Wednesday, May 30, 2007
We often think of the socialist work unit (particularly government agencies) as a relic of the past, populated by has-beens, never-weres, and won't-bes, with the best and the brightest streaming into jobs in the new and dynamic private sector. But in fact, the state sector in China still holds considerable appeal for bright young people. This is good news and bad news, I suppose: given the huge role of the state in society and the economy, it's good to have talented people there. But it does seem a shame to have all that talent engaged solely in regulating and not in producing. (I do not, by the way, advocate abolishing the regulatory role of government, in China or anywhere else. In some areas, such as food and drug safety, clearly the system is too weak, not too strong.)
For the Washington Post article that inspired this post, click here.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Here's a good article by Mark Magnier of the Los Angeles Times about the system for rounding up petitioners who come to Beijing and sending them back to their home provinces. To call this state-sanctioned kidnapping is not a metaphor or an exaggeration; it's just a factual description. Restrictions of personal liberty must, under Chinese law, be authorized by a law passed by the National People's Congress or its Standing Committee, and I know of no such law that authorizes the practice described in this article.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
This post is not, strictly speaking (or even broadly speaking), law-related. But it bears on important issues in US-China relations on which there is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding, even at the highest levels of policymaking. Here's an excellent article from the Economist pointing out that the current RMB-dollar exchange rate does not hurt the US, and that US unemployment - at close to its lowest rate in decades - is hardly a problem, let alone one for which China can be blamed. None of what article says is news, but it's a kind of knowledge that simply does not penetrate in some quarters. (Thanks to China Law Blog for the pointer.)
While I'm at it, may I make an undoubtedless useless plea for people to stop talking about the trade "imbalance"? Imbalance is a value-laden word that is impossible to think of as other than bad. The word "balance" in trade discourse means the same thing as "balance" in your bank statement: it just means "remaining amount" or "difference". A surplus or deficit between two countries is no more "imbalanced" than having a bank balance of $100,000 is "imbalanced". Using the word "imbalance" to describe a deficit or surplus implies that the ideal and proper state of trade between any two countries is always no surplus, no deficit. This is utter nonsense. What we really need is a whole new set of terms for talking about trade, so that we can get rid of value-laden and therefore misleading terms such as "balance," "surplus," and "deficit."
The United Nations Committee Against Torture recently released a report criticizing lack of judicial independence, an extremely low acquittal rate, statutes of limitations on crimes of torture, and human rights abuses among detainees. It also criticized the late (five years!) submission by the government of the country report, and noted that
the report does not fully conform to the Committee’s guidelines for the preparation of initial reports, insofar as it lacks thorough information on how the Convention’s provisions have been applied in practice in the State party. The initial report has often limited itself to statutory provisions rather than providing analysis of the implementation of the rights enshrined in the Convention, supported by examples and statistics.
Sound familiar? Well, it was a northeast Asian country, but it wasn't China; it was Japan.
- Financial Times report
- Text of UN Committee Against Torture report
- Links to other reports provided to the Committee
Remarkably, the very critical report on the mission to China of Manfred Nowak, the UNHCR's Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, remains available in China (i.e., unblocked) at the UN's web site, both in English and in Chinese.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
I've been asked to post the following announcement (full announcement here):
The China Law Center at Yale Law School is seeking applications from legal professionals for an open position of Fellow in the Center’s New Haven office. This position requires working with senior Center staff to carry out and develop collaborative projects involving U.S., Chinese, and other legal experts on topics relevant to Chinese law and policy reform. Fellows conduct research and writing related to project activities, organize project events, maintain communication among project participants in the U.S., China, and elsewhere, facilitate visits by Chinese legal experts, and assist with administering the Center's operations.
1) J.D. degree (or equivalent)
2) Working-level proficiency in Mandarin Chinese (written and spoken)
3) Experience in China (preferred)
4) Strong organizational skills and an ability to work independently
5) Excellent oral and written communications skills
Interested applicants should send a cover letter, resume (including contact information for references), and a writing sample to The China Law Center at yalechinalaw [at] gmail.com. The deadline for applications is June 20, 2007. Applicants will only be contacted if invited for an interview.
Monday, May 21, 2007
The Office of the United States Trade Representative has just issued its 2007 Special 301 Report. This report is, in its own words, "an annual review of the global state of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement, conducted by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) pursuant to Special 301 provisions of the Trade Act of 1974 (Trade Act)." Needless to say, a good deal of the report deals with China. Download the PDF version here.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
I have received the following announcement:
NYU Law School's U.S.-Asia Law Institute is seeking a Research Fellow to work in New York City. The Research Fellow will support the Institute's projects by conducting research and writing on issues related to legal reform in China; by providing administrative and logistical support to our projects; and by communicating with scholars, officials, and lawyers.
