March 30, 2005 | Graham

China not plastic fantastic

As part of the FTA being negotiated with China Australia is required to recognise that China is a market economy. I actually didn’t think there was much doubt that this was the case these days, but a recent news report has given me pause.
According to Reuters as quoted in an ABC-Newsmail this evening, an online gamer in China was killed for stealing a cyber sword. Zhu Caoyuan, Qiu Chengwei and another man were devotees of Legend of Mir 3, which involves “heroes and villains, sorcerers and warriors” and apparently very large, but not corporeal, swords. Zhu was lent the sword by Qui and his friend who jointly owned it, and then sold it for 7,200 yuan. When Qui complained to the police he was told that it wasn’t “real property” and therefore not protected by the law. The result was that he took the law into his own hands.
Unbelievably the status of the sword has led to a legal controversy.
“The armour and swords in games should be deemed as private property as players have to spend money and time for them,” according to “Wang Zongyu, an associate law professor at Beijing’s Renmin University of China”.
Sounds reasonable to me, but not to the lawyer for a “Shanghai-based Internet game company” who claims “The assets of one player could mean nothing to others as they are by nature just data created by game providers”.
Obviously the Chinese have yet to get their minds around exactly how a market economy works these days. The combination of plastic cards and investment markets means that all we ever see in the west these days is data created by game providers channelled through an eftpos machine. These guys really need to get with the programme. No way are they a market economy!

Posted by Graham at 9:52 pm | Comments (2) |


  1. Do market economies in general recognise online gaming possessions as legal property? I remember reading that such things have been sold for large sums on e-bay, but I’d be suprised if you could expect the police to help you recove ‘stolen’ property in an online game.

    Comment by Dominic — March 31, 2005 @ 1:10 pm

  2. Dominic,
    My view is that this is a case of fraud, but if you want a sophisticated debate on it then you should check out John Quiggin’s blog at where there is some very learned legal argument on it, (from the lawyers, not the economists).

    Comment by Graham Young — April 1, 2005 @ 5:36 pm

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