An interview with Professor Ronald C. Brown

The Finnish China law center had the opportunity to interview Law Professor at the University of Hawai’i Law School, Ronald C. Brown. Professor Brown is an expert in Chinese labour law with experience from several decades in various roles.  He has also personally lived and taught law in China.

How did you become interested/involved in Chinese labor law?

Before coming to Hawai’i in the 1980s Professor Brown was teaching some labor law in William & Mary Law School in Virginia. When he came to Hawai’i he got involved in international labor law. Then he took a trip to China and fell in love with the country. He was teaching at Peking University Law School and became friends with experts in Chinese labor law with whom he had opportunity to work. At that time back in the 80s Chinese labor law was only evolving. Later he put together some books on for example Chinese labor law. Professor Brown says Hawai’i was a good advantage point to reach out into China. From the U.S. it is halfway there.

During your long career, what are the most important moments of understanding or single findings considering Chinese legal culture?

Professor Brown tells that he has become aware of China by living there, meeting people, and having university colleagues and neighbors. ”I think the moment of understanding comes from just getting to know people and realizing that the Chinese are just a lot like us. Politics are politics in America and in China. But the people are real.” Professor Brown adds that he always loved the Chinese and their Irish-like good sense of humor. He mentions the Chinese phrase ”can I eat it” when talking about ideas and concepts. At first he did not understand the phrase but found out it was about how useful the information was.

On legal system, Professor Brown got involved early on with the Chinese legal institutions. In the 80s, Professor Brown worked together with a Chinese Law Professor keeping up with the new Chinese legislation. They soon had a room full of new laws that were evolving. It became clear that at Deng´s time there was legalization going on and Professor Brown says he was lucky enough to watch it and be a little bit part of it.

You have published broadly about labor law and economic relations considering not only USA, EU and China but also for example Russia and Latin America. From a global perspective, what do you think are the main strengths and weaknesses of Chinese legal culture? What could other legal systems learn from the Chinese?

As back in the 80s the Chinese basically had some leftover laws from Mao, Professor Brown considers it amazing how rapidly the Chinese were able to evolve and professionalize a whole legal system. In his opinion the Chinese labor laws are wonderful but there are problems in enforcement. Other Chinese characteristics he mentions are commerce-skills and sensitively protective attitude towards their sovereignty. Professor Brown also thinks the Chinese have good sensitivity towards everyday citizens even though there are logistic problems with 1.4 billion population. He reminds how China has lifted millions of people out of poverty.

Do you think fundamental differences between Chinese and Western contract conceptions and legal systems in general cause issues when drafting FTAs?

Professor Brown starts his answer by telling how the analytical thinking process of the Chinese differs from the Americans. He compares it with water going down the sink in the opposite direction. They might reach the same results using different thinking process. According to Professor Brown, the Chinese legal system has a bit civil law and maybe a touch of common law but he emphasizes the Chinese characteristics coming from China´s special history. ”Whatever comes out at the end of the day in China is Chinese for sure, legally speaking”, he laughs. He thinks FTAs (Free Trade Agreements) reflect that as well and from Chinese point of view ”commerce is commerce and labor is labor”. Therefore, China doesn´t see labor provisions belonging to FTAs and their FTAs with other Asian countries tend to have no labor provisions included. However, the FTAs with some larger developed countries must contain labor provisions.

Where in your opinion lay mainly the historical roots of Chinese contemporary labor relations? How do you see the role of Chinese imperial history and foreign influences?

First, Professor Brown notes that he is not a Chinese historian. In his class on Chinese labor law, he starts from Mao who took a lot from Russia. Then in the 80s and 90s came legalization by Deng. During his times teaching in Peking University Law School he got to know surprisingly that the Germans had had their influence too. They had been early advisors in the development of Chinese labor law. For political reasons, China might avoid too straight western influences.

Professor Brown stresses the importance of historical understanding of Chinese law. ”When you look at the Chinese law you can´t just look at it on the face. You have to have a little bit of sense of how it evolved, where it came from, how the Chinese legal people are interpreting that.” He uses contract as an example. In China, contracts are not as fixed as in the U.S. They are more like living relationships that change over time. Another cultural-historical Chinese specialty he mentions is guanxi, the question of how close is it to corruption.

