So, you want to start a business in China, do you?

This is not the only story I’ve seen of overseas business people going through a nightmare thanks to a Chinese partner from hell. But this one is certainly the scariest..

David Ji, a Chinese-American electronics entrepreneur, spent two months in custody enduring all-night interrogation sessions, but his stubbornness and occasional flashes of sarcasm infuriated his Chinese captors.

So in late December last year, according to a person who compiled a record of the encounter, guards emptied his pockets, removed his shoes and socks, and ripped the buttons off his oxford shirt. He was ushered disheveled and barefoot into the office of Zhao Yong, the chief executive of Sichuan Changhong Electric, Mr. Ji’s onetime business partner and, more recently, his warden.

“Your only way out is to do what Changhong tells you to do,” Mr. Zhao told him. “If I decide today I want you to die, you will be dead tomorrow.”

Mr. Ji soon agreed to cooperate with Changhong. But a year after the Chinese police apprehended him in his hotel room during a business trip, he remains in China as a pawn – Mr. Ji’s colleagues say a hostage – in a commercial dispute that pits Changhong, China’s largest television manufacturer, against Apex Digital, Mr. Ji’s electronics trading company based in Los Angeles.

Look, I know American business is cutthroat and brutal. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find cases of our imprisoning and humiliating business partners and denying them anything close to justice. (And yes, I know, we’ve done exactly those things to some alleged terrorists in Gitmo and it’s a disgrace – but this is about a business debt, not terrorism. Even if Ji committed theft or fraud — which he may have — the collusion between the police and business is unnerving.)

This huge article by Joseph Kahn should be required reading for those thinking of doing business in the PRC, especially overseas Chinese. You see, it’s an ethnic thing. If he had white skin and round eyes and a name other than Ji, the poor guy would never have been put through this ordeal.

The police from Mianyang, the city in southwestern Sichuan province where Changhong has its headquarters, apprehended Mr. Ji in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, on Oct. 23, 2004. He entered a legal netherworld in which Changhong decided where he would be held in custody, when to interrogate him, and how he could help Changhong take over Apex, according to court documents, video recordings, and taped witness accounts compiled by people sympathetic to Mr. Ji. The records, which were also submitted to the State Department, were obtained independently by The New York Times.

Mianyang is a company town. The legal ambiguity partly reflects the tight bond between local corporate and government officials. It also reflects a risk of doing business in China that applies mainly to ethnic Chinese, dozens of whom have faced criminal charges after falling out with government-backed business partners. Overseas Chinese are often treated as subject to local authority regardless of their country of citizenship.

Ji was finally set free on bail in August and is in Chengdu, under what seems to be a form of house arrest, with some freedom to move around.

The Discussion: 78 Comments

Stop me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it ILLEGAL for a corporation to imprison someone? False imprisonment and all that jazz?

Or is this just another case of “we big important company that has Police in our pocket – we own you bigtime!”?

November 1, 2005 @ 5:16 am | Comment

The latter. Duh.

November 1, 2005 @ 5:40 am | Comment

But this is a state-owned company. That’s why its so murky. The US settles disputes with the IRS like this, China settles disputes with state-owned companies the same way. (I refer also to companies with majority of shares held by a state-owned company).

November 1, 2005 @ 6:32 am | Comment

It is perverse, but overseas Chinese are actually treated worse than mainland Chinese in many cases, and substantially worse than whites.

I can’t quite explain it, somehow being non mainland means that you are neither a ‘real’ Chinese or a ‘real’ foreigner.

If you are Japanese born Chinese you can sometimes be treated even worse than if you are pure Japaneses (sort of like you’re only pretending to be Chinese or that you’re a traitor for being born outside of the mainland), and I’ve heard some uncomfortable stories from Chinese-American friends of mine of how they were treated.

November 1, 2005 @ 6:51 am | Comment

i did a fair amount of teaching when i first came, and i can say one thing for certain: my asian-european and asian-north american friends who came over to teach english didn’t last very long. they were made to feel so uncomfortable here, almost on a daily basis, and it exhausted them, especially the females- two left before the first semester was even over, and a handful of others ended up breaking contract and heading home. it’s really quite heartbreaking because most of them chose to come here to “reconnect with their roots”. i sort of wish they could have been spared their disillusionment, rather than confront the depressing immaturity of motherland society. it would have been better for them to wait, maybe. they all went home with such a bad taste in their mouths.

