On the Subway 2: Improvement or Nightmare?

Waiting for a train in a Line 1 or 2 subway station you get a phone call, your friend is looking to meet you, but you haven't decided where yet, the train comes and you get on, your friend is babbling about a trieste he/she had the night before and just about to get to the juicy details when...The train leaves the station, enters a tunnel, the line goes dead, and you curse loudly, drawing the ire of your fellow riders, who are squeezed against every possible part of your body.

The above scenario has happened to us all, probably countless times, right? Well, no more according to the Beijing government, as they are expanding cell coverage in the subway tunnels meaning that by June, there will be no more dropped calls on the subway.

Whether or not this is good news, it depends on your outlook on mobile phones, are they a gift or a curse? For those who think our world is already too connected, you have one more thing to complain about as you are attempting to enjoy the "peace" (yeah, right!) of a Beijing subway ride.


100 Days, 100 Restaurants

Today marks 100 days until the Opening Ceremonies to the Beijing Olympics and activities abound around the city. To honor this day, we at Modern Lei Feng have decided to launch a new feature as alluded to the other day, 100 Days, 100 Restaurant.

It won't be one restaurant per day, but will probably be broken down by style of food and other themes I can come up with, yet by August 8th, I will have reviewed 100 Beijing (and some in Shanghai, as its also an Olympic city) restaurants.

Realistic? Perhaps not, but its always good to have a goal.


Note to All Readers

I hate doing posts like these because I feel its pretentious and nobody really cares, but here goes. Despite the weekend photo threads and mp3 posts going by the wayside (mostly due to the destruction of my Macbook, though they may start up again), I'd like to announce a new feature, regular posts about the Beijing dining scene and restaurant reviews.

I have found localnoodles to be severely lacking in the number of reviews and other than the expat rags, there seem to be very few people writing about this scene. I also regularly find the expat reviews to be disappointing, so I'm writing my own. The focus will be on more popular places and will be almost entirely contained to places inside the 3rd Ring Road, except when I go way outside it to post about Shanghai, Shenzhen, and other locales.

I hope readers will enjoy the new posts and feel free to offer comments or suggestions about places I should check out. As always, I can be reached at

What's Going On?

It seems like by now everything in this crazy world of ours is more or less back to normal, but to borrow the immortal words of Marvin "what's going on?" Let's review. The 2008 torch relay began and for whatever reason the government thought the torch would be greeted with great joy or perhaps basically get ignored, but instead thousands took to the streets in London, Paris, and San Francisco. After what happened in march, what was the government seriously expecting? At the same time, while the protests were an overwhelming statement of free speech, how many of those rallying for the cause of Tibet could actually point it out on a map? The fact that so many people went as far as getting arrested for a place they have never visited and probably know next to nothing about boggles the mind.

Then Paris, we'll always have Paris, right? The craziness of a torch relay where the torch doesn't stay lit and must ride on buses and the defining moment of the torch relay, when the Paralympic athlete in a wheelchair, Jin Jing, battled a frog and "bravely" protected the torch. I have to wonder about the sanity of a man who attacks a disabled girl for the cameras of the world. The Chinese backlash against all things french was immediate, Carrefour suffering the most and yet I still bet the lines will be long during the may holiday.

Back to the subject of Jin Jing, at first the articles barely even referred to her, but once Xinhua realized it had a pr coup on its hands, she was front and center. Netizens talked up her bravery and were calling her a beautiful angel. Maybe its the cynic in me, but the sudden publicity she's getting is disingenuous. She's a former Paralympic champion, but most Chinese have never heard her name before. After a week or two, this beautiful angel will go back to being ignored and jobless, but that's what happens if you're disabled in China. Unfortunately, her brief fame hasn't been used to shine a light on how she's treated in China, that would kill the instant patriotism.

Then there's CNN, that great bastion of American news, reporting to the world twenty four hours a day. One of its commentators made some idiotic, off the cuff comments about china and suddenly the whole country is up in arms. It is one thing for ordinary citizens to be pissed off, its another thing when the government starts attacking this individual. So you want to be a superpower but you can't take a little criticism from one lowly commentator? CNN should have immediately fired Cafferty (or for face, suspended him), but the government should be a little less preoccupied with the opinions of one relatively meaningless individual and a little more thick skinned. Finally, the lawsuit against CNN for 1.3 billion dollars, what can I say? Having worked for a federal judge, I thought I'd seen every possible desperate and/or laughable lawsuit there could be, but this one might take the cake. I'd love to read the brief if anyone has it, I'm sure it would be great for laughs. I can see it now, the moment the judge sj'd this thing out of court, Chinese netizens will once again rise up in indignation.

