The International Development Law Organization (IDLO) has invited China Law Blog’s own Steve Dickinson to Italy to give a two day series of lectures on international contract law, with an emphasis on China.  Steve will be lecturing in Rome (in English) on May 18 and May 19, 2006.

Steve’s lectures are part of IDLO’s Development Lawyers Course, running in Rome from April 3 to June 9, 2006.  This course provides “a combination of training in legal skills as well as a thorough introduction to subjects closely related to development such as trade law, commercial transactions and infrastructure projects.  The course is designed to enhance the skills and knowledge of junior and mid-level lawyers to enable them to facilitate the process of economic development in their countries.”  According to IDLO, this “course is intended for junior and mid-level lawyers and legal advisers to ministries, governmental agencies and other regulatory bodies. Preference is given to lawyers involved in legal reform, policy development or the negotiation and drafting of international contracts/investment treaties on behalf of the State. Candidates should have at least 3 years of experience.”  Tuition for the full course is $12,500.

Buon viaggio!

The Tacoma News Tribune just published an article, entitled “State Can’t Sleep in Economic War Against China,” regarding Washington state governor, Christine Gregoire’s recent trip to China.  Governor Gregoire is using her trip to drum up support for increased educational funding.  No doubt, education is a good thing, but I am just not sure it makes sense to link it to the threat that China is going to grind the West into the dust.

The interview with Steve also focused on the “China threat,” which threat Steve sought to dispel:

Is China then the force to fear?

It can look that way. But looks deceive, says Steve Dickinson, who lives in northern China as an international trade attorney for the Seattle firm of Harris Bricken.

“China is much, much, much weaker than it looks,” he said in a recent interview.

“The West doesn’t understand China very well and, frankly, China doesn’t understand China very well,” Dickinson said.  “The economy has taken off in a way no one understands really what’s going on.

“But it [China] doesn’t have the financial capital; it doesn’t have the intellectual capital. And the role it’s falling into is as a low-level, low-cost manufacturing component in a worldwide system of manufacturing.”

Yet Dickinson, like Gregoire, believes sharpening Washington’s intellectual capital gives our state the best edge.

“Our competitive advantage is our brains and our skills,” he said. “We need to stay ahead on that. If we don’t fund brains and skills, we’ll get overtaken by someone. Maybe not China, but someone.”

Governor Gregoire was in China for one to two weeks and, yes, the number of buildings going up there and their size is incredible.  However, almost without exception, Chinese companies have a long way to go to catch up to the West in areas like management skills, quality control, design, innovation, marketing, customer service, efficiency, and quality control.  We previously posted here regarding the lack of sophistication of China’s service sector and here regarding China’s lack of marketing sophistication. I am not saying Chinese business will not someday catch up to the West, but one would be hard pressed to find anyone who has spent substantial time in or involved with China who claims that day is imminent.

Note:  I wanted to link some of the words above to, but, this being China, I was denied access.  Surely the denial of access to information is a weakening force on Chinese business as well.

China Law Blog is pleased to loudly tout one of its own: Washington CEO Magazine just named co-blogger Steve Dickinson as a “Most Amazing Lawyer .” Steve was one of only five attorneys so honored and we will, of course, be providing more information on this when the March issue comes out. We believe the section on Steve will focus on his China legal work.

We have long thought of Steve as an amazing attorney and we are delighted at this public confirmation.