengdu AmCham on China’s 12th Five Year Plan.
The Chengdu Living Post is entitled, “Expert Analysis: Interview with Steve Dickinson Of China Law Blog” and it is well worth a read, and not just because it is so complimentary of Steve and our blog. It is worth the read for its discussion on Chinese law and on how that law is so often perceived and mis-perceived by Westerners and on how we (speaking through Steve) really feel about China and about blogging:
Chengdu Living: We know you as one of the authors of China Law Blog, tell us a little about that. When did that get started
Steve: Well, it was an interesting start. Dan Harris (the other author of China Law Blog) and I have have known each other since 1986, we both practiced law together in a big Seattle law firm. He went one way [formed my own law firm] and I went another [taught Chinese and international law at the University of Washington Law School] and in the early 2000’s we decided to get back together to do a program in China. It was Dan’s idea, not mine, to use a blog as our primary vehicle for creating our identity in China.
My idea was, I’ve been working in Asia since 1984, and consistently the law is misunderstood and misreported…. and so I agreed that I would do that [the blog] with Dan under the agreement that I would be able to write about what’s really going on in Chinese law….that’s been our focus with the blog.
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Chengdu Living: Was the blog created with a business motivation or was that an ancillary effect?
Steven: There was a business motivation, but in 2006 [our first year] blogs were pretty new. We had no notion of what blogs would become or how blogging would become integrated into the business world, so we’ve kind of developed with the blogosphere together.
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Chengdu Living: It’s interesting that China Law Blog is a category and yet it has such a broad appeal in the China blogosphere. Was it intended to be for a wide audience or were you thinking it would be for people in the [legal] industry and legal trade?
Steven: In terms of what we were thinking and what happened, that’s interesting. In the United States, China Law Blog has been voted several times as the best blog in the legal area, period. Nothing to do with China. And the reason is that most legal blogs are frankly, without personality and quite boring. Where our blog has our two personalities and we let the personalities show through. Most lawyers don’t allow that and so most law blogs have never succeeded for that reason. And it’s still that way. There has not been any improvement in the law world on the blog side. But we’ve enjoyed it. It’s been fun for us.
Chengdu Living: Among readers and clients, what are some of the greatest misconceptions that people have about China or China Law?
Steve: There’s a couple. The first is that, we’re Americans and much of our readership is from the US, Canada, and England. And much of what’s strange about Chinese law is because it’s civil law, not common law. So a lot of what we have to explain is that Chinese law is based on a completely different legal tradition. And that’s the area I enjoy working with, because it’s been my area of research and interest for a long time.
The other, of course, is that most foreigners believe that China doesn’t have any law, period. And so a lot of what we’re doing is just making clear to people where the law is in China and how it affects their daily life and the fact that there really is a law here [in China] and it needs to be used effectively and creatively.
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The other group we have are people who think we’re full of nonsense and are critical of what we say. And they’re fun to deal with, too. Because there are two groups like that:
- There’s the Chinese people who think that what we say about China is based on the fact that we don’t understand China. Everything I write is based on Chinese sources, so that’s a funny comment, I believe.
- There there’s the other group, where we’re not China cheerleaders or detractors, we’re kind of in the middle. And the China cheerleaders don’t like what we write.
Chengdu Living: You do a great job of staying neutral.
Steven: Yeah, that’s our goal. To be as neutral as we can while still being true to our real beliefs.
Dan and I are politically very far apart but we both like and are willing to accept foreign countries and foreign cultures. And we don’t expect them to be clones of our own culture and that’s what gets us through a lot of these things. To have a genuine, not just a respect for, but a genuine affection for foreign cultures, and we both have that feeling about China.
What do you think?