Changing times

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First item on the agenda: China Business Law Journal would like to wish our readers and supporters all the very best for 2013! The world may have witnessed its share of economic woes in the past year, but we at the China Business Law Journal have the feeling of something special ahead this year and we eagerly awake the entry of the Year of the Snake.

cblj-1212-prologueWe have some surprises in store for you in the coming year, including a new section covering arbitration and dispute resolution, and a series of regular profiles that will include some of the legal community’s most interesting personalities.

For this issue, though, the emphasis is retrospective as we present our annual coverage of the Deals of the Year. As always the choices were difficult, and the sheer number of nominations presented a daunting task. The deals were impressively diverse, and to us one underlying theme presented itself – an aura of change.

Things are without doubt changing in our legal community. Politically, a change of leadership promises a new wave of reform, while law firms are racing to stay abreast of regulatory changes and also rushing to consolidate, merge or strategically align themselves so as to best compete within a framework that is rapidly transforming and internationalising.

Deals of the Year reflects some of these changes. Significant transactions in the areas of internet, media, culture and entertainment – traditionally areas of sensitivity and hence, inactivity – may be signalling an opening up and a desire to embrace change. Take the Oriental DreamWorks joint venture, where a door is opening to foreign participation that can only improve and enhance the domestic industry.

Deals that involve renewable energy may point to a new future of environmental responsibility. The Three Gorges acquisition of a stake in EDP, for example, paves the way for access to EDP’s considerable renewable energy assets, which include hydropower facilities. China Development Bank’s financing of solar power projects in the US speaks for itself. Also notable is the central government’s continued support for Hong Kong’s development as an offshore RMB business centre.

Congratulations to all the winning deals and to the lawyers and law firms that guided them to fruition.

Elsewhere, our article headlined A fine romance explores the intriguing and evolving relationship between China and the African continent. China needs energy and markets for its products, while many African nations crave a working infrastructure to enable them to progress, so much of the major project work involves energy extraction and infrastructure projects.

Investors typically are confronted with tricky bureaucracies, often corrupt governments, sometimes hostile locals and occasionally areas of dangerous conflict. We spoke to legal experts about the risks and rewards of investing on the continent, and why this romance, despite some ups and downs, is likely to have a rosy future.