November 1, 2005 @ 7:19 am | Comment

I think this New York Times article is not very accurate at all. I have business friends in China who are insiders in many industries, and they tell me that a decade ago, it might be true that there are many collusion between companies and local gov’t. But nowadays the central gov’t has strict enforcements agaist local collusions, and no company or local gov’t dares to do such things anymore because the penalties are so severe. This article, I think, is trying to exaggerate or mislead. Many such articles exist on the New York Times or the Economist or Time. They sometimes feel very uncomfortable to see China getting stronger and more respected, so they have to find some angles of attack. As a Chinese, I can responsibly tell you that the situation is not true.

November 1, 2005 @ 7:40 am | Comment

and for the sake of staying on the parent topic…

yeah, a foreign-born chinese doing business with a state-owned company on the mainland is asking for trouble. he or she will be considered treasonous (even though that’s impossible) for trying to take as much money as possible from their long lost comrades, and sending it over the ocean, into the domain of the wretched imperialist casper-faced-crackers of L.A.

November 1, 2005 @ 7:40 am | Comment

HongXing, I’ve been following Joseph Kahn for years. He’s smart. Maybe even smarter than you. He knows China better than anyone here, and he doesn’t make things up, though he’s been off now and then. You, on the other hand, have a track record of getting hysterical and making up broad arguments (the US shuts down Web sites just like China!) based on nothing but ignorance. Sorry, I’ll take Joseph Kahn’s reporting over yours. The article appears painstakingly researched with lots of quotes and sources. Who are your sources? What experience do you have that makes you more knowledgeable than Kahn? We’re all waiting….

November 1, 2005 @ 7:49 am | Comment

I do not have anything against Joseph Kahn. He may be a very good reporter and a very good writer. But even the best reporter makes mistakes sometimes or sometimes let his personal feelings take over.

In China, there’s an old saying that, “Even the best will fail at least once in a 1000 tries.” I don’t know if there’s such an equivalent saying in the West. But it just means that nothing is static, and everything is dynamic. And that we should adopt a static view on the world but rather a dynamic view.

November 1, 2005 @ 8:01 am | Comment

But this is a state-owned company. That’s why its so murky. The US settles disputes with the IRS like this, China settles disputes with state-owned companies the same way. (I refer also to companies with majority of shares held by a state-owned company).

Sean, the IRS isn’t a good comparison. This guy didn’t break the law, he’s not a citizen and the IRS doesn’t have competition.

As a Chinese, I can responsibly tell you that the situation is not true.

HongXing, you cannot reasonably make this claim. China has over a billion people – you cannot possibly vouch for all of them, or even 1% personally. When my Chinese students brought up the Chinese tourist who got beaten by an American cop at Niagara Falls, I didn’t say “We have laws in America, therefore it couldn’t have happened.” That, in fact, would be letting my feelings take over. You seem to be the one guilty of this, not Joseph Kahn. He has documented evidence. You make claims that are logically untenable.

November 1, 2005 @ 8:23 am | Comment

Ok, maybe you are right that I cannot make this claim. But I do think there needs to be more evidence of those things. And even if there is more evidence, those evidence needs to be examined and see if they reflect the general situation, otherwise you can always take some extreme example anywhere. There’s ancient saying that “Even Jesus has made mistakes.”

November 1, 2005 @ 8:40 am | Comment

To get the money back from David Ji, the only sensible way for the Chinese company is to keep David in China (although it acted like mafia in the article). If David was in the US, there was no way the company could recover the money. The US laws may work very well on the US. But the US site is not going to operate with the Chinese on this. There are many corrupt Chinese officials hiding in the US and Canada.

Is it really true in China that one can get away from a crime he commits because he has white skin?

November 1, 2005 @ 11:09 am | Comment

I think this article reflects on one problem, the lack of rule of law. That’s not only a problem for westerners doing buisness in China but for Chinese as well.
Anyone denying this is blind or doesn’t want to see it. There was another case in Shanghai recently were a legal dispute ended in a street fight, because the courts verdict wasn’t carried out by the authorities (

November 1, 2005 @ 11:48 am | Comment

And Danwei has another link to that story:
“U.S. businessman kidnapped or arrested in Sichuan?”

November 1, 2005 @ 12:08 pm | Comment

this is old news.

