China

With the media recently paying so much attention to foreign (read American and British) businesspeople getting in trouble in China, my firm’s China lawyers have been getting a large number of calls lately from worried Americans based in China. These callers are asking the following kinds of questions, and we are giving the following kinds of short answers (needless to say, our long answers are much more nuanced):

1.  Should I leave China? Not unless you or your company have violated Chinese law in such a way that you are at risk for going to jail. Let’s talk about whether or not that is the case…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “China: Should I Stay Or Should I Go?”

China joint ventures are notorious for their high failure rate. An old Chinese saying that is often applied to joint ventures is “same bed, different dreams.”[1] Far too often, American companies and Chinese companies rush into joint ventures without ever discussing their respective dreams.

Many years ago, a client about to fly to China to meet with a potential Chinese joint venture partner asked for my help. I compiled a list of issues to raise at that meeting, and have provided a similar list (honed a bit more each time) to subsequent clients facing the same situation. The goal of raising these issues is to determine whether the two companies share the same dreams, and whether the Chinese company is JV worthy. Currently, this list includes the following questions:

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “China Joint Ventures: You’ve Got To Love The One You’re With”

Is cruelty-free makeup legal in China? Nope!

Many years ago, an American credit reporting company called seeking help with forming a subsidiary in China. This company told me of their extensive and expensive market research demonstrating that China had a tremendous pent-up demand for their credit reporting services. As I listened, I kept thinking that unless the law had changed recently, foreign companies were prohibited from engaging in such business without a Chinese joint venture partner.

So I asked politely if anyone had determined whether their planned business would be legal in China. They paused and said they had not, and I suggested that we do so straightaway. After ten minutes of research, I reported back that credit reporting was barred to foreign entities seeking to go it alone. This company never went into China.

Flash forward to the present. Organic, cruelty-free cosmetics have become big business, including in China, where many who can afford such things would not be caught dead putting made-in-China products on their skin. American cruelty-free cosmetic companies are being contacted in droves by Chinese companies seeking importation and distribution deals…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The First Thing To Do Before Doing Business In China”


Rule number one for succeeding at doing business in China is to have a good partner. The odds of having problems with a Chinese company are much lower when you deal with a “legitimate” Chinese company. That means rule number two is making sure that you are dealing with a legitimate Chinese company.

But how do you do that? How do you distinguish between a Chinese company that is legitimate and one that is not?

The following are the basics for making that determination…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “China Due Diligence: Just Ask”

I recently spoke with a reporter who asked me why our clients that had chosen to locate in Vietnam had chosen Vietnam over China. I mentioned lower costs, less competition, and how some had told me that it was because they just flat out preferred spending time in Vietnam to China. He then said, “But it must be strictly the low costs in the end, right?” I said that could not be the case because if companies were choosing their locations on low costs alone, countries like Yemen and Niger would be on the top of their lists, rather than nowhere on them.

We are always getting asked why our law firm has its lead China lawyer and an office in Qingdao — we also have an office in Beijing, but nobody ever asks us why there. The answer is actually quite simple, particularly when compared to the high-level analysis many companies employ in making their location decisions. Steve is in Qingdao because we have had an excellent relationship with Qingdao’s biggest (and I think best) law firm for nearly a decade, and that firm was instrumental in helping us establish ourselves in China. But probably the driving factor in our choosing to locate in Qingdao is that Steve loves the place and loves that he can easily afford to live in a luxury apartment with twelve-foot-high windows overlooking the East China Sea at about half the price (and the pollution) of Shanghai or Beijing. The fact that at least 80 percent of our China work is 2-3 hours from Qingdao by plane only adds to its attraction. Steve is completely fluent in Chinese (as is our other attorney stationed there), and so Qingdao’s small expat community and dearth of people who speak English is no deterrent…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Choosing A China/Asia Location For Your Business”

For every 100 Wholly Foreign Owned Entities (WFOEs) and Joint Ventures (combined) my firm helps set up in China, it only sets up one Representative Office. Why so few, when Rep Offices are the easiest entity for foreigners to form in China? Because their inherent limitations mean they seldom make sense.

Representative Offices are aptly named — they are the China representative of the foreign company. A Rep Office is not considered a separate legal entity in China, and it is limited by law to performing “liaison” activities. It cannot sign contracts or bill customers. It cannot supply parts or perform after-sales services for a fee. It cannot earn any money in China or take any payments from a Chinese person or business for any reason.

Rep Offices are pretty much limited to engaging in the following…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “How To Form A China Representative Office… But Why Would You?”

American companies make a lot of mistakes in China. And even when they don’t make mistakes, they get frustrated.

I view both of these results as healthy, because mistakes and frustration are par for the course in China, and the sooner companies realize that the better. That said, they could avoid at least some of their heartbreak by following these five principles…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “5 Common China Business Mistakes To Avoid”

* As I noted yesterday over at Redline, the defense in the NCAA trial is putting up some terrible witnesses. Here’s another example. The NCAA’s expert wrote a textbook. The NCAA might have wanted to check it out before bringing him on to help defend themselves IN AN ANTITRUST CASE. [Twitter / Stewart Mandel]

* Elie and I got in a spirited discussion with Slate’s Jordan Weissmann over my edits to his piece on law schools. And it looks like some outside observers took notice. [Law and More]

* The case for grade inflation. [The Atlantic]

* In Wisconsin, a Scott Walker supporter allegedly voted for his boy 5 times. His defense is ripped from a Days of Our Lives script. [CBS News]

* Our mates at Legal Cheek have the ideal follow-up to our World Cup guide: Which last 16 World Cup team is your law firm? As a QPR fan, I’ll tip my hat to their Harry Redknapp quote. [Legal Cheeks]

* Overpreparing for a simple meeting. [What Should Law Bros Call Me]

* An 11th Circuit PIP nightmare. [South Florida Lawyers]

* Hong Kong lawyers protesting what they see as China meddling. Honestly can you blame China? Ever since Hong Kong let Batman just swoop in and grab that guy, you can’t really trust the Hong Kong legal system. [Reuters]

When it comes to negotiating, Chinese companies view American companies as easy marks: impatient, unfocused and too willing to compromise to avoid losing out. Accordingly, Chinese companies often employ the following three negotiating techniques:

1. Wear down the American side down with endless issues. This tactic actually has two variants. In the first variant, the Chinese side raises a series of issues. Once these initial issues are resolved, the Chinese side then raises a series of unrelated new issues. This process never stops, because the list of issues is endless. The second variant is for the Chinese side to make several unreasonable demands and then refuse to address the American company’s concerns at all. Both variants are designed to induce the American side to concede on all major points out of a desire to keep the deal moving forward….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Negotiating With China Companies: How To Respond To Common Tactics”

At least once a month, one of the China lawyers at my firm will get a call from someone asking us to form a “China company” for them before they start doing business in China “next month.” The problem with this is that forming a China company typically takes at least four months and after you finish this post you will understand why.

American lawyers often take on domestic company formations as a loss leader because the work tends to be fast and easy and they expect that the firm will get additional legal work once the company is formed. With China company formation, I often joke that the process is so onerous that our client never wants to speak with us again after we finish…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Agony And The Ecstasy Of Forming A China Subsidiary Company (WFOE)”

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