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Another brick out of the wall

This intriguing, tickling, curiosity about China may well be something I share only with Brian Micklethwait but perhaps he, like me, is forever being goaded into continuing scrutiny by these little streams of fascinating information coming out of the place.

No sooner have the Chinese authorities decided to amend the constitution to provide for private property protection than their Courts start implementing it:

The court in Beijing ruled on December 18, 2003 that Beijing Artic Ice Technology Development must return the virtual goods to the player, Li Hongchen. Hongchen had spent two years and over US$1,200 on ‘pay-as-you-go’ access cards playing the online game “Hongyue” (Red Moon) and had built up an account of virtual money and weapons in his playing account.

In February 2003, Hongchen discovered that his account had been hacked through the game’s central servers. He complained to the company but was told that the virtual goods had no real world value. The company also refused to identify the hacker, saying that it could not reveal private details of players, reported Reuters, an international news agency.

So not only are Chinese Courts going to protect private property, they are even going to protect virtual private property.

A columnist for TechNewsWorld, a U.S. news Web site, said the Chinese court case appeared to be the first in the world.

I am not aware of any similar ruling in either the UK or Europe so maybe the chappie from TechNewsWorld is right and this is a world first. Who would have imagined even a few short years ago that property law precedents would be set in China?!!

All shock and awe aside, I wonder if it is a precedent that will followed elsewhere, especially in the West? It just might. I noticed some time ago that laws relating to technology in general, and the internet in particular, are taking on a very global hue.

If that Court in Beijing manages to start a global ball rolling then I foresee very interesting implications for the future of ‘cyber’ wealth.

11 comments to Another brick out of the wall

  • HitNRun

    Heh, they’re a bit behind the Koreans. They already have an entire set of laws governing Massively Multiplayer Online Games. I think one actually governs PKing. (Player Killing, as in combat, for the uninitiated.)

    Since we’re in my field of pastime, I think it’s worth pointing out that, more locally, the Everquest Platinum and the Camelot and Ultima Gold pieces are worth more than many national currency standards, each more than a Mexican Peso on some servers, depending on the legally questionable auction site you’re visiting.

  • Eamon Brennan

    Or even that Norath has a higher GDP than Bulgaria.

  • Jacob

    Do they also protect the old kind, physical (as opposed to virtual), property rights ?

  • Lynne

    China seems to be the new fad right now. The west has been talking about opportunities with China since Marco Polo. Somehow things never work out. China seems glamorous because we don’t really know what goes on there. It is a closed, repressive society. Naive people used to do this with the Soviet Union. Because the terrible things that went on were hidden from them, they assumed that they didn’t exist. China is going to be a real problem because they have no tradition of looking out for others. If you think that the West is self asorbed, try dealing with China.

  • I remember my friends speaking in awed terms of the skill levels of Korean players in Starcraft and Warcraft III. And having seen some of the replays, I can well believe it.

    As for China, I guess it’s gonna be the another modern example of a society with much economic freedom, but little political or social ones. Will economic freedom lead to political freedom?

    The Wobbly Guy

  • Patrick Donnelly

    This is funny, because most American companies in charge of MMORPGs maintain that the player has no right to their stuff whatsoever.

  • I’ve been following China for over six months, and even I’m surprised by this. That claim telling the owner that it wasn’t real world stuff anyway sounds like someone might say in a furniture store. “Oh you really don’t need legs that are exactly equal in length. It’s all chabuduo.”

    (Chabuduo = “almost”)

  • Perhaps now we’ll get a retraction from David Carr of his, er, intemperate remarks published here:


    China was clearly on the road to capitalism in 1999, when I said exactly that — and David Carr was incandescent with rage. Now that I’ve been proved right, I wonder if he has the graciousness to admit he was wrong — although, somehow, I doubt it.

  • Oh sure, Raimondo… I remember when you said there was freedom of religion in China too regardless of the fact only the state controlled ‘Patriotic Catholic’ church was tolerated and the real one suppressed. But yeah, so what if China slaughters a few thousand dissidents every now and again, just so long as it is edging nearer to capitalism, right? Sheesh.

  • Perry, you are so full of it: the point of my essay was that China is moving toward capitalism — a capitalism in many ways more unrestrained than exists in the U.S., and certainly than exists at present in Merrie Olde Socialist England. As for freedom of religion, the Falun Gung (of whatever they call themselves) has as much freedom to practice in China as the Church of Scientology has in Germany.

    In any case, the freeing up of the market will inevitably lead to the freeing up of society in general, and the collapse, or complete transformation, of the Communist party, which is already admitting capitalists.

    China, in any case, is too big to be effectively governed, and its breakdown into regional centers is only a matter of time.

    But the fact remains that Mr. Carr’s original view of China seems to have undergone a sea-change, one that seems to undermine his critique of my piece. An honorable, or even halfway reasonable person would acknowledge it, which is no doubt why you refuse to.

  • Justin! How kind of you to drop by.

    Yes, I do remember that fawning apology you penned for China’s murderous ruling classes. If you feel that the ongoing progress towards a market economy (though not liberalism) in that country now works to get you off the hook, then you are stretching credulity, old chap.

    Methinks you are desperately seeking a post-hoc justification.

    That said, I am delighted to note your comments. I think I wrote that article nearly two years ago and the fact that you are still nursing a grudge about it is quite the best compliment I have had for some time.

    And, by the by, if the Chinese authorities ever do launch an attack on Tawain (as they frequently threaten to do) I expect to read your ringing denounciation of it on antiwar.com.