Posts Tagged ‘china’

Mallesons: forward comrades, to better lawyering with Communist characteristics!

March 8th, 2012 4 comments

Are you a proud member of King & Wood Mallesons[n2] looking to better integrate yourself into the firm’s new combined culture? Do you want to work on the highest profile M&A deals while maintaining your faith in Communism? Then look no further. The King & Wood Communist Party Sub Branch[n1] is your ticket to uplifting training sessions on Communist ideology, stimulating discussion of the Working Report of the Communist Party National Conference, and pilgrimage tours to the birthplaces of the Communist Revolution.

Here is some information I translated from the profile for the King & Wood Communist Party Sub-Branch on a Chinese government website (original link at the end):

“The King & Wood Communist Party Branch was established on 2 April 1997. Currently membership of the Party Branch numbers 169, the Branch secretary and Branch committee are composed of senior lawyers and excellent Communist Party members.

“Since establishment, the King & Wood Communist Party Branch has strictly followed the overall requirement of “One Centre, Five Developments and Three Guarantees”, combined with the special characteristics of grassroots Party development in the legal profession, have steadfastly placed the ideological development of the Party at the forefront, have organised Party members to carefully study the “Report of the 17th Party Congress”, have undertaken education on the vanguard qualities of Communist Party members, and have perfected Party branch organisational development. In September 2007 Branch committee members were sent to the [Communist Party guerrilla base] Jinggang Mountain to attend the Party Cadre School, to participate in the “Core Cadre Study Session On the Spirit of the 17th Party Congress”. In October, they have participated in the training class for branch secretaries organised by the Personnel Department, which has strengthened all Party Member’s upholding of Communist ideals, and solidified the faith in Communism of the King & Wood Party Branch members.”

The rest of the article emphasises how King & Wood’s Communist lawyers participated in their highest profile deals.

From: (in Chinese). I have copied the full text below incase the website changes.

n1: Update:  According to this more recent article by current King & Wood Mallesons global chairman Junfeng Wang (also in Chinese, also copied below in full), the party branch is now a Main Branch, with 16 Sub Branches, 7 Party Committees, and more than 400 party members. Among other recent achievements, the Communist party branch magazine “Fly, fly the Red Flag” is now the “spiritual home that guides” King & Wood Mallesons employees. The “Firm-Party Joint Committee” has been formed to ensure that the Communist Party organisation participates in all key decisions of the firm, and to clarify that all major decisions must first be subjected to the comments and suggestions of the Communist Party organisation. The article further mentions that the firm has adopted a policy to recommend Communist Party members in priority to act on major deals of national importance. If anything, this is an even more disturbing article.

n2: For readers less in tune with events in the Australian legal market, Mallesons Stephen Jaques, one of Australia’s largest law firms (if not the largest), has merged with Chinese law firm King & Wood, to create the new “King & Wood Mallesons”. There is no, nor has there ever been any, “Mr King” or “Mr Wood” – they were simply easy to pronounce English names picked by the Chinese firm when it formed in the 80s. I’m sure Mr Malleson would have been very proud to know that he now ranks third after two fictitious names.

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Lest we forget

May 31st, 2009 No comments

The Land of the Supersized Government Office

December 28th, 2008 2 comments

The People’s Daily reports that the “White House district secretary” of Anhui, China, has been charged (in Chinese). See a post from another blog here. The “White House district secretary”, for those who don’t keep up with the weird and wonderful world of Chinese provincial politics, is Zhang Zhi’an, the Communist party secretary in Yingquan district, Fuyang city, Anhui province, who ruled his district like it was his fiefdom. He earned his monicker by building a gargantuan office building for the district government (i.e. a local council) that the locals have nicknamed “the White House” (see pic left – a bit more like the US capitol to my eyes). When Li Guofu, one of his underlings, dared to air this extravagance in the national press, Zhang teamed up with the district prosecutor to persecute Li, who eventually committed suicide in custody. I’m not here to discuss the socio-political implications of this case and Li’s prosecution. Rather, this news piece piqued my interest in disproportionately ornate government office buildings, which the Chinese appear to have perfected into an artform. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you — The Land of the Supersized Government Office – A Tour.*

Changxing county (pop 620,000), Zhejiang province; completed 2008, cost A$150m

City government office, Chengdu, Sichuan. Completed 2008, cost A$300m

New UN headquarters? Space port? No - Harbin city hall. Completed 2005, cost A$1bn

City hall of Hangzhou, Zhejiang – due for completion 2008, cost A$300m
Las Vegas? Not quite. Dongguan city government building, Guangdong province
Ji’nan city hall, completed 2007, cost A$1bn, featuring 40 elevators and 45,000 phone and network sockets










* All images are used in good faith for the purpose of review and criticism, and news reporting 

Political dynasties and family dictatorships

October 19th, 2008 No comments

Unfortunately, I am at my most prolific when I should be studying for exams. All four of them in the next four days, to be precise.