The world's done gone and lost its damn mind!


Where Beijing Falls Short...

In the past one of my aunts was always complaining about how early things closed in Beijing and I always said that it wasn't quite as bad as she made it out to be, closing hours for a lot of the bigger malls was typically around 10 pm, which seemed reasonable. However, after spending a night at Wangfujing not too long ago and being in Tokyo now, I've come to agree with her, Beijing closes down way too early.

For a major, happening international city, its sort of disconcerting when so many places seem to turn off the lights at such an early hour. Now, I'm not advocating the entire city stay open all night, but when I was walking down Wangfujing on a Saturday night at 9:20 pm, it was shocking to see most of the stores were already starting to close down for the night. What??? This is the most famous shopping street in Beijing, and probably in all of China, and everything closes at 9:30 on a Saturday night and 9 pm during the week? Its not like the masses of people who shop in that area go away either, the street was still packed with people who had very few choices for a late night snack or to satisfy their desire for retail therapy. I'm pretty sure this will change during the Olympics, but it should stay open another hour later in general, considering the crowds that it draws.

I think 10 pm during the week and 10:30 on the weekend would be a lot better and would actually help the shops make some more money. Let's keep Beijing open!

And one more thing, it is really, really time to close Nanluoguxiang off to cars. Such a nice peaceful area is hard to come by in Beijing, so its annoying to regularly have to dodge cars as they go rumbling down the road. It's a pain for pedestrians and disturbs the tranquil environment.

Beijing, my beautiful Beijing, your problems certainly aren't limited to these, but these are two small things that won't be difficult to change and that will win you some points in the eyes of locals and visitors alike.

The Ol' Dining and Drinks Two Step

I love eating out and do so on an almost nightly basis tending to dine at my local hole-in-the-wall noodle shop to some of the top tables in Beijing and everything in between. I also am well aware of the markup, be it in the US or China (I actually believe the markup in China is often not that bad comparatively), on a bottle of wine in a restaurant and the reasons why there is that markup, okay, I get it. However, I basically ignore the wine list at most restaurants here, due to my own aversion to wine with Chinese food (sorry, I just can't get over it) and the fact that, even before the restaurant markup, most wines in China are horribly overpriced.

With that said, as a beer drinker, I can never quite grasp the markup at restaurants. The retail on a large bottle of Yanjing is RMB2, but stores and restaurants can get it for even less. Now, at a nicer restaurant (say South Beauty), I'm willing to pay up to RMB20 or so for a large bottle, but what I don't appreciate is the number of pretentious places that will charge RMB 20 or more for a small bottle of Qingdao. I also can't grasp when a certain Korean restaurant (name will remain anonymous for now) charges RMB58 or higher for bottles of soju or rice wine that cost RMB8-12 at a supermarket and has almost no by the glass or cocktail options.

The strange thing is that I'll go out to a bar and am willing to give them RMB25 plus for a bottle of beer that I know costs much less, but I complain to the bitter end when it happens in a restaurant. I think it has something to do with price of food/price of alcohol ratio. If I'm eating at a high-end restaurant where most dishes are RMB80 or more, I expect to pay a lot for alcohol. When I'm in a place where the dishes are RMB20 or below and they give you a plastic cup with the beer, I basically expect to pay retail for a bottle of beer. But when food prices are between RMB50-70 for most dishes, I feel a bit taken when I'm paying between RMB30-50 for alcohol.

Is it just me?


Sunday Photo Thread: Live from Tokyo Edition

So there hasn't been a weekend photo thread in months and I figured its time to mix it up a little bit. Though I'm without my beautiful Macbook Pro right now, I still have some photos that I can post. Since this blog is about all things China, not sure if I'll post many Tokyo shots, but here are some China shots that were sitting in the archives...

Shanghai Number One Mall during the day
kites flying at the Bund at night
Cherry blossoms and the Forbidden City
crowds crossing the street at Xidan


And I Don't Wear Jerseys I'm 30 Plus...

