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Victor Liang plows his metallic beige BMW sedan through Beijing’s traffic on a crisp February morning as he describes how he came to be the first general counsel at Baidu, Inc., China’s leading Internet search engine. It was five years ago, and he was wrapping up an LL.M. at the University of New South Wales in Australia after having studied law at Peking University a decade before. “I wanted to do some work to combine Chinese local issues and some overseas issues,” recalls Liang, who toiled for a few years as a Beijing bureaucrat before switching careers. Going in-house at one of China’s large state-owned enterprises (SOEs) seemed to be his best bet, since they were leading the way in expanding abroad and tapping international capital. “I thought I would be a lawyer for an SOE, or maybe work at a law firm,” he says.

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