I happened upon the Wikipedia article on family dictatorships – and the related articles on dynasties and political families – and found it in a most unsatisfactory state. I’ve edited it, but it’s got me thinking. When does a political dynasty turn into a family dictatorship, and when is a family dictatorship a monarchy?

The first difference seems to usually involve a value judgment as to the quality of the political system. If the country is democratic, as in the US, then the passage of a position from father to son creates a “political dynasty”, while if the country is judged to be a dictatorship, then this is a family dictatorship. I say “value judgment”, because clearly this is not a question of law. Many “dictatorships” have very nicely whitewashed constitutions and hold regular elections. Often, the boundary can be hard to define. Is Singapore a political dictatorship or merely a political family?

The latter difference also is not one strictly of laws and institutions. In a monarchy, the crown passes within the family by force of law. However, some family dictatorships also enshrine their succession by laws designating the dictator’s heir.

It seems to me that the conditions for consituting a string of leaders from the same family as a family dictatorship are something like this:

  1. No general law of hereditary succession. If a regime adheres to a general law of hereditary succession, then regardless of how the leadership is named, it is a hereditary monarchy and not merely a dictatorship. This is a maximum threshold. Anything falling short of this can be a family dictatorship. This covers a broad spectrum of institutional positions. A state may enact an ad hoc law designating the leader’s proginy as the legal successor; or it may hold elections (as to which, see below); or it may simply in practice treat the successor as the new leader. An example of the last is Kim Jong-il, whose position, the chair of the National Defence Commission, was simply declared to be the highest office of the land by government propaganda after the death of his father as the President. Since the younger Kim is not the President, he needed not be elected and is under no constitutional obligation to present himself to the electorate either.
  2. Use of political, not “soft” power. A family dictatorship is first and foremost a dictatorship. This means that the regime enacts its policies, including succession policy, by the use of politcal powers as represented by instruments of state. This is a minimum threshold. Thus, a regime that holds free and fair elections, but in which one family, because of the informal power and influence accrued to it, continues to hold political office, is not a family dictatorship. Thus, no matter how many Bushes are elected to the Presidency, the US is not a family dictatorship. The Bushes would achieve disproportionate success because of their economic power and informal influence, rather than control over state apparatus. By contrast, Singapore is arguably a family dictatorship. The (indirect) hereditary succession was instituted through the regime’s control over the country’s political process, which itself is maintained by relaxed separation of powers, the enactment of laws that hamper dissent, and using the law to force dissidents into bankruptcy, jail, or exile.

Family dictatorships share attributes with other forms of government. One is the non-transparent selection of a successor. The selection and cultivation of a successor usually involves the interplay of forces within the regime, and can often be highly personal. It is often highly uncertain, with successors falling in and out of favour over a long period of time. To a greater or lesser extent, the same process is found in all but the most transparent of systems. The second is the “grooming” of a successor. In order to attain either authority within the regime, or a veil of legitimacy in the eyes of the public, the successor is carefully planted in various positions to attain experience, often with a cult of personality built up around that experience. Such a process is also found across authoritarian regimes and in hereditary monarchies. One scene which I found curiously apt during the Olympics was that Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping was chosen to meet with all the visiting Crown Princes – as heir apparents, the selection ensured reciprocity. (A vice presidency does not equal heirdom apparent in China. Since each president now serves for two terms, the first term vice president is a holdover minder from the previous administration, and the second term vice president is the designated successor.)

Since I can’t think of any particularly nice pictures to put in here, enjoy these two Youtube videos:

A day in the life of the Prince of Wales: Part 1 


Dear Leader Kim Jung-il is the People’s Inspiration

Torch relay, tabloid journalism, and “community values”

April 9th, 2008 2 comments

I’m writing a research paper on the role of juries in sentencing, which has, perhaps, made me especially sensitive to the way tabloid journalism reflects public opinion. While many assume that tabloid journalism reflects the voice of “the masses” – the plebeian, if you like – in reality this seems to be simply untrue. This point surfaces here and there in the debate on juries, usually in the context of questioning whether there is in fact a crisis of confidence in our legal system, as would appear from the reportings of tabloid media, such as the (Sydney) Daily Telegraph, and increasingly the Sydney Morning Herald.

