Tenth Sino-Finnish Bilateral Seminar – Comparative Dialogue on Sustainability


Seminar speakers and moderators in the group photo after the seminar

On 10-11 June 2019, the China Law Center together with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and in collaboration with Faculty of Law at University of Helsinki, organized the 10th Sino-Finnish Bilateral Seminar on Comparative Law. The seminar is held annually and its location alternates between Finland and China. This year the seminar was hosted by University of Helsinki.

Sino-Finnish seminars form an important part of the bilateral cooperation with CASS and are meant to facilitate legal dialogue in different fields of law. This year the 10th seminar was delighted to have six academics from CASS which is the leading Chinese research and education institution in the field of social sciences in China. These scholars were Director of Institute of Law, Professor Chen Su, Professor Xie Zengyi, Professor Zhai Guoqiang, Associate Professor Zhao Lei, Assistant Professor Yue Xiaohua and Assistant Professor Wang Shuaiyi.

The seminar was opened by remarks from both Professor Pia Letto-Vanamo, the Dean and Chair of the Board of the Finnish China Law Center, and Professor Chen Su. Both highlighted the importance of the work of the Center, as well as the collaboration between Chinese and Nordic scholars on a widening array of topics.

The bilateral seminar being the 10th of its kind also marked a significant milestone in the bilateral relations between the China Law Center, CASS and the University of Helsinki. Having lasted for ten years now, the cooperation is on a more solid footing than ever before. The recent proof of the cooperation’s results is its recognition by the the Sino-Finnish joint action plan (Joint Action Plan between China and Finland on Promoting the Future-oriented New-type Cooperative Partnership)

Professor Chen Su, Director of the CASS Institute of Law, delivering opening remarks at the seminar

Thematic areas of the seminar

The general theme of the 10th seminar was sustainability and different sessions covered this theme from the viewpoints of environment, business and labour as well as corporate governance. In addition to sustainability, the seminar also saw two sessions focusing on law, language and culture and public law.

The seminar’s first session covered law, language and legal culture beginning by a comparative analysis of culture and legal culture in China and the Nordic countries by Professor Ditlev Tamm.  Professor Matti Nojonen’s presentation addressed the concept of ‘practical rationality’ analysed traditional and contemporary Chinese legal thinking. Assistant Professor Wang’s presentation was about the influence of Chinese traditional culture on law from the viewpoint of civil law and criminal law. Finally, Marinna Hintikka and her colleagues gave a presentation on workplace communication at Law Faculty reflecting methodology, motivation and practical application.

The second thematic area covered was sustainability and environment. This session saw two presentations: one from Professor Kai Kakko under the title “From environmental law to sustainability law – some general aspects and a case study about the forest definition” and the other from Assistant Professor Yue Xiaohua under the title “Regulation development and its system improvement of China’s natural resources”.

A third thematic area discussed sustainability and business and it saw presentations from University Researcher Harriet Lonka on the topic of food law as a tool for advancing sustainable business, from Associate Professor Zhao Lei on the role of credit in the era of big data in promoting business development, from Professor Veli-Matti Virolainen on sustainable business models and ecosystems and from Professor Ellen Eftestøl-Wilhelmsson on the topic of the proposed EU regulation on electronic freight transport information.

In the second day of the seminar, themes incorporating sustainability and labour as well as public law developments were discussed. The first session included a presentation from Professor Ulla Liukkunen on the topic of employee participation in corporate governance, from Professor Xie Zengyi on the topic of employee participation in corporate governance in terms of Chinese experience and from Professor Jukka Mähönen on the topic employee participation in corporate governance: a possibility for or a threat to sustainability.

The seminar’s final session covered developments in public law with presentations on the developments in evidence in criminal procedure by Professor Tuomas Hupli, the development of constitutional structure in People’s Republic of China (1949-2019) by Professor Zhai Guoqiang and, thirdly, on law and development in a global context by Professor Kimmo Nuotio.

Seminar guests and speakers at the university reception

Book publication

The seminar also celebrated a joint publication by CASS and University of Helsinki. The title of the book is “Legal Reform and the Development of Rule of Law: A Comparison of between China and Finland” and it features contributions from legal scholars in both China and Finland, gathering together papers of the 8th and 9th Sino-Finnish seminars. The book has been edited by Chen Su and Ulla Liukkunen.

Next year’s 11th  bilateral seminar will be held in China.

New Coordinator at Finnish China Law Center

*Important update: The Finnish China Law Center informs that Mr. Jani Mustonen is not working with us from 01 July 2019. For any inquiries regarding the Center, please contact us directly at chinalawcenter@helsinki.fi.

