IT has suddenly become clear there might be a large gap between the expectations of Western investors and the ability, or willingness, of Chinese companies to live up to them. The decision by Tsingtao Brewery not to publish its interim results has, not unexpectedly, peeved outside investors and analysts. Almost as surprising is the view of the Hong Kong stock exchange that the decision can be justified. Technically, it may be correct. If the listing rules say a company need not publish its interims if they are ruled off before the listing date, then no one is breaking any regulations. For practical purposes, it would have been better if the exchange had put pressure on Tsingtao to issue its results - or at least, to a statement on progress - and whether its July forecast was still valid. That forecast was made after five months of trading had been completed, so barring a disaster in the sixth month, the results must have been very much on track at the end of June. There were, though, some assumptions in the prospectus, about which shareholders of the still highly rated stock might appreciate some comfort. It assumed no material changes in the fiscal or economic conditions on the mainland. It also factored in an inflation figure of 15 per cent. Since then there have been some very material changes indeed, with Vice-Premier Zhu Rongji's foot going on the brakes, and inflation continuing to shoot ahead. What has been the effect of these items on costs and demand? The questions would not have been answered by the end-June figures, but issuing them would have given Tsingtao a chance to inform shareholders of the up-to-date trading conditions. It still can, and should. Mainland companies, along with not a few in Hong Kong, have to come to terms with shareholders' growing demand for information. Lots of it, and regularly. US investors, now flooding their cash into the region, expect quarterly figures - broken down - from their native companies. They are obviously willing to adapt to local custom and practice, but not to the extent of investing in the dark. For all the progress that China has made in its regulation, accounting systems and corporate reporting ability, Tsingtao has made it plain that there are still a lot of lessons ahead.