Ideal candidates will have a J.D. from an American law school; native English; proficiency in written and spoken Mandarin Chinese; strong research, writing, analytical, and communication skills; an interest in criminal justice and court reform in China; and a commitment to public interest service. The preferred start date is July 1, 2007. The Research Fellow will receive a competitive salary and benefits. The initial term will be one year with the possibility of renewal.
Additional information on the U.S.-Asia Law Institute is in the attached job description. Candidates should submit a CV and cover letter to the Institute's staff at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Beijing Public Security Bureau has decided to do something in response to citizen complaints about rudeness. From June 11 through July 31, it will conduct both open and undercover investigations into the attitude of officers dealing with the public, and issue warnings to those who are rude. From August 1, punishments will be imposed pursuant to the "Rules on Service by Public Security Window Units" (公安机关窗口单位服务规定) (i.e., sections interacting directly with the public), issued by the Ministry on Feb. 7, 2003. (I guess they weren't being enforced very seriously before.)
- Beijing Evening News (北京晚报) story (in Chinese)
- BBC Chinese service summary (in Chinese)
- China Digital Times partial translation of BBC Chinese service story (in English)
Here are some of the phrases that seem to have provoked the most resentment among the masses; according to a story in the Beijing Morning News (晨报), which the BBC article summarizes but which I can't make appear on my browser, the PSB has actually printed these up in a manual for study. Thanks to China Digital Times for the translations, which I have modified in a few places where I thought it appropriate.
When meeting visitors at the precinct:
* Hey, I am talking to you. Who the hell are you? 嘿！说你哪，你是干什么的.
* Did you hear me? Are you deaf? 听见没有，耳朵聋了.
* It's you again. Aren't you tired of coming in here? 你怎么又来了，烦不烦啊.
* We cannot help you with this matter. Go ask whomever you like about it. 这事儿我们管不了，你爱找谁找谁去.
When handling routine business with citizens:
* This is your own business. So what if you have to come here a few more times? 你自己的事儿，多跑几趟怎么了.
* You still have to wait even if it is urgent. We have rules here. Do you understand? 有急事儿也得等着，这是规矩，明白吗.
* Hurry up. Do you want to do this or not? 快点啊，你办不办.
* It's your problem that you did not have all the papers. No one can help you here. 谁让你不带齐手续的，找谁也办不了.
* No means no. It does not need an explanation. 不办就是不办，没什么理由.
When meeting citizens reporting crimes:
* You want to file a case for such a tiny matter? Do you understand what the law is? 这么点事儿，你也想立案，你懂不懂法呀.
* You don't look like such a good person yourself. 一看你就不是什么好人.
* Do you think you know better than me? 你知道还是我知道啊.
* If you cannot speak clearly, how can you file a report? 话都讲不清楚，还报什么案.
* Do you have evidence? If you don't have evidence, what the hell are you reporting? 你有证据吗，没有证据你瞎报什么案呀.
* I am investigating YOU. Do you have a problem with that? 怎么了，查的就是你.
When mediating disputes
* You both are making trouble? Let's see who can make more trouble. 你们不是闹吗，看你们谁能闹得过谁.
* If you keep on making trouble I will put all of you in jail. 再闹把你们全都弄进去.
By coincidence, the US Department of Justice just last month released a report on the nature and characteristics of contacts between US residents and the police in 2005. The data come from a nationally representative sample of more than 60,000 residents age 16 or older. One finding that surprised me was that about 9 out of 10 persons who had contact with the police in 2005 felt the police acted properly. There are, on the other hand, some troubling disparities in treatment of minorities. For a summary, see this press release. For a note on this by my colleague Orin Kerr and some interesting discussion in the comments following it, see his Volokh Conspiracy post.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Yes, it has really happened. In footnote 2 of his dissent in United Haulers Assn., Inc. v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority (April 30, 2007), Justice Alito cites Owen, Sun, & Zheng, Antitrust in China: The Problem of Incentive Compatibility, 1 J. of Competition L. & Econ. 123 (2005) and Qin, WTO Regulation of Subsidies to State-owned Enterprises (SOEs): A Critical Appraisal of the China Accession Protocol, 7 J. of Int'l Econ. L. 863 (Dec. 2004). Qin is the only law professor in the group - she's at Wayne State.