Professor Brown concludes his answer by stating how fascinating it is to follow Chinese legal development. ”It is so enjoyable. China is so varied and so different and so always coming up with something new.”

The interview and report were done by the Center’s intern, Elias Jakala.

 

Matti Nojonen on Xunzi’s practical philosophy of governance; concepts of rites (li), law (fa) and social order and contemporary Chinese Party-State

On 24 May 2021, Professor Matti Nojonen from the University of Lapland gave a guest lecture on ”Xunzi´s practical philosophy of governance, concepts of rites (li), law (fa) and social order and contemporary Chinese Party-State”. During his lecture, Professor Nojonen gave an interesting insight into Xunzi´s (c. 300 – c. 235 BC) thinking and the concepts of li and fa. Apart from the historical discussion, Professor Nojonen also talked about the Chinese contemporary trend to value Confucianism. At the end of the lecture, he gave answers to questions arising from the audience.

Professor Matti Nojonen, 24 May 2021

Xunzi was an important Confucian thinker after Confucius (551 – 479 BC) and Mencius (372 – 289 BC). Xunzi lived in the ”Warring States era” when there was more social disorder compared to Confucius´ times. He wrote a comprehensive book ”Xunzi”. As Professor Nojonen pointed out, Confucianism is not a static philosophy. Xunzi in his part also modified it. In general, Professor Nojonen reminded that the concepts in China differ from western concepts. Chinese concepts are more practical and not so clearly defined. Traditional Chinese does not even have a word for concepts and they can be verbs at the same time.

Xunzi was influenced by the Jixia Academy of his era. The question of how to bring order to society was important to him. Li (rite, ritual) was already a Confucian concept but Xunzi developed a full theory of li. According to Xunzi´s theory of li, human nature is evil and humans are driven by certain desires and inborn emotions. Therefore, Xunzi´s view on humans born evil differs from Mencius´ more idealistic view on humans being potentially good. In Xunzi´s theory, li is the tool to control the desires and emotions humans are born with. However, because it is a rather vague concept, it is any ruler’s monopoly, but also his responsibility to define li for his people, which makes li a practical and deliberate tool of governance.

An example of li coupled with other concepts is liyi with yi meaning „justice/righteousness“. Yi is what differs humans from animals. However, according to Xunzi, humans are born evil and without yi, but they can attain liyi by studying and thereby handle their evil desires. Professor Nojonen pointed out how Xunzi´s view differed again from Mencius’: Mencius saw studying as a way to become good while Xunzi saw it as an instrument to control evil. Xunzi stressed the importance of wei (conscious activity) and not leaving one´s fate to the hands of tian (heaven or nature). Another related concept is fen (distinction of social classes). According to Xunzi, people should stay in their social classes, as that makes them understand justice and easier to control.

For Xunzi, li was not enough to govern. Fa (law, regulation) was needed too in maintaining social order. Fa can be understood as a method of governance that constrains the behavior of people, especially with the penal code. It is therefore the „backbone“ that lies underneath li and stabilizes the society. One of Xunzi´s students, Hanfeizi, was a founding father of legalism, which led to the rough legalist Qin-dynasty, which only lasted for 17 years. However, Xunzi differed from strict legalism because he thought that fa is subordinate to li. A symbiotic relationship between li and fa can be seen as Xunzi´s legacy.

Professor Nojonen talked about the recent ”turn to own classics” in China. Xi Jinping has been the driving force of it. He has, for example, visited the birthplace of Confucius and has given a speech on Confucius´ 2.565th birthday. Professor Nojonen also discussed contemporary Party-State interplaying li and fa in the Xuncian sense. In his summary remarks, Professor Nojonen stressed the importance of Xunzi for the Chinese culture. Only the Xuncian insertion of fa made the idealistic, li-based Confucianism an efficient and practical ideology of governance.

This blog post was written by the Center’s interns, Elias Jakala and Johanna Fähnrich.

 

Professor Jason Chuah on the continuing development of maritime law in the PRC

Professor Ellen J. Eftestøl, 20 April 2021

On Tuesday 20 April 2021, Professor Jason Chuah from the City University of London gave a guest lecture on the topic of ‘An Inquiry into the Continuing Development of Maritime Law in the PRC’ at the Finnish China Law Center. The lecture was chaired and commented on by Ellen J. Eftestøl, Professor of Civil and Commercial Law at the University of Helsinki.