The other night I had a discussion with a friend who is a true kicksologist, far above and beyond my own admiration for shoes of all kind, not just "gym shoes" (showing my Chicago pride with that). Growing up in Chicago during the 90s, Jordans were the shoes (as Spizike said, "it's gotta be the shoes") that everybody wanted, and I wasn't any different. Okay, I know it was true of the entire country, but hell, after being in China for awhile, you realize how important Jordan was. Jordan was Chicago, Chicago was Jordan. As I got older, I strayed away from my youthful obsession with Jordans, but after all these years, the release of the Air Jordan XX3, the final edition of numbered Jordans came out and I had to cop them immediately after seeing them. One more nod to my love of all things Chicago and final thanks to the man who took the Bulls from a laughing stock to league champions.

But nearing 28, am I too old to be rocking Jordans (especially the basketball high tops)? At what age is it time to start editing out that part of my wardrobe? Is Jay-Z right, is 30 the limit?

Lawyers Writing About China

China Law Blog did a post a few weeks back about English language blogs on Chinese law and last week I got some props from Black China Hand who talked about the number of lawyers writing blogs on China.

I have the utmost respect for the people on CLB's list who take the time to write blogs on Chinese law. While some of the people blogging are lawyers who use their blogs as a marketing tool, a number of excellent blogs are written by students. I am blown away by the quality of China Business Law Blog, all the posts are extremely in-depth analyses of Chinese law issues and are extremely educational. I cannot imagine myself taking the time to write such posts (instead of studying or going to a bar) back in my law school days.

My status as a lawyer has been kept on the down low since I started this blog, though from time to time I do touch on legal topics, but my recent back and forths with Chinese Lawyer Blog has sort of outted me, that's okay.

While I love the law and find Chinese law extremely interesting, I can't imagine using time away from the office to blog about legal issues. I deal with law enough in the office, I don't want to take it home with me. Therefore, while this blog touches on legal and political issues occasionally, the focus is still on my favorite extracurricular activities. Thus, the focus will remain on sports, art, brands, and (in the weeks to come) especially dining out. I would like to think that I can hit on some of the major happenings, the shops, the restaurants of Beijing, but its hard because I don't have the resources that City Weekend and That's Beijing have. There are a few helpers here, but we all have day jobs and this is only a labor of love.

Anyways, make sure to read those blogs if you want to know what's happening in Chinese law, but please also take the time to stop by here and find out what's happening on the ground in Beijing.

Olympic Ticket News Finally Released

Many in Beijing and around the country have been going to the Olympic ticketing website on a daily basis checking to see if Phase 3 tickets, which were supposed to go on sale in April, have been released yet. Well, on Wednesday, BOCOG finally held a press conference about Phase 3 ticket sales, stating that they will go on sale on May 5 at 9 am Beijing time.

Over 1 million tickets will go on sale during this round for many different sports including basketball, soccer, volleyball. Each account holder can purchase tickets for a maximum of 2 events (3 tickets per event). This round will be first come, first served.

During the press conference, BOCOG officials stated their confidence in the system and that there wouldn't be any problems like what went on during Phase 2 when the system crashed shortly after ticket sales began. They also denied the rumors that foreign students in Beijing are being encouraged (or forced) to leave Beijing as being completely baseless.

I'm sure by now everyone already knows about this as its 2 day old news, but if you don't know, now you know.

A Quick Look at Shopping Spots Around the Capital

With one less soldier on the ground (yes, a loyal contributor is now off to bigger and better things in Tokyo), we're a man down around here, but no problem, the slack can be picked up.

Speaking of picking things up, my mood was quickly picked up when I discovered a Beijing outpost of popular Shanghai wine bar/boutique Enoteca will be open soon at The Place. I imagine its going to be a very happening after work spot in the CBD. In other The Place related news, a Giordano Concepts will be opening by the end of the month there and, while there, its worth it to check out the Chinese brand Croquis, a brand based in Hangzhou that is a men's version of casual cool JNBY.

In other shopping news, Joy City's closer to capacity now that Zara has finally opened its doors. Tons of construction is going on at Xidan and the wrecking ball finally took out the many small stores facing joy city.

