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For would-be new hires at several international law firms in China and Hong Kong, it has come to be a strict and unyielding prerequisite.

“Certainly from our point of view, hiring someone in Hong Kong without the Chinese-language speaking skills is a waste of time,” says Antony Dapiran, a fluent Mandarin speaker and capital markets partner with Davis Polk & Wardwell in Hong Kong. “I honestly do not see how they can function, especially if they are dealing with capital markets work.”

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