Serious Investors Have Already Moved Past US-China Gripes

Posted by Reading Time: 4 minutes

Would be China investors want to learn more about opportunities, intelligence, and alternatives, not US-China gripes and hysteria.

Op/Ed by Chris Devonshire-Ellis

Over the last ten years, a number of English language, China-focused, privately-owned websites have come to the fore as places for the expatriate and business community in China to source business information. These include China Briefing, written by China-based Dezan Shira & Associates, as well as US-based China Law Blog, written by Harris Bricken. These two websites have arguably been among the top sources of China legal and tax intelligence. A look at our recent 2019 China website guide gives a run-down of the most viewed sites in terms of actual viewing figures and online popularity.

There are differences between sites like China Briefing and China Law Blog, however. China Briefing aims to provide objective business guidance so that readers can make up their own mind about how to do business. The title is supported by its sister publications in Vietnam, ASEAN, and India, allowing readers to compare markets and find business expertise across Asia. China Law Blog has focused on the China market and its content is largely driven by opinion pieces that often explore worst-case scenarios. Recent articles include: How To Do Business In China Without Going To Prison; Has Sourcing From China Become Too Risky?; China Hackers In Your Business Data?; Importing From China Has Big Retroactive Risks; How To Stop Manufacturing In China: Try Harder; and Would The Last Manufacturing Company In China Please Turn Out The Lights.

This tells its own story. It takes a negative view towards China and Chinese businesses. While China Law Blog and Harris Bricken are quite within their rights to be upset with how China’s economy is changing, they have not done themselves any favors by preying on fears about doing business in China. The China market is too large to ignore for many companies, while we have been advising our clients to diversify throughout the region for years. We hopped on this trend over ten years ago, when we published the first issue of our Vietnam Briefing Magazine. It was Global Manufacturing Moving to Vietnam. The most recent issue, just out, is Import and Export in Vietnam.

We have found that doing business in Asia is often not a case of either/or. Many businesses are invested “in China, for China”, while some manufacturers don’t want to relocate their business wholescale due to the country’s established supply chain infrastructure. Griping about China does not help these businesses; it diminishes their chances of getting funding for their China businesses. For those among our clients who are keen to diversify their risks, we offer practical advice on moving operations into ASEAN or India. Our client spread is diverse and include intra-Asian firms and investors from the US and Europe. At last count, Dezan Shira & Associates had clients from over 70 countries operating in China. In fact, the firm’s overall China-based client revenues are increasing.

However, as I asked back in 2012, has your China business become too China-centric?.

There are two ways to deal with China: one, take advantage, keep doing the same old thing, then complain when things change; two, constantly look at new alternatives and opportunities. New alternatives and opportunities increasingly mean a global outlook, and a global outlook includes China’s Belt & Road Initiative, which we cover extensively on the website Silk Road Briefing. The site has been up just two years as compared with China Law Blog’s 12 years, yet it has already surpassed it in views. This is what readers are now using as their preferred websites for a global outlook:

Alexa Global Rankings – July 2019

Website                          Ranking

China Briefing             108,710

India Briefing             182,624

Vietnam Briefing        448,799

ASEAN Briefing          473,169

Silk Road Briefing      557,412

China Law Blog            634,033   

The message when it comes to China is that investors don’t want to hear the bad news about China – that is old hat. Writing articles about how bad things are doesn’t reflect conditions on-the-ground or tick any new boxes for people trying to do business there. What investors in China are looking for are where the opportunities are, what alternatives exist, and the new trade corridors that are opening up.

Harris Bricken, and to a large extent China Law Blog’s problem is that they have not invested capital themselves into China. They write about China as a firm, but have not established a legal presence, or secured a Ministry of Justice or any other business license to set themselves up properly and give themselves that additional insight.

This is ironic as they always suggest their clients do so. Instead, as their own website points out, they subcontract their China work to “a consulting company in Beijing“.  We have sympathy with their predicament, but really if you are serious about a market and want to understand it properly, you need to invest in it and learn from the ground up.

China Law Blog understands the US very well, but when it comes to China, its knowledge is patchy, the firm doesn’t practice what it preaches, and its resources are insufficient to allow it to adapt to changing market conditions. The “US based law firm subcontracting work to a China consultant” business model to save money is ultimately a dead end.

At Dezan Shira & Associates, we have invested in establishing 12 offices in China and continue to be pro-China investment.

Recent China Briefing articles have included:

Silk Road Briefing continues to break new ground and offer advice on opportunities for foreign investors to get involved. Recent articles include:

The difference in content is quite apparent, and it is why websites like Silk Road Briefing are on the rise. Foreign investment continues to pour into China. The message is investors and readers want and expect rather more than complaints. They want solutions and opportunities, and the current Alexa rankings demonstrate just that.


About Us

China Briefing is produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm assists foreign investors throughout Asia from offices across the world, including in DalianBeijingShanghaiGuangzhouShenzhen, and Hong Kong. Readers may write to china@dezshira.com for more support on doing business in China.