CH certainly used its influence in local govt. that should not happen if there is good legal system for dispute.

the fact is Ji is a scum himself. he was able to sell Apex TV cheaply in US, because he refused to pay for the goods he bought from Changhong.

you have left an important piece of the puzzle:

“Changhong, which declined repeated requests for comment over several weeks, claims that Apex owes it $470 million. Apex, which recruited Changhong to supply Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Circuit City with inexpensive television sets and DVD players, says it owes less than $150 million……The Chinese police accused Mr. Ji of fraud for writing bad checks to Changhong and have threatened to prosecute him. He has been released on a form of bail, with heavy restrictions on his freedom, while negotiations with Apex proceed. That has left the impression that his legal fate depends on debt talks between the companies.”

again, the best way to learn the real story is still to read the original MSM.

richard has kindly porvided the link. please read the full report (5 pages) to make your own judgment.

November 1, 2005 @ 1:16 pm | Comment

more of the facts ”left out” in the extract:

“Changhong executives have told the Chinese news media that Apex played tricks with its vendors. It persuaded them to finance their own production and wait months for payment. Payments often lagged behind badly, raising suspicions of fraud.

Two other Chinese electronics makers, the Hongtu High Technology Company and the Tianjin Tiancai Company, say Apex owes them money. A third supplier, the China Minmetals Corporation, recently settled a dispute with Apex in arbitration.

Whatever the root causes of the dispute, Apex and Changhong initially tried to keep things on track, including by taking steps that came back to haunt Mr. Ji.

In early 2003, as debts piled up, Mr. Ni, the Changhong boss, came under pressure to explain the shortfall. He leaned on Mr. Ji, who wrote 37 company checks totaling $85 million. Apex said the checks, which do not bear the markings of having been deposited, were meant as promissory notes. It said it honored them and more by paying Changhong $370 million later in 2003.”

November 1, 2005 @ 1:20 pm | Comment

Hongxing wrote:

But I do think there needs to be more evidence of those things.

It is very ironic you said this, because Kahn backed his story with lots of evidence (verifiable claims, photos, even a video).

You backed yours with none.

There’s ancient saying that “Even Jesus has made mistakes.”

Thats great, but just saying someone might be mistaken is only an opinion unless you have some evidence to show why you think he is mistaken.

November 1, 2005 @ 1:35 pm | Comment

this from an earlier NYT report.

“In an interview last year, Mr. Ji denied his company owed Changhong any money, citing a financial arrangement whereby Apex took 10 percent cut from sales of Changhong-made televisions but never owned them or directly took money from retailers.”

so Ji claimed he had no liability at all, he is just earning commission. changhong should be asking walmart and bestbuy for the money.

changhong said he is the customer.

only by looking at their contract can we see who is right.
but i don’t believe walmart/bestbuy would have robber apex or changhong though.

November 1, 2005 @ 1:39 pm | Comment

sun bin wrote

more of the facts ”left out” in the extract:

Ji and his company may well be guilty of breaking the law, but that is not the point of the article. The point is that there was no legal process for his abduction.

If Ji or his company broke the law, it should be shown in a court of law. I don’t see how kidnapping or coercion are justified by any of the additional information you provided.

November 1, 2005 @ 1:39 pm | Comment

>the fact is Ji is a scum himself.

Exactly. Please don’t consider him as a pitiful victim because he is “our man”.

And some people like to relate what happened to David to his ethnicity. That’s far fetched. China is a country of opportunities for many oversea Chinese and most of them are doing extremely well in China. But if one comits a crime in China, even if your skin is white, you should not be able to get away.

November 1, 2005 @ 2:12 pm | Comment

I posted my thoughts over at Tenement Palm. I’m way more interested in two ancillary issues: Mr. Charlie Wang, formerly of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, and the anti-dumping duties imposed on Changhong by the US Commerce Dept. in 2003.

November 1, 2005 @ 2:18 pm | Comment

Hongxing is deluded if he thinks this sort of thing doesn’t happen any more just because the central government has decreed it so. China is not a “country of laws”, and repeating this mantra [as the PSB etc are wont to do] will not make it so. Thus, when busines disputes arise, they are not settled in court, but simply by whoever has the most friends in high places. And if the overseas Chinese partner resists … well they can be detained or otherwise pressured until they change their mind.
I say this because some Australian-Chinese acquaintances of ours have just asked for help publicising their case. They invested more than a million dollars in a factory in Jiangxi province. And guess what – the local partners [with connections to local government] have accused them of “financial irregularities” and demanded they sign over their share of the business. Sound familiar? They can’t leave China because their passports have been confiscated. They’re not in detention, but just sitting in their rented apartment, wondering how they can get something their life savings/loan back. When I tried to interest a few local newspapers and magazines in the story they said such stories were all too common – and had lost their interest value.
So the message is, if you are doing business in China, beware.

