Monday, 25 November 2013

New government proposal on internet regulation: 'Cyberspace to spread positive energy’

Not really my field of research but I thought this may be of interest. To summarise from a recent newspaper article:
  • The overall aim is that major websites become a force to ‘spread positive energy’.
  • More specifically, it is recommended to improve ‘laws that regulate Internet use, cracking down on online crimes and building a safe online environment by strengthening Internet security are among the main goals’.
  • For example, online defamation shall become ‘a "serious" offense if such a post is read 5,000 times or circulated over 500 times’.
  • In addition, it says that ‘the government and many Web celebrities had reached a consensus, also known as the “seven bottom lines”, in which they agreed that influential microbloggers should abide by the law and protect national interests and social order, and uphold socialist ideals and morals’.
Ok, to clarify, I’m of course not talking about the UK (or German) government, but quoting from a newspaper that I read on my travels a few weeks ago (click on picture to enlarge; the article it’s also available here).

Monday, 18 November 2013

Comparative Law: my new book!

Still a bit to go, but I have received the first possible versions of the book cover recently.
Further information (abstract, table of contents etc) is now also available on the CUP website!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Putting China on the ‘Acemoglu & Robinson Map’

During my trip to China (cf. previous posts) I was reading Acemoglu & Robinson’s Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty (see also their blog on this topic). Their main argument is that economic prosperity requires both inclusive political and economic institutions, underpinned by a centralised state. How does this apply to China? In the final chapters of their book, Acemoglu & Robinson mention the Chinese case a few times and argue that China has now somewhat inclusive economic institutions but not inclusive political ones. This situation is seen as stimulating some growth but this is not regarded as sustainable – while they also do not think that democracy will naturally follow economic growth as vested interests defend the current political structure. 

Yet, I kept wondering about the following:
  • On the one hand, it seems to me that they overemphasise China’s shift towards inclusive economic institutions. Sure, given the growing number of private companies, things have become more inclusive but there are still the major state owned enterprises – as well as a stricter control of private companies than in other parts of the world (whether directly or indirectly, eg, via the communist party, networks etc).
  • On the on the other hand, I'm wondering whether Chinese political institutions may not also have become somehow more inclusive. The main parts of Acemoglu & Robinson’s book carefully avoid equating political inclusiveness with democracy – which, in their line of reasoning, is entirely plausible as they argue, for instance, that in England changes following the great plague, peaking in the 14th century, made it politically more inclusive (but of course those did not yet lead to democratic general elections etc); thus, it’s a bit puzzling why in the final chapters suddenly democracy seems to be seen as relevant. With respect to China, it may be worth exploring how – despite the lack of democratic elections – there may be some forms of indirect political inclusiveness today (eg, some autonomy of courts, some personal freedoms, microblogging and limited forms of press freedom etc) [compare only with North Korea].
  • At the very end of the book, Acemoglu & Robinson qualify the scepticism as regards the emergence of democracy due to economic development, given the experience of the ‘Arab spring’ (role of the internet, blogs etc). This line of reasoning somehow deviates from the previous 460 pages where they argue that past events teach us something about regularities that matter today (btw:  my Convergence book discusses similar points). Of course, this also applies to China since its current (geopolitical, economic etc) position is quite different from that of Western countries that became more prosperous in the last 500 years or so.
[PS: the title of this post is inspired by a paper by Cheffins]

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Interviewing in China (or: my ‘Did you order the Code Red?’ experience)

The Code Red quote, of course, refers to the scene in A Few Good Men where, to put it in abstract terms, the lawyer successfully manages to make the witness say something he shouldn't have said. My interviews in China (cf. previous post) were quite different from an interrogation in court, but sometimes I felt too that I was trying to get information (such as an assessment about the quality of legal institutions) that the respondent was reluctant to make. I found this a very enjoyable experience – and just to clarify, in general, respondents were fairly - sometimes even surprisingly - open about the current role of the law in China.

Of course, I'm also aware of the anecdotal nature of such qualitative evidence (‘someone in China told me that …’); thus, now back to my quantitative work … 

Saturday, 2 November 2013

My last three weeks in China and Japan (with links)

Due to Blogger and Twitter restrictions in China, I didn't (ie couldn't) post anything in the last three weeks. So, a quick up-date on what I have done: