Report on Shanghai

By Takahisa Fukumoto*

The eyes of the world are once again on Shanghai, after last month’s opening of the 2010 Expo.

Mr. Uetani and I paid a visit to the city last year, despite the end-of-year hustle and bustle, from the 18th to the 20th of December. Please allow me to report on our trip.

My first ever visit to Shanghai was in 2003, when I spent two weeks training at our Chinese affiliate, Jiahua Law Office. Ever since then I have been back regularly – about once a year. However, last year, due to my commitments at the Bar Association, among other things, I was unable to do much travelling, so this was my first Shanghai trip in two years.

At that time, the city was still preparing for the Shanghai Expo and so there were various large-scale construction projects going on all over the city, including work on extending the subway system. Now, Shanghai has always had serious traffic problems, but all the construction work coupled with the increase in the number of cars on the road meant that the traffic was frequently brought to an absolute standstill.

Driving through the city, which had changed considerably since I last saw it, I noticed that most of the other cars on the road were brand new. The old and dirty buildings had all been replaced too. I got the impression that Shanghai had already freed itself from the recession that directly followed the Lehman shock. With our schedule being so tight, we did not have much opportunity to talk to many of the locals; however, of those we did speak too, not one said that they were suffering due to the poor economy.

Now, the main purpose of this trip was to observe the legal seminar taught at the Law faculty at Jiaotong University, which is jointly sponsored by Higashimachi Law Office and Cast Group. The lecture is given 4 times a year and covers such corporate legal practice areas as corporate internal control systems and Corporate Social Responsibility activity. It is taught by corporate legal professionals, from Japanese companies, who are at the forefront of corporate legal affairs.

On this occasion, the lecturer was Mr. Kazumichi Matsuki, Corporate executive assistant director and General Manager of Compliance at Mitsubishi Corporation, and the theme of his lecture was “Corporate law in general trading”. He provided us with an overview of the organizational structure of Mitsubishi Corporation’s legal department, and his talk was interspersed with real-world business examples. It is not often that you get to hear this kind of thing, even in Japan. All in all, it was fascinating not just for the students, but even for us lawyers.

The students taking the course were all very enthusiastic and highly motivated, and, according to faculty head, Mr. Lee, they are interested in business, with many having expressed the desire to seek employment not just in Japan but in western countries as well.

China, with its population of 1.3 billion, is a huge market; however, while the Chinese themselves are focusing on the domestic market they are also eyeing overseas opportunities, particularly business chances in Europe and North America. This is not to suggest that Japan has lost its significance. I get the impression that Japan, with all the know-how it has built up through its trade with Europe and North America, could act as a business partner.

Whether it involves trade partnerships or business partnerships with China, there is no question that China’s importance is increasing at a terrific pace. I am acutely aware that we urgently need to build on and strengthen our relationship with our Chinese partner, Jiahua Law Office, to equip ourselves to handle China-related legal affairs.

*This is a translation of the original Japanese article