November 1, 2005 @ 3:34 pm | Comment

Well, zhuanjia, business malpractice happens everywhere, there’s no need to to focus too much on China. I know an old friend of mine whose uncle is the manager of a thermostat-making factory in Zhejiang. And two years ago, they signed a contract with an American company in Ohio to start some joint venture. So my uncle and his team was sent to Ohio on a business trip. But when they went there, they were informed that the other party pulled out of the deal and refused to spit out the investments. My friend’s uncle and team were so angry that they tried to sue the company, but the local court would not even take the case when they saw that they were citizens of PRC. So they basically lost all their money.

But does that mean doing business with American companies are generally dangerous? Of course not. You have to separate individual cases. And also, international coopoeration is always healthy. Perhaps you are not a zhuanjia afterall ๐Ÿ™‚

November 1, 2005 @ 4:24 pm | Comment

Hong Xing, was your uncle also locked in an Ohio barn for a year?

Oh, he wasn’t?

I guess you’re full of s**t, huh?

November 1, 2005 @ 4:30 pm | Comment

What do you mean locked in an Ohio barn?

November 1, 2005 @ 4:31 pm | Comment

The problem with Changhong, Hong Xing, is that Ji was detained and interrogated with no legal representation. The appropriate analogy would be if your uncle had been locked up by the thermostat company when they visited. But he wasn’t, so your comparison completely misses the entire point and is irrelevant.

Well done.

November 1, 2005 @ 4:35 pm | Comment

To quote what Davesgonechina just said to you in another thread, “HongXing, you are an idiot.” This little trick you use is so tiresome and so lame – to say that what China has done is okay because you once heard an anecdote about how something bad once happened in the US blah blah blah. DO you really think if it’s a good case a lawyer will turn people away just because they came from China? Well, maybe, but there’s always going to be another lawyer who, if he feels ihe can win, will take it. All your uncle had to do was turn to the Yellow Pages.

And as Dave asks, was your uncle humiliated and locked up by the businessman, who then had complete power over his life? Tell us HongXing, tell us.

November 1, 2005 @ 4:37 pm | Comment

Well there are some very brutal policemen in China, I will not deny that. But there are also brutal policemen in other places too. Remember the Rodney King incident?

But my point is, business malpractice happens a lot, is it bad? Of course. But is it unique to China? Of course not. So there’s no need to focus too much on China.

November 1, 2005 @ 4:43 pm | Comment

Well there are some very brutal policemen in China, I will not deny that. But there are also brutal policemen in other places too. Remember the Rodney King incident?

No hope. China is beyond criticism, because you can always find somewthing worse. Following this logic, Abu Ghraib was okay because the Japanese were even worse to their prisoners.

November 1, 2005 @ 4:47 pm | Comment

Hong Xing, you didn’t read Richards post. His sentences actually form what are popularly known as “ideas”. Just because corruption happens elsewhere doesn’t mean no one should criticize it when it happens in China. That’s a fallacy. Corruption in the rest of the world is irrelevant to the very real, very specific unfair treatment being shown in the Changhong case. Unfair and illegal by both US and Chinese standards.

You claim to live in the US – where do you most commonly get your news?

November 1, 2005 @ 4:49 pm | Comment

Let’s think about the difference between business malpractice represented by pulling out a deal, and business malpractice represented by COLLUDING WITH LOCAL AUTHORITIES TO FALSELY IMPRISON SOMEONE for a moment, shall we?

‘Yes, in Argentina people used to be thrown out of aeroplanes for opposing the junta. But in America many people have had parachuting accidents because of careless safety instruction, so we can see that this kind of practice is common all over the world and we should not comment on Argentina.’


November 1, 2005 @ 4:50 pm | Comment

Sorry – ‘pulling out OF a deal’


November 1, 2005 @ 4:52 pm | Comment

This is a game we can play all day, though!

‘Yes, in Nanjing many Japanese soldiers raped Chinese women. But in Manchuria Chinese bandits often raped Japanese settlers. I heard of a woman who was raped by many men. So we should not concentrate on ‘The Rape of Nanjing’ when rapes take place in many countries.’

November 1, 2005 @ 4:53 pm | Comment

Rule of law in China – true, first-hand story.

One of my students (around 18 years old) stole the mobile phone of another student in the school. This second student, who was from a fairly rich and moderately influential family, had the calls traced by the phone company, the idiotic first student having failed to change the SIM card, and found that they went to the first student’s girlfriend in his home province. He called the police in, and the police arrested the first student.

Now, in any Western country

a) the affair probably wouldn’t have involved the police to begin with, but would have been handled by the school

b) the police would have cautioned the first student, for whom this was his first offence. Perhaps he would have been given a fine of a few hundred dollars.

The Beijing police, however, threatened to imprison the thief for ‘at least three years’ – thus completely destroying this eighteen year old boy’s life, of course – if his parents didn’t fork over forty thousand yuan.

I can cite several similar stories from personal experience. The rule of law in China, outside of a tiny minority, is a joke.


November 1, 2005 @ 4:58 pm | Comment

This HongXing has changed the discussion direction of this story.

No doubt, the lack of law and sometimes arbitrary interpretation of law are a huge problem in China. But one has to deal with the reality of China. But do you guys agree that David Ji is a scum or is likely a scum (innocent until proved guilty)? And if David was left free back to the US, how can the company gets the money?

November 1, 2005 @ 5:11 pm | Comment

Xing, its not about whether he’s scum or not. I don’t know enough to say he is. But he clearly didn’t get his day in court. Ironically, this is one of the reasons the US doesn’t have an extradition treaty with China – if shit like this didn’t happen, there’d be a greater likelihood the US government would send these people to China for prosecution.

November 1, 2005 @ 5:27 pm | Comment

The source of the problem is the lack of legal process to effectively handle “International Dispute”.
This is not alone in China vs US. It is for many countries as well.

I heard of numerous cases of trading fault (non-payment) in the export business. Ji vs Changhong is hardly a new case. IN EVERYONE OF THESE CASE, THE SCUM WAS ABLE TO WALK AWAY, because the legal process was too complicated and difficult. (examples include HK vs US, US vs China, HK vs China, HK vs Africa countries)

in this particulat case, they did find some reason to charge him. “faking check”. but the reasons were not very convincing.
the problem in china is: local authority sometimes abuse their power.

November 1, 2005 @ 5:42 pm | Comment

The fact that Ji is a very likely guilty is part of the story. It should be left out of the context. It is as important as saying the guy’s name is Ji, or the company is called Apex.
It might not be relevant to a particular issue you talk about. But it might be relevant to other issues some have commented.

This is the trouble I have with TPD. You always filter out part of important facts of the story.

November 1, 2005 @ 5:46 pm | Comment

(i meant ‘trading fraud’) in above comment.

November 1, 2005 @ 5:47 pm | Comment


It is a vicious circle. Because there is no extradition, they resort to extreme and questionale means, and vice versa.

November 1, 2005 @ 5:48 pm | Comment

It is a vicious circle. Because there is no extradition, they resort to extreme and questionale means, and vice versa.

Ah, so the reason they brutalize people like this is because there is no extradition poilicy. And if there was, this sort of thing wouldn’t happen. So I guess this sort of thing never happens to a citizen from a country with an extradition policy, does it?

November 1, 2005 @ 5:51 pm | Comment

Wow! I’m really surprised that this is just now becoming a big deal because I read about this last year right after I first moved from Hangzhou to Chengdu. Hell, I used to pass the hotel everyday where he’s being kept. It’s a pretty messed up ordeal.

Just remember, if you’re a Chinese born in doesn’t matter where you immigrate to or what passport you’re issued – the Chinese government has no regard for such details and they will not allow you any consular rights. You belong to them.

November 1, 2005 @ 5:52 pm | Comment

Sun Bing, please don’t piss me off by saying I filter things out. It’s untrue.

Here is what I wrote:

Even if Ji committed theft or fraud — which he may have — the collusion between the police and business is unnerving.)

His guilt or innocence is utterly irrelevant to my point. Read Dave’s comments and my own if you don’t understand why. It’s about rule of law and a fair hearing. It’s not about whether Ji did something bad.

November 1, 2005 @ 5:55 pm | Comment

I have yet to see anyone mentioning Changhong’s tacit complicty in the bounced checks problem.

Does Changhong not have a system of internal controls in place to try to prevent this problem from occuring?

Why is international trade being conducted via check? Have they not heard of letters of credit?

From the sounds of it, I suspect that there are people within the CH organizaton making a fast buck or were planning to. Time for a forensic audit?

November 1, 2005 @ 5:59 pm | Comment

I doubt any side is going to emerge unscathed in this ordeal. I have followed the case since it broke in Cai Jing magazine last year. I just can’t imagine that such a serious contract as importing millions of dollars of tvs a year would be outlined on a 3 page contract! (Unless it was a preliminary agreement and we have not seen later contracts). This may be a more accepted practice (I doubt it is very common) but it is a practice that China must drop if she wants to work in a world that is run by powers that prefer to have everything spelled out.