A walk through China Central Plaza mall saw a lot of "opening soon" signs and few customers (including a Muji). A large Brooks Brothers store is open now, but its still not known if BB's traditional "pinstripe lawyerly affectations" and "brash tweedy impertinence" will fit into this relatively empty area. Who is going to support this mall (more on this soon)? And how long do the apartment blocks squeezed between it and Xiandai Soho have before the wrecking ball comes calling?

Xinjiekou is in disarray as another large mall looks to be moving in next to the Xinhua Mall and many of the stores on the west side of the street are shut down, which could lead to major changes to the Chinese styles that are more commonly found in that area.


What's Hot in China?

Yesterday I mentioned the Conde Nast Hot List (which rates the top new spots in the world) would be out soon (or at least up on line), and today that promise is fulfilled. China does alright in restaurants, but not so well in nightspots. Beijing's version of Whampoa Club makes it on the list, as well as Shanghai's Franck, Pure, and Hamilton House (are they taking credit cards yet?), with Hong Kong's Zuma (also on the Best 50 list) rounding it out.

5 places is respectable, but its still down from last year's high of 9. One wonders if Beijing's current pre-Olympics preparation turmoil caused the city to take a hit as a number of new establishments are only just getting up and running while costs have caused many to delay plans for a year or so. Perhaps, that's why there is only 1 spot on the nightlife list, Vue Bar in Shanghai.

Yet if you're in to spas, China takes the cake with 7 of the hottest new spas in the world. Beijing's Chi Spa, Jing-Chen Spa, Quan Spa, and Serenity Spa make the list as well as Shanghai's outpost of Quan and the Yuan Spa. From outside the Beijing-Shanghai-Hong Kong stronghold is Guilin's Homa Espirit Spa, also making the list.

World's Top 50 and Nothing For China

The yearly World's Best 50 Restaurants list has been released and no love for any restaurants in China, not that this is an overwhelming surprise. Pierre Gargnaire's self-named restaurant takes number 3, whereas his Hong Kong outpost comes in at 88 (the highest rated restaurant in Asia is Bukhara in India, at 55). All 4 L'Atelier Joel Rubochon's make the list, while the Hong Kong version Rubochon a Galera clocks in at 98, one ahead Zuma, another Hong Kong restaurant, at 99. Last year, lots of love was shown to Indian and Singaporean restaurants, but most of them are off the list this year and the above represents all the Asian dining spots on the list.

China's dining scene is still not quite ready for primetime, but the number of high end restaurants and outposts of foreign favorites is growing. Jean Georges gets on for his New York restaurant, will the Shanghai version be far behind? What about the amazing creations from the likes of Frederic Meynard (Le Pre Lenotre) and Paul Pairet (Jade on 36)? Will they get some international recognition in the years to come, especially after the Olympics, when the world visits Beijing? Restaurants like SALT, The Courtyard, and Jaan are putting out some great food, but their prices are still, compared to Tokyo, London, Paris, and New York, reasonable and perhaps this accessibility is what keeps them from these lists. Bloggers love lists and so I always go for this stuff, but is it unrealistic to think that a spot in China could compete in a few years (or even today)?

It will be interesting to see what Conde Nast Traveler's Hot List includes in its 2008 edition, as it regularly has a number of Chinese spots and is currently on newsstands. The website currently only has hotels and not the "hot" tables or clubs, China is well represented with Hotel Cote Cour SL in Beijing at 18, Shanghai's Jia (29) and Mansion Hotel (41), and the Kayumanis Nanjing (31).


Massage Massage Everywhere...

With a hat tip to That's Beijing, I read curiously last week that there are officially 430 Blind Person Massage spots in Beijing, though as it seems there is one in almost every neighborhood, the number seems a bit small.

Massage is the first and still the main occupation available to the blind in China. While some work as piano tuners, operators, singers, or radio hosts, probably 95% or more of employed blind people serve as masseurs. Their training varies widely between those who have studied it through school and attended special education universities (like Changchun University or Beijing Union University) or schools of Chinese medicine, while many others only work as interns or trainees at massage parlours where they learn massage (a similar process to what Ben's blog talked about at hair salons). The government certifies those doing massage and parlours should have certificates on display (or at the very least, available).

The article mentions that the Beijing Disabled People's Federation has come up with a logo that certified parlours can display in an attempt to create a brand and build confidence among the public, especially in light of the upcoming Olympics. While this is a good plan, it doesn't always work. Masseurs, like the parlours they work at, are (or should be) certified by the government. Places that can be classified "Blind Person Massage" by the government get tax breaks and other benefits, so often regular massage places will "borrow" the certificates of blind masseurs for a fee so that they can be classified as "Blind Person Massage".