So the Olympic torch relay is being disrupted by – not angry Tibetans after an independent country, but smiling Western anarchists who have nothing better to do and jump on these bandwagons like an annual county fair. WTO one year, Olympic games the next. If it gives them the opportunity to smash a window or to or bash a handicapped girl in wheelchair or two, then they seemingly don’t care that they are supporting a feudal theocracy that has only minority support in the land they claim to represent.

Many tabloid journalists are probably drawn from the same stock as the anarchist protesters: angry, ignorant, and eager to claim a moral high ground. Not only are they ignorant of the facts, they are also ignorant of the true opinions of the community that forms their readership. So I looked on the Sydney Morning Herald website, and this survey showed more clearly than anything that disjoint. The question asks “Should [Kevin Rudd] use this impressive combination of [language and professional] skills to push Beijing for a fair deal for Tibet?” Patronising, ignorant, prejudiced — laden with so many false assumptions one might question whether the author would be able to find his or her own country – let alone Tibet – on a map of the world.

If one believed that the SMH represented the opinions of the community, one might expect the ensuing answers to go something like this: 50% saying “Yes, Kevin Rudd is not doing enough to criticise the Commie-Nazi pigdogs! Long live the theocratic government of the Dalai!”, and 40% saying “No, Kevin Rudd is such a wimp, and he’s like, half Chinese already – he’ll just roll over”, and finally one lonely comment posted by a Chinese netizen going something like “White people stupid. White people imperialist want to split China. Wait for China nuclear missile, fuckers.” Something like that.

The reality is quite different. About half the comments belong to the first and second categories discussed above. There is a random sprinkling of the third king, but about half of the comments speak with a rational and contrary voice: yes the Tibetans have a right to protest, but the bandwagon jumpers who are bashing torchbearers and trying to steal or extinguish the Olympic flame? Their actions are despicable. They are selfish. They try to attract the spotlight, whether for their own perverse personal satisfaction or to promote a political agenda – in either case, selfishly destroying an event that means so much to so many: athletes, torch bearers, governments, Olympic officials, a nation of 1.3 billion people. No-one should be allowed to mar an event that is sacrosanct as a symbol of world unity and peace for some political agenda- regardless of how right or wrong that agenda is. The marked contrast between this large proportion of the comments with the assumption-laden question clearly shows up how out of touch with their readership the SMH really is.

I started a group on Facebook called “Defend the Olympic flame”. Interestingly, the comments of several people who joined were “I thought I was the only one who thought like this”. If you read Australian newspapers and watched Australian news, you would think so – I certainly thought that I was out of step with the general community, who are all baying for the blood of torch bearers. But no – once again, tabloid journalism has been shown to be the voice of the mob, and not the voice of the plebeian.

Finally, on an unrelated point: lest it be misunderstood that I’m supporting the Chinese government on this one – I have absolutely no sympathy for the “loss of face” (as it has been called by Western media; why must they use an improper expression of Chinese origin only for China? “Loss of dignity” could serve just as well in this context) — by the Chinese government. Ordinary torch relays do not “belong” to the host country. The torch is carried from Olympia – perhaps through several intervening countries – and eventually wind up in the host country. “Relay” describes not only the relaying of the flame from runner to runner, but also from country to country. China, however, just needed to prove how great and mighty it is. So it ships the flame from Greece by plane to Beijing, where the torch relay is declared “open” by the President in an elaborate staged ceremony on Tiananmen Square, before it gets flown – by a Chinese jet and escorted by Chinese agents – to each “leg” of the relay where the torch gets a tour of the city before re-joining the Chinese jet. It’s a strange “relay” when the same player – the host country – controls the torch all the time.  This move by the Chinese government in one sense is inviting the protesters to disrupt it. Whereas disrupting the flame on an ordinary relay would be just that – disrupting the Olympics – disrupting the 2008 rally is in fact disrupting a Chinese torch relay, since the Chinese government both in words and in action has shown that it owns the torch relay. The (London) Daily Telegraph has on several occasions described the London and Paris legs as descending into “farce”. Well, from what I can see, the Chinese government managed to turn it into a farce even before the whole relay got started.