If business in China, especially those dealing with the Western world, do not develop more respect for spelling out obligations and penalties in legal documents, this type of case will only continue. It only makes the place look bad, with or without having to resort to extreme hotel stays to resolve problems.

November 1, 2005 @ 6:36 pm | Comment

Noting your post, GWBH

The checks also sound extremely suspicious as well. Why not transfer the funds via a bank? With such large numbers the fees would be seriously reduced.

Without proof, and acting on a hunch, I suspect: the checks were some sort of IOU guarantee from Apex to Changhong; some of the money owed to Changhong was kept outside of the system, either to evade capital controls within China or to facilitate skimming by one or both parties…

November 1, 2005 @ 6:43 pm | Comment

I totally agree with Gordon here, there have been far too many cases of Chinese coming back to China to find themselves locked up. Unlike supertard Hongxing, I can name another recent example: Yang Jianli.
It just goes to show how race-centered, and in many ways racist, the Chinese government is, and how the Chinese people as a whole are generally treated as no more pawns in a game of power.

November 1, 2005 @ 6:50 pm | Comment

Hm. Reform of the commercial legal system has been taking place in China, but this just goes to show you that it’s far, far from perfect. Due diligence, indeed.

I’m not sure I buy the claim that overseas ethnic Chinese business partners are treated a lot worse than their Caucasian equivalents, though. Overseas Chinese entrepreneurs were the first to do business with PRC companies, long before the influx of Western joint ventures and so on. You’d think that if discrimination against them was really that bad across the board, they’d have all been scared off by now.

November 1, 2005 @ 6:52 pm | Comment

And look at those who come to this comment board and just NEED to point out that “Ji is scum.” Thus, no one should worry about how he is being treated, huh? Not exactly showing a whole lot of empathy for your fellow man… seem more obsessed with painting a “pretty picture.”

November 1, 2005 @ 6:53 pm | Comment

And Sun Bing is arguing that maybe Ji had it coming to him. Very revealing.

November 1, 2005 @ 7:00 pm | Comment

To go back to what I mentioned before HX showed up, I’m really interested in this Charlie Wang character. A newly minted partner at a global US law firm, retained by Changhong and telling Ji over the phone to sign everything while in police custody and without counsel. Then he goes to Shanghai and records two depositions, one in which Ji starts ripping them a new one and both with no defense counsel – making the video poor evidence for the LA supreme court that it was to be sent to in the first place. This gets him kicked out of the firm, after making partner!

Why the hell would he do something so dumb? That’s like Scooter Libby dumb!

November 1, 2005 @ 7:03 pm | Comment

no, i only suspect so.

my take is more in line with phs’s.
it is a legal problem.
china does not have a good legal framework to solve these kind of problem.
it is further complicated by the international law.

the lesson is. be more rigorous in your contract to avois problems like such.

November 1, 2005 @ 7:05 pm | Comment

Also, for anyone interested, I reprinted a Wall Street Journal article on the House Republican Split on China. Gives you an idea who the players are on threat vs. engagement. The engagement leader sounds like an intelligent person.

November 1, 2005 @ 7:08 pm | Comment

Overseas Chinese entrepreneurs were the first to do business with PRC companies, long before the influx of Western joint ventures and so on. You’d think that if discrimination against them was really that bad across the board, they’d have all been scared off by now.

Many overseas Chinese have profitted hugely from China’s success and many more will do so, and they’ll keep coming. The point, Nausica, is that if they target you for an alleged crime and you are overseas Chinese, they consider you to be all theirs, and they can lock you up and do what they choose just as if you were a local. They do not do this to non-Chinese foreigners, for whatever racial reasons.

November 1, 2005 @ 7:09 pm | Comment

>Yang Jianli

So, you are talking about the guy who used some one else passport?

November 1, 2005 @ 7:09 pm | Comment

For the record, i do not approve detaining suspect without proper legal cause. I thought we ALL agree about this already. So I went on to look at other problems, such as legal contract/etc.

There are a lot more issues to worry about.

e.g. what i commented on dave’s point about vicious circle. I assumed we already concluded on the legal procedure and agreed it was not right to resovle a problem that way, whether Ji is guilty or not, or whether Ji is ethnic chinese or not, or whether Ji is Chinese or US citizen. It is not right to send someone to kidnap him in Shenzhen.
Is this explicit enough?