All part of the game. But if you're looking for cheap massage that can make you feel better (and feel good for what you're doing), look out for the new Blind Massage logo around Beijing.

Olympic Football (Soccer) Groups Out

I've been beaten to the punch by Shanghaiist (they even gave me a day, but yesterday was a long day, so I couldn't get it out before them) on this, damn! Gotta feel bad, even in my small little world of expertise, I still get pipped.

Anyways, for ticket holders (or those who want to buy tickets), hope you got the teams you wanted:

Group A - Shanghai
Ivory Coast

Group B - Tianjin
United States

Group C - Shenyang
New Zealand

Group D - Qinhuangdao
South Korea

Group E - Tianjin

Group F - Shenyang
North Korea

Group G - Qinhuangdao
United States
New Zealand

I don't know that much about women's soccer, so I'm not going to comment on that. It would appear to me that on the men's side, Group B is the "group of death" with 4 very powerful sides. China-Brazil is bound to be the big ticket match of the preliminary round, with the men's team returning to the city (but not the stadium) of its greatest success.


All a Matter of Perspective

A point was hit home to me in a conversation with a friend the other day. Whether you love or hate the Chinese Communist Party (or fall somewhere in between), over the past 30 years, it has accomplished something absolutely amazing. The number of people who lived in poverty, many in absolutely disparate conditions, and no longer do thanks to the government's "reform and opening up" is larger than any society in human history has been able to accomplish. That figure has went from 250 million in 1978 to around 20 million today. Let me repeat that, in 1978 the figure was 250 million, today it is around 20 million (possibly even less). From 1997 to 2003, China went from 50 million people living below the poverty line to 25 million below the poverty line. These statistics are amazing and even when broken down to a percentage of the population, they are still unmatched.

Within that huge figure, there are a large number of Tibetans and other minorities included, something that is lost on many of the people currently protesting. China, because of its Communist government, is under a microscope where its many accomplishments ignored and its mistakes broadcast and bolded all over the world.

Things need to be kept in perspective.

Sad on a Tuesday

While it has been announced that many of the bars, clubs, and restaurants inside the gates of Worker's Stadium (Gongti) will be closed down during the Olympics, last night we showed up at Gongti planning on hitting up Kro's Nest for their great "I Hate Tuesdays" free (or RMB5) beer and decent pizzas and then heading over to Mix, trying to finally get rid of some of the thousands of RMB we have on multiple VIP cards, only to find Gongti all locked up and no way to enter the gate. Our guess was that the lockdown had something to do with the Good Luck Beijing Women's soccer event to be played at Gongti over the weekend, but some announcement would have been appreciated.

Instead, we went to Red Rose and had a decent time sitting outside on a lovely night, the menu is very hit and miss, but their yangrou chuanr are large and delicious (as well they should be for RMB6 a chuanr). We followed that by doing a round at some Sanlitun Hou Jie spots including Shooters (dead) and The Tree (hopping), followed by a trip to Suzie Wong's for their Latin night and one of the city's better mojitos.

The lack of announcements about location closings or street congestion is going to be a major problem if it continues, or worse, happens during the Olympics. Some of this information gets printed in Chinese, but often doesn't get to foreigners, others simply isn't announced and instead disappointed people don't find out until they arrive. The torch relay closed down the Tiananmen East subway stop and basically killed a morning for me. I currently am dealing with a client who is constantly complaining about the new visa rules that seem to be changing all the time and I'm starting to feel her pain.

UPDATE: Beijing Boyce explains the situation, oh well, pizza and beer will have to wait a week.


Handing Out Bylines at Customs (Alternatively, "Drop a down payment on that Porsche Cayenne")

First off, I'd like to thank the reader "the NUN" for informing me of the New York Times article last week about Li Ning and Chinese brands as a whole. It's a very interesting look at Li Ning, the top Chinese sportswear manufacturer, but it often appears like this is the writer's first trip to China. I have a feeling that the closer we get to the Olympics, the more these sort of reporters will get bylines and so its going to get even more annoying. It's going to get to the point that when people get off the plane at Capital Airport, they walk through the brand, spanking new Terminal 3 and get handed a byline alongside a stamp in their passports, please, Mr. Nocera and your ilk, do your research!

