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Dan Harris (left) and Steve Dickinson Discuss Law in China with AmCham China Members

The AmCham China Small Business Forum recently invited popular bloggers of the well-respected and award winning China Law Blog to discuss the legal landscape for business in China. Dan Harris, founder and lead-writer of China Law Blog and Steve Dickinson, co-blogger and an international lawyer based in Qingdao, discussed the five things every foreign SME in China should know while conducting business in one of the world’s hottest markets. Below are some of the key points made by Mr. Harris and Mr. Dickinson during the discussion.

Face the fact that you are in China
Mr. Dickinson encouraged foreign companies to face the fact that they are operating in China, and not back home in the US. The China of the 80’s, with special economic zones and English rental-space contracts has been replaced by a China where the same laws and regulations are applied to both foreign and Chinese companies alike.

Be aware of the challenges of doing business in China
Mr. Dickinson says he hears complaints almost on a daily basis about foreign companies receiving unfair treatment in China. But, he explained, many times it is a company’s lack of preparation for the challenges of doing business in China that leads to failure.     

Recognize that even though you are in China, you are not Chinese
Mr. Harris emphasized that local companies can use social and legal options of dispute resolution that are not open to foreign companies. SMEs should recognize this, and focus on preparing for the challenges and pursuing the remedies through the legal system as needed.

Make the law your friend
Mr. Harris encourages foreign companies to use effective contracts in China that will protect the company when something goes wrong. The law is a tool; learn how to use it.

Assume you know nothing
Regulations change frequently, sometime weekly in China. Humility enables companies to constantly keep learning and stay abreast of an ever-changing system.

In the following Q&A session, Mr. Harris and Mr. Dickinson answered questions that covered such topics as general legal trends, labor laws, representative office (RO) and wholly-owned foreign enterprise (WOFE) registration, and standard setting.

After the event, Dan Harris sat down with China Connect to discuss the latest legal issues for foreign businesses in China, such as labor laws and increasing wages. Watch the video below.