Can we discuss about the other issue after agreeing on this?

November 1, 2005 @ 7:13 pm | Comment

“CH certainly used its influence in local govt. that should not happen if there is good legal system for dispute.”

this was the first line in my first comment in this thread.
I said this SHOULD NOT HAPPEN at all and would not happen if there is good legal system/contract.
maybe my word was ambigeous, but i hope it is now clear.

November 1, 2005 @ 7:19 pm | Comment

Sun Bin, please feel free to discuss whatever you choose. I was just confused by your words, “It is a vicious circle. Because there is no extradition, they resort to extreme and questionale means, and vice versa.” That struck me as simplistic. Okay, next point….

November 1, 2005 @ 7:20 pm | Comment

So please read my comments with that underlying agreement.

It always muddles the issue if you make assumption on other’s intention.
i myself was guilty of using the ‘filtering’ word as well. what i meant was it was not the full story. apologies if it was taken wrongly.

November 1, 2005 @ 7:22 pm | Comment

I think Sun Bin is right about the vicious circle; China treats the accused badly, we don’t extradite people, they have to resort to catching people when they visit, we complain they treat the accused badly, the cycle intensifies. I wonder when the US began refusing to extradite to China; was it not a big deal before the PRC?

I’d point out that one of the reasons we don’t extradite prisoners to China is the death penalty – hence the Uyghur prisoners still in GitMo. Where the hell is the sense in that? I’m not a death penalty supporter, and wouldn’t wish the Chinese penal system on my worst enemy, but we have a federal death penalty and plenty state by state in the US. It’s sheer hypocrisy. If I were in Zhongnanhai, I’d take it as a slap in the face.

So as constructive criticism of the US, I’d suggest squaring our death penalty/extradition policy and perhaps try to forge some kind of limited extradition ties, esp. for lesser non-capital offenses. That kind of engagement would help China build the rule of law, whereas the vicious circle is encouraging more of the same tired crap.

November 1, 2005 @ 7:29 pm | Comment

Thanks for clarifying that, Dave, now I see the point. I’m all for your suggestion.

November 1, 2005 @ 7:31 pm | Comment

The Chinese government generally does not target the oversea Chinese bussinussmen. But it did lock up quite a few oversea Chinese who involved in anti-government activities in China. If anyone white guy here wants to test whether he is not safe or not, give it a try.

November 1, 2005 @ 7:51 pm | Comment

White guys who do this stuff tend to be shown the door. An odd anomaly, the radically different ways you get treated based on your ethnicity.

November 1, 2005 @ 7:55 pm | Comment

Kevin said:

And look at those who come to this comment board and just NEED to point out that “Ji is scum.”

Interesting, isn’t it? I seem to recall an instance of certain commenter here referring to my wife as a “sellout” for marrying a foreigner.

November 1, 2005 @ 8:25 pm | Comment


From the article, it is not too unreasonable to reach the conclusion that David Ji is a scum. If he is pitiful, then how about the company and its many employees?

And why do you need to bother what a few narrow-minded Chinese people said about you and your Chinese wife? I know 10 year ago, when a girl marries a “foreign deveil”, some pleople would question whether the girl was for true love, or after money, or a foreign passport, etc.

November 1, 2005 @ 9:14 pm | Comment

Re the ethnicity issue, take a look at this story.

November 1, 2005 @ 9:27 pm | Comment

Stephen, that’s a grim story – thanks for reminiding us. So no one is totally safe when doing business in China, it seems.

November 1, 2005 @ 9:37 pm | Comment

Gordon, I’m not sure what parallel you’re trying to establish between posters calling Ji “scum” and someone calling your wife a “sell-out”. (I’m assuming your wife is also an overseas Chinese?) Those posters who called Ji scum called him that because it seems he was an unscrupulous and dishonest businessman. The poster who called your wife a sellout did so presumably because he was a rude idiot. I see little correlation.

It’s unfortunate, but China was never one for multiculturalism. It’s an ethnostate through and through. Add heady dose of nationalism and stir.

November 1, 2005 @ 9:47 pm | Comment

About the story that Stephen linked to – please hold the rotten tomatoes, but perversely, I do take some kind of cold comfort in knowing that although international business in China is a bitch with an euthanized conscience, at least it appears to be an indiscriminate bitch with an euthanized conscience. ๐Ÿ˜‰ That mainland companies would particularly target and abuse their overseas Chinese partners just seemed to me to be too twisted and sad.

