American and other businesses foreign to the People’s Republic of China really need to stop doing business in the PRC or with businesses domiciled in the PRC. That nation is making it increasingly dangerous—physically and legally—for foreign business’ employees even to be present there.
Hiroshi Nishiyama, a veteran Japanese executive at Astellas Pharma Inc and a prominent member of his country’s business circle in China, spent late March wrapping up his assignment there and preparing to head home.
He never made it. Mr Nishiyama disappeared on what was supposed to be his last day in China. A few days later, China’s Foreign Ministry said he had been accused of espionage and detained.
No warning. No heads up to Astellas. Not even a prompt notice to Astellas as soon as Nishiyama had been “detained.”
Nishiyama’s fate is all too typical of what might befall foreign businessmen.
In recent weeks Chinese authorities have questioned staff at US consulting firm Bain & Co and raided the office of American due diligence firm Mintz Group and detained all five of its employees in mainland China.
The PRC also is moving to expand—and attempt justification for—its reach regarding these employees of foreign businesses.
China also passed an expansive update of an anti-espionage law that will tighten state control over a wider swath of data and digital activities, raising the risks that ordinary business behavior could be misconstrued or misrepresented as spycraft.
Rule by law rather than rule of law: the PRC government passed this law explicitly so it could coerce foreign businesses—and the governments of the nations where those businesses are domiciled—into expensive, and dangerous, concessions, particularly concerning technology transfers.
These moves provide yet further reasons for all foreign businesses to simply walk away from the People’s Republic of China; do no further business there at all.