michael's blog

American isn't f***ed: Hugh Macleod

hugh-picture.jpgRather than explain the details of Hugh's latest comments on Gapingvoid, both for their colorful language, but also because I can not say it better than he has, I'll leave it to him to explain why America is still really in pretty good shape.  I'll link to it here and here, "American isn't f****d" to let you read the pearls he's strewn about on his site.  Basically, we are only as screwed as we think we are.  And I say we're not...and when it comes right down to it, what other choice do we have? And if you understand why we, as Americans are not screwed, then you are already ahead of the game.  If you already think we're screwed, then it's been nice knowing you.

Google Threatens to Leave China: Sometimes you are the windshield and sometimes you are the bug...

windshield.jpgNobody that has ever met me, or even heard about me, has ever called me a panda hugger, which according to wiktionary is a Western political activist or official who supports Communist Chinese policies. 

In fact, when acting in our capacity as attorneys for some of our clients, we have been deported for a few days.  Given that we have a very smart group of Chinese nationals working in our offices, that last forced exit was limited to only a few days in Hong Kong.  And given that a few days of holiday with the family is not a bad thing...no harm, no foul.

China's Repressive Media and Mrs. Santa collide?

I just wanted to take a moment and confirm all the current Xmas supplement.jpgsuspicions you may have out there about the horrible and repressive system we live under here in Mainland China.

It's terrible!  How can I live in a place where my morning paper comes with a front page like this?  This was the 16 page supplement wrapped around my Shenzhen Daily last Friday.  It deals with such touchy subjects as whether to listen to the classical or more modern music performances in the various playhouses around town, what events are happening at local churches and which of the regions theme parks (like Disney World) have the best family vacation packages.

So, to all of you out there that know just how bad China is, you just keep a firm hold of whatever reality you have chosen to convince yourself is true and I'll stay here and fight it out in the grimy colorless city.

Happy Holidays

How China will reach UN Climate Change commitments

pollution.jpgThe Shenzhen Daily notes that the "Nation to remove outdated industries" in a story stuck back on page 9 of the paper today.

Let me interpret a bit of formalistic langauge that you will see in the article that might get lost in translation.  Basically, China is making a nationwide commitment to poke the Western World in the eye with the ability to lower the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by 40 to 45 precent by 2020.

First, how the hell can they lower it that much?  Well, it's pretty damn dirty here, in some of the darker corners of the country.  So only making it half as polluted as it is today within the next ten years means all they have to do is stop doing the most polluting things they are doing today.  You have to look at where they started, rather than the targeted percentage quoted anywhere. 

AIDS Day in China?

0013729ece6b0c7f15b221.jpgGiven that when we got here in the early 1990's, AIDS was not yet something that existed in public -- and given that the China Daily has not been a great supporter of the United States or the West in general, we are happy to see some human rights issues being recognized in a large photo essay yesterday and today.  Front page coverage of such a sensitive subject in a hard copy daily paper here is quite extraordinary.

Sure we can say that China is not playing by the same rules as the rest of the world if that is what we want to focus on.  But sometimes they do 'the right thing' and we should applaud them for doing so.

Occasionally the older planned economy mindset in China really gets in the way of reality

P1010138.JPGOccasionally, here in China, we run into a situation where the older planned economy mindset has not yet matured and aligned itself with the new reality -- and we end up running into all kinds of odd stumbling blocks that seem quite silly when compared to all the other positive or future oriented things that are happening here.

"We are Chinese and this is the way we think it is supposed to work -- and so you have to confirm to our standards -- or you can not import what you want?"

And of course, this time it's personal.  The photo here is a dugout sailing canoe from Bali.  The guy in the picture there is Nyoman, and old guru type guy that ends up winning a lot of the traditional sailing outrigger canoe races down in Bali.  He and some of his friends actually make these things right on the beach.  And so when I was down there recently, I said I wanted to buy one of these and figure out how to bring it back to China. 

Obama to add tariffs to some Chinese tire imports -- Umm, has everyone in the United States forgotten their history?

car tires.jpgCNN is reporting that  "the president decided to remedy the clear disruption to the U.S. tire industry based on the facts and the law in this case.  The tariffs will start at 35 percent in the first year, then would decline to 30 percent in the second year and 25 percent in the third."

And of course, the Chinese have already started to retaliate.  China's commerce ministry said on Sunday it had launched an anti-dumping investigation into imports of U.S. chicken products and vehicles.

The last time somebody tried something like this, we ended up adding a word to our collective vobabulary to represent the fall out from that kind of short sighted thinking -- "Hooverville."

Setting up in China is a long road and there are no shortcuts available

I wanted to take a few moments and address a series of apparently Ankor Wat bas relief EDITED_0.jpg innocent, but actually rather serious, questions that have arisen recently with several new clients when they are contacting us about what it takes to get started here in a new Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise ("WFOE") in the manufacturing or services sector...

1.  How long is this all going to take?

By statute, there are at least four (4) different sequential periods of thirty (30) days each the Investment Control Board ("ICB") will make you go through.  As the ICB governs all new foreign investments of any kind, none of these are optional.

If there will be either import or export licensing, or both, that will add at least another thirty (30) to forty-five (45) days.  And one can not even ask for this licesning until all matters already identified above are already issued.  It is all sequential.

NEW LEGISLATION YOU NEED TO KNOW House Funds Plan / 深圳市住房公积金制度改革方案 深府[ 2009]107号; By Ella Xu

A 17 year old law previously existing in name only in Southern China, about House Funds, will be modified and actually enforced starting in 2009. This will create another major impact to most of the companies that are already starting to follow the new nationwide Labor Law and Labor Contracting Law of PR China in 2008.

Those 2008 amendments created things like a Labor Arbitration Tribunal, seeking to protect workers rights against abusive employers, required actually writing down employment agreement (imagine that!) and other basic and objectively reasonable sets of protections. We have been a long standing supporter of those amendments, which were an unfortunate necessity based on the way some employers treated their employees.

In Shanghai, Beijing and Zhejiang Province, the House Funds Law – a component of the Chinese ‘social insurance’ framework – had been implemented (and actually followed) very well in the past years. Almost all of the local enterprises there, including both state-owned and private companies, have already been paying into the house funds program for their employees. That rate was set at 13% and was carried by the employer 100%.

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