November 1, 2005 @ 9:59 pm | Comment

I’m sorry, how can you determine that Mr. Ji is “scum”?

There are two sides to every story and it’s not like Ji will have a fair chance in a system ruled by law to prove himself.

Who is the one being forced into captivity while being made to sign his company over?

As for the comment made about my wife, a native Chinese (overseas), many Chinese are quick to refer to their compatriots as “scum” or “sell-outs” for marrying foreigners or immigrating overseas.


November 1, 2005 @ 11:35 pm | Comment

Daily linklets 2nd November

This is cool: a Chinese name generator (via Glenzo). The conspiracy against Chinese films. Star anise and Tamiflu. Yasukuni Shrine: a problem with no single solution. The environmental tippin point rests on the CCP. Will has an on-the-ground report fr…

November 2, 2005 @ 12:23 am | Comment

simonworld point to this: great insight from barnett

November 2, 2005 @ 1:05 am | Comment

“As for the comment made about my wife, a native Chinese (overseas), many Chinese are quick to refer to their compatriots as “scum” or “sell-outs” for marrying foreigners or immigrating overseas.”

I’ve heard “sellout” or similar denigrating remarks made by Chinese men about Chinese women (both overseas and mainland) who marry white men. It’s similar to how some sistahs I know grumble about how all the “good black men” are “sellouts” because they chase after white gals. Pretty ridiculous. I don’t condone it.

As an overseas Chinese myself, however, I’ve never, ever met any mainlander who, in this day and age, would still call me “scum” or “sell-out” simply for being an emigrant. In the early 90s “going abroad” was met with admiration. Nowadays I find it inspires nothing more than mild curiousity to downright indifference, because it’s so commonplace.

As for whether Ji is scum or not, I have no idea. I was merely informing you that what you implied in your post (that those posters called him “scum” because they harbour antipathy towards the overseas Chinese) is false. They called him “scum” because they found him shady. Those posters could very well be overseas Chinese themselves. Why would they spit in their own faces?

November 2, 2005 @ 2:14 am | Comment

Check out this post on the same article.

November 2, 2005 @ 2:55 am | Comment

The price of life

The cliche says life is cheap. However, in an extraordinary story, it turns out in China life can be extremely expensive indeed. Just yesterday the NYT, Forbes and several bloggers were all over the story of American businessman David Ji’s kidnapping o…

November 3, 2005 @ 1:50 am | Comment

The outrage here isn’t that an American citizen was punished for committing a crime, it’s that his rights were shat upon and he was effectively subjected to torture. What happened to him was a completely mockery of justice.

The guy still can’t leave China. This is ridiculous as it is a CIVIL dispute. CIVIL actions should always be dealt with in the civil courts, which don’t allow detention as punishment or until the dispute is resolved. Settlements are financial only.

This only goes to show how far the Chinese judicial system has to go.

(By the way, I recently remember a case a few years back where an English water company designed and built a new sewage system for a Chinese city. But after it had finished, the city government wouldn’t pay and the courts gave the company the finger.

Moral of the story is – get every penny before you start work.)

November 3, 2005 @ 5:20 am | Comment


You can’t really justify the brutality or failings of one country by pointing out that such things happen elsewhere too. You can only show that they are not unique.

Nor can you use a small injustice as a comparison for a large injustice.

Maybe if your uncle was forced to sign a contract by a man holding a length of rubber hose, but he wasn’t was he.

November 3, 2005 @ 9:25 am | Comment

You guys are forgetting one thing —
this guy is from mainland China.

Do you really trust them?

I mean, really.

Chances are, they do owe the company anywhere from $150 to $400 million dollars. They got the products but didn’t pay for it. I don’t mean they deserve to get treated this way, but for some people, the only way you can collect is if you threaten their life. That seems to be the case in China these days.

I mean, whether they owe $150 million or $400 million is not the issue, the fact is, Li owe the company A LOT of money and that’s proven — it’s fraud, and fraud in China carries a DEATH penalty charge. What else would you call that? THEFT?? OK, so in the US you don’t get death penalty for it, but you’re not in the US, you’re in China and death penalty applies for fraud cases all the time.

Too many Americans think that they’re Americans and deserve special rights in China. No, no, no, if you want Constitution protection, stay the hell in the US. Once you’re there, you’re subject to the laws (or lack thereof) in the jurisdiction. And if you’re going to CHEAT someone out of $150 million, you bette rhave a way out.

November 4, 2005 @ 5:14 pm | Comment

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