He starts out giving a history of Li Ning, the athlete and the company, and about their "campus" in Beijing as well as some of the athletes the company has deals with, including Shaquille O'Neal. Then, he goes into the "similarities" between the Li Ning and Nike logo, as well as this line: "The Shaq figure stamped on his branded line of Li-Ning sneakers looked an awful lot like Nike’s Air Jordan figure." First, the Shaq logo looks absolutely nothing like the classic MJ logo. Beyond that, the logo is one that Shaq has been using almost his entire career and has spanned his time with Reebok, Starter, and now Li Ning (and probably a few other brands in between).

The article goes on to discuss how Li Ning, which dominated the Chinese market in the early to mid 90s before Nike and Adidas fully penetrated China, has fallen to number 3 in the Chinese market and has almost zero market penetration overseas. It claims that Li Ning holds 18% of the market, while both Nike and Adidas have over 20%, is this a negative? Where else in the world can a domestic sportswear company fight it out with these major players? It also fails to note that 3rd isn't so bad when you're talking about 18% in a country with 1.3 billion people and the fact that Li Ning is beating out all domestic competition as well as a number of major international players (Reebok, Puma, Converse, Kappa, etc) and doing all this with a marketing budget far less than that of Nike and Adidas.

Li Ning, if it attempts to go overseas, especially in the US and Europe, will have an uphill battle. The problem is that in China, it tries to market itself alongside Adidas and Nike, signing deals with major athletes, national teams, and sports leagues (the NBA and ATP, to name a few). The majority of items in a Li Ning store (including shoes) can be had for around RMB300 or less, the price that much of the clothing starts at in a Nike or Adidas shop. If they go downmarket overseas, they can bring in a ton of money, but will it hurt the brand image domestically?

Other Chinese brands mentioned in the article like Aigo and Lenovo (and some that are not like TCL and Haier) have gone a long way in attempting to enter the foreign market, but none of them are high-end producers, all are mid to low end players. For some, branding has been important, so much has gone into their marketing (for example, Aigo is one of the sponsors of the F1 Ferrari team), for Haier and others, their low, low prices (que Wal-Mart) and large distribution means less is spent on marketing. China's already spreading globally with these mid and low end products, more so than Japan in the 70s, but when and who will be China's first high-end brand to go abroad? This is what everyone is waiting for (often, at least in the west, very fearfully).

And what of the Porche Cayenne that Kanye sings about and I reference in the title? The article commits flaws of horrible research and talks about how Audi's are the height of luxury in China and how everyone wants an iPhone, which aren't even on sale here. Sure, an A6 is considered a "fancy" car, but the majority of people covet BMW's and Mercedes (or the extremely popular Cayenne). And iPhone's not on sale here? Hilarious!

Once more, reporters, please, please, please do your research and know something before coming to China, thank you.


Real Advise to American Law Students (and Contracts are King!)

I recently saw a post on that great bastion of idealism and legal insight, the China Lawyer Blog, and found it pretty amusing as usual. At first, the start pulled me in by saying: “Many US law students are contacting me these days for advice about how to get a job and succeed while working at a Chinese Law Firm, like my law firm Zhong Lun. A few of them already work as interns in Chinese law firms.” I don’t advertise my involvement, but every now and then I bring up legal issues. Students and alumni at my law school and random blog readers write me from time to time with similar inquiries about what its like to work at a Chinese law firm.

To simplify what was already very simple, I’ll just offer the 3 lessons that he offered:
Lesson #1: If you do business with Chinese lawyers, get them to pay cash when they eat.
Lesson #2: An internship at a Chinese law firm means nothing and will not help you.
Lesson #3: An entry level job with a law firm is hard to get and will make your life miserable. And, you have no prospect of ever improving your status.

Let’s start with the first "lesson", if his accusation against Zhong Lun is true, its pretty hilarious. The very best Chinese law firms are structured and run not much differently from US law firms and usually partners would, without any thought and usually with a battle over who pays the check, be more than willing to throw down their credit card and cover the entire bill. In most cases, this meal would be reimbursed by the firm anyways. Zhong Lun is among the top Chinese firms, but if what Mr. Brauer says is true, its corporate culture is highly flawed and still very Chinese, not like the other top tier firms here.

