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.