The Finnish Center of Chinese Law and Chinese Legal Culture is pleased to introduce its new Coordinator, Mr. Jani Mustonen.

A Mandarin speaker, Jani originally started studying Chinese language at the University of Helsinki. Jani holds a bachelor’s degree in East Asian studies from the University of Helsinki and has obtained his master’s degree from the University of Vienna, Austria, in the program of East Asian economics and politics. Jani wrote his master’s thesis on the privatization of state-owned companies in East Asia with the aim of entering international banking and business.

Jani Mustonen, new Coordinator of the Finnish China Law Center

However, Jani’s plans were quickly redrawn after having started working at the Embassy of Finland in Beijing. “Public diplomacy won my heart over” says Jani. “I initially thought of staying at the Ministry only for a short while but ended up staying for six years working for political, commercial and consular departments.”

Jani has lived in China altogether for seven years but is happy to be back on Finnish soil. “I am very pleased to be able to put my work experience to good use here at the University. There is a lively and youthful atmosphere here and, in a way, it feels like coming back home. I still eat my lunch where I used to 14 years ago.”

“It’s a very exciting time to be working as the coordinator at the center”, Jani says. “My predecessors have done an incredible job in raising the center’s profile. The hard work has paid off handsomely, proof of which is the center’s role in the Sino-Finnish joint action plan.”

Jani replaces the center’s previous coordinator, Mr. Stuart Mooney. “Stuart’s contributions to the center were tangible and I have been quite impressed with the center’s development. We have been recognized by the highest level of government which gives us credibility and a solid base on which to build future activities. In the long term, I see growing demand for stronger synergies with other Nordic universities with regards to understanding Chinese legal system and cooperating with Chinese universities. I would like to work toward this goal.”

The center welcomes all inquiries, potential collaboration, and questions about bilateral Sino-Finnish legal issues. Based in the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki, the center can be contacted either at chinalawcenter@helsinki.fi or  jani.mustonen@helsinki.fi



International Students Enjoyed the Helsinki Summer School Course on Chinese Law

The Helsinki Summer School Course: Law and Society in China took place at the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki in August. The course was coordinated and taught by the Finnish China Law Center’s postdoctoral researcher Dr. Yihong Zhang, together with guest lecturers from the United Kingdom (Professor Eva Pils), Italy (Dr. Flora Sapio) and the Hong Kong SAR (Professor Chao Xi). This year is the first time that the Helsinki Summer School offers a course on Chinese law. Students from nine different countries and three continents have participated in this two-week intensive course.

The course provides a unique exposure to research and scholarship on the Chinese legal system. It covers a wide range of legal areas, including criminal justice, corporate social responsibility, company law, foreign investment law and securities regulation, etc. One student of the course, Steffen Schwardmann, who is studying Political Science and Sociology at the University of Kassel said that “The broad range of topics made the course immensely informative.”

The course highlights the comparative value of learning about the Chinese legal system. Another student of the course, Amanda Allcock, who is studying law at the King’s College London said that the course helped her to “place China’s legal system in a global context and use my own understanding of UK law to compare and contrast.” She also recognized that the course has allowed her “to critically analyze both systems and look to future developments.”

On the pedagogical side, the course has encouraged open discussion and teamwork among students. Every student had the chance to give a short presentation in class, thereby demonstrating their understanding of the assigned course materials. Through the combination of individual student presentation, teacher-guided discussion and teamwork, students have learned to articulate their ideas and communicate with other participants of the course.

The Helsinki Summer School has also arranged a series of social activities to give participants the opportunity to get to know each other and to explore the capital area of Finland during their spare time. Such activities included, for instance, evening on an island, wildlife and sauna trip to the scenic Nuuksio national park, and a fun open air event that gave participants a taste of the Finnish culture.

We believe that the students of this course will continue to use the knowledge and skills they have obtained at the Helsinki Summer School. We look forward to having the next Helsinki Summer School course on Chinese law in the near future. The Helsinki Summer School 2018 will be arranged 7.8.-23.8.2018.



Photo by Tapio Kovero

Text by Yihong Zhang

Why study Chinese law? – Read answers from international scholars

Three law professors from the United States, Denmark and Hong Kong SAR, have kindly accepted the Center’s interview requests and shared their insights on researching and studying Chinese law.

larry-cata-backer-copyProfessor Larry Catà Backer

W. Richard and Mary Eshelman Faculty Scholar, Professor of Law and International Affairs, Pennsylvania University

How did you start your research or study of Chinese law?

