September 1, 2009
The end of an era
The Procuratorial Daily (检察日报) reports on the imminent removal from the corpus of Chinese law (it appears in a few places) of the crime of "speculation" (投机倒把). This crime is a typical feature of planned economies, but because it often means nothing more than buying low and selling high (and it is typically not strictly defined), is obviously unsuited for the current Chinese economy. The resolution now before the NPC Standing Committee amending various laws reflects that fact.
My sense is that there have been very few prosecutions for speculation in the last several years, and what there has been has not been for acts such as buying low in place X and selling high in place Y. Instead, they have been for acts that were administratively prohibited but not explicitly criminalized. For example, many years ago the Chen brothers started an IP telephony service in Fujian that irritated the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications; they were raided and convicted (possibly later reversed - I don't recall) on speculation charges. (Memo to pack rats: keep the faith! I stored materials on this case for years and finally seem to have thrown them out last spring, thinking I would never use them, in a general office clean-up.) More details here.
Thus, what we're seeing here is more a legislative tidying-up than a major shift in policy.
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