The third one is an interesting issue to deal with. He’s stating a fact. Life in a law firm, be it in the US or China or England or wherever is going to be hard, especially for an entry level associate and it will be a miserable life for awhile. This is true if you are working at a top firm in Beijing or New York or London. Young Chinese lawyers working at the very best firms located in the CBD here are chained to their desk, just like young lawyers at Wall Street firms in New York. Much like lawyers at those Wall Street firms, everything will be based on performance, annual or semi-annual performance reviews will decide what your bonus and raise will be and are handled highly professionally. It’s cut-throat, even more so in the US because of the size of the population, but if a young Chinese lawyer doesn’t like it, they can choose to stay away from the most prestigious firms and instead go to a small firm in Beijing or a smaller city (lawyers in the US face a similar choice when job hunting).

The second one is a little harder, and is also somewhat factual. If you are a young US law school student and you get an internship with a Chinese firm (usually through a summer study program), it is unlikely the internship will help you very much. The only time I’d advise coming over for a summer program is after your first year of law school, during the second year, its time to line up a summer associate position with long term prospects. A US law student, even if they speak perfect Chinese, doesn’t have a very good understanding of Chinese law and won’t be able to do many of the things a Chinese law school student could do. The internship is basically just a line on the resume and in almost all cases, it won’t mean a lot of real world experience. Though, if one uses the time wisely and builds up contacts and friends within the firm and with foreign lawyers here, the time won’t be completely wasted and the internship may lead to future employment.

Most importantly, the post’s title is “Don’t Ask Me To Pay You, Idiot! Contracts Are For Fools” and in the article Mr. Brauer states that, “The difference is that it is impossible to enforce a contract against Zhong Lun, especially if you are foreign employee or client.” This is completely and utterly not true, it couldn’t be any further from reality. You NEED to have a contract, both for the obvious reason of setting up the terms of your labor and because it is required when a foreigner applies for a work visa as well as under the current Labor Contract Law (if you don’t have a contract, you benefit bigtime, any law firm worth its salt will sign a contract before you even start).

Chinese courts, much like US courts, aren’t going to spend a lot of time listening to hearsay. If you can prevent evidence to support your case, they will listen, no matter if you are a foreigner or a Chinese. A contract is the ultimate form of evidence in an employment dispute and it’s anything but impossible to enforce it in court. However, it is absolutely important to have every term that is negotiated between the two parties included in the contract, verbal promises made in conversations that aren’t memorialized in the contract can’t be protected. Put it in writing! Let me repeat that, and let that be the only lesson here, PUT. IT. IN. WRITING. If you do so, and if the end result is a day in court, your day will be much smoother.

It is not easy getting a job in the China legal market and if you’re an American law student who isn’t a Chinese citizen, you are facing an uphill climb. Getting an internship with a Chinese law firm during your 1L summer is a good way to start climbing that hill. It is tempting to take an offer from a Chinese firm as there are very few that are willing to even consider foreigners for summer (or any) positions, but make sure it is the right firm. It will make all the difference in the world, a great firm may not give you a long-term offer, but the partners are likely to have contacts at foreign firms and will be willing to give you a hand. This is important, contacts matter, they matter a lot and go a long way in whether you can find a job. Being highly competent in reading and writing Chinese, especially legal Chinese, will be beneficial. Even in that case, its still a crap shoot in the end.


Dining Scene Notes

From a weekend of roaming around, there are two interesting dining issues to note. First, a branch of S'Silk Road (茶马古道) will soon be coming to the re-branded version of XinDongAn. It seems like a strange fit for this upscale restaurant, especially with the recent opening of a very large Yunnan restaurant in that mall. It will be interesting how they try to shoehorn their artsy, stylish restaurant into this far from upmarket mall (even with all the changes).

Major changes at the recently reopened Courtyard as well. The art gallery downstairs is no more and will probably be used for more tables or private dining. Also, no more art on the wall, replaced instead by a large mirror running the length of the back wall. The Cigar Divan upstairs may also be a thing of the past. Yet the food, as always, is still excellent and worthy of a splurge from time to time.

Lots of good things are being said about the new Cuban restaurant, Guantanamera, near the Kuntai Hotel, plan on stopping by sometime in the near future for a mojito and to see the nightly live music sessions.