Professor Backer: I became interested in Chinese law when I was trying to understand the Cuban Leninist system, which was an endeavor that came partly out of my Cuban heritage. I realized quite quickly that I couldn’t understand the Cuban system before I had a proper understanding of the Chinese system. Ever since I opened the door of research on Chinese law, it has been a fascinating area to me. Nowadays I still do some work comparing the Chinese and Cuban approaches.

Why do you think the study of Chinese law is relevant to practitioners and law students?

Professor Backer: For Chinese, studying Chinese law has to be done in global context, in the sense that changes and reforms of Chinese law are not only relevant to China, but also relevant to the development of fundamental legal areas. This is especially true with China’s one belt-one road policy and the law it is likely to generate. For westerners, Chinese law is critically important because we are engaging with China in many different areas. As a result, changes in Chinese law have significant implications. Also, foreign investment in China has made westerners keen to become interlocutors about Chinese law. In addition, China has become a major world actor, like the US and Germany, to the extent that its legal system is critically influential and important to other countries.

Can you recommend some interesting and topical areas of Chinese law to law students?

Professor Backer: Some of the critical areas that would be interesting to practitioners and law students are: foreign investment, investment arbitration, dispute resolution and litigation process. In addition, the fight against corruption and assets repatriation is a great area where foreign and Chinese law intersect.


ditlev-tamm-copyProfessor Ditlev Tamm, University of Copenhagen

How did you start your research or study of Chinese law?

Professor Tamm: My starting point was not the law but Chinese culture. I’ve been for many years fascinated by Chinese culture, particularly poems, philosophy, history. I am also interested in comparative law. My approach to Chinese law is thus based on both an interest in Chinese culture and the question of how this culture interacts with the law. I believe that also for lawyers, it is important to learn about Chinese culture, since Chinese law has a strong foundation in value and culture.

Why do you think the study of Chinese law is relevant to practitioners and law students?

Professor Tamm: It is easy to answer this question. Nearly 20% of inhabitants of the world live in China and China is a growing world power. What is happening in China therefore has worldwide influence. In this globalized world, western lawyers and law students should have at least some basic knowledge about Chinese law as part of their general knowledge base.

Can you recommend some interesting and topical areas of Chinese law to law students?

Professor Tamm: At least three areas are interesting. The first area that students should be acquainted with is the interaction between traditional Chinese culture and the modern legal system. Traditional Chinese philosophy still plays an important role in the development of law and the way the law is handled in modern China.  Therefore, an understanding of both the legal philosophical side and the practical side of Chinese law is a basic prerequisite to grasp what is going on.

The second area that is important for student to learn about is how China has worked over the last decades to build a legal system that encourages foreign investment in China. Therefore, law students should be aware of not only law, but also the basics of doing business. In addition, it is important for law students to understand the tension between economic relations and the perhaps less important role of law in Chinese society compared to other factors.

The third area important for student to understand is the current progress of legal reform in China. Students from a western background should understand that the foundations and assumptions of the Chinese legal system are very different from those of the western systems. As a case of comparative law, it’s important to try to understand the tensions of reforms, in which different currents are meeting each other and may lead China’s legal reform to different directions. The Chinese system is closed, and it is often difficult to get information and to understand what actually happens. Westerners should, however, closely observe the development of China’s legal system. It’s always useful to understand different values behind different legal systems, and the legal reform in China is of great importance outside China.


mimi-zou-copyAssistant Professor Mimi Zou, the Chinese University of Hong Kong

How did you start your research or study of Chinese law?

Professor Zou: I started to research Chinese law at the end of my economics degree when I was researching Chinese labour issues for my honours thesis on multinational companies operating in China. I went on a student exchange to Tsinghua University School of Economics for a semester and it was next door to the Law School. As I was studying economics and law at the same time, I would occasionally drop by the law school to attend some of the lectures. As I started to do consultancy work at the International Labour Organisation shortly afterwards, I became very interested in the interaction between international law (specifically international labour standards) and Chinese law.

Why do you think the study of Chinese law is relevant to practitioners and law students?

Professor Zou: Given the economic and political significance of China in our era of globalisation, understanding some basic aspects of the Chinese legal system would be of immense utility to law students and practitioners in any part of the world. Also, studying Chinese law is indeed fascinating!

Can you recommend some interesting and topical areas of Chinese law to law students?

Professor Zou: There are too many topics out there for me to recommend! As a comparative lawyer, I would suggest identifying an area/issue of law that you find interesting in your own jurisdiction and see how Chinese law addresses the issue.

By Dr. Zhang Yihong