 

Professor Jason Chuah, 20 April 2021

Professor Chuah opened the lecture by giving an overview of the current status of maritime law and jurisprudence in the PRC. Since the jurisdiction of maritime courts was enlarged in 2016, there has been a generally high number of maritime court cases: over 95.000 between 2015 and 2017. More than 6.000 of these cases are foreign-related, meaning that in a lot of them, the parties choose an applicable law that is more advantageous to them than the Chinese. While the PRC courts generally respect the parties’ choice of applicable law, some courts use Chinese law to fill in legal gaps, which is conflicting with international principles. However, the Supreme People’s Court has issued a new guideline in 2020 that strongly advises courts not to fill in gaps with PRC law when dealing with pandemic-related cases. Furthermore, it is sometimes unclear how many countries are involved in one single contract. If the chosen law has no sufficient connection to the case, PRC courts may argue that the clause is unenforceable, unless it is explicitly exclusive. While in EU countries, the exclusivity of such clauses is presumed, that is not the case in the PRC, which sometimes leads to disputes between the parties and the Chinese courts.

Professor Chuah continued with a short comparison of the judicial systems in the PRC and the UK. Whereas in the UK, the guiding precedent doctrine binds judges to follow court decisions made by higher courts, the PRC has no such common law system. However, in 2020, China has issued new guidance that advises courts to apply principles and rules uniformly and follow previous court decisions to prevent conflicting decisions within the PRC. In 2000, the legislation law came into force, which is intended to help drive the modernization of PRC laws forward. It states that laws shall be made in compliance with the basic principles laid down in the constitution, and encourages a policy of „opening to the outside world“, which clearly shows China’s efforts to connect and align its judiciary with other countries.

Professor Chuah closed with a case study on the „bill of lading“, which is a document issued by a carrier of goods and that is the basis for ensuring that exporters receive payment and importers receive the merchandise. Usually, the bill, after it was given to the exporter, gets transferred to the buyer, who is often located in a foreign country. This procedure raises two main problems. The first one is the question of the „original“ document. In line with many other technological advances in the PRC, the bill of lading is nowadays often an electronic document instead of a paper. However, the Chinese maritime law is still very paper-oriented and does not adjust fast enough to these new devices. Professor Chuah emphasized the need to revise the PRC maritime law, starting with redefining the term of originality. The second challenge with the bill of lading is the right to sue. It is common practice internationally that with the transfer of the bill, one gives up their right to sue the carrier. However, some PRC courts have decided the opposite way. Professor Chuah explains this with the fact that the persons transferring the bill of lading are mostly exporters. China as an exporting country wants to protect its exporters and local businesses and therefore interprets the bill transfer differently in order to preserve the exporters’ right to sue. In conclusion, it is noticeable that the PRC has made enormous progress in terms of aligning its jurisprudence with international standards, even though it is not a party of the international conventions on maritime law. However, the PRC courts sometimes interpret international rules differently, which is mostly due to the different political and legal history as well as the fact that Chinese private rules are often hard to combine with international methods. It will be interesting to see if China will sign up to the Rotterdam rules and what impact that would have, since the rules are intended to be much more recognizing of technological advances and current shipping practices.

This blog post was written the Center’s intern, Johanna Fähnrich.

 

Introducing the Nordic Network on Chinese Thought

The Centre would like to inform its readers of the establishment of the new Nordic Network on Chinese Thought (NNCT) based at the University of Lapland. The NNCT is founded by Professor Matti Nojonen (University of Lapland), Dr. Jyrki Kallio (Finnish Institute of International Affairs) and Professor emeritus Torbjörn Lodén (University of Stockholm). The idea is to create an open and transparent platform that connects Nordic researchers on Chinese thought on a more regular basis than just once a year.

The network’s objective is to open discussion and dialogue on philosophical questions relating to China, as well as for sharing research ideas, papers, and manuscripts. It aims at bringing together not only senior scholars but also young researchers and students in the Nordic region who study or work on classical and modern Chinese philosophy and Chinese thought. The NNCT will also advance collaboration with prominent Chinese philosophers.

The activities of the NNCT include seminars, workshops, study events, and lectures in the field of Chinese thought on topics such as the role of concepts in traditional Chinese philosophy and thought. Through the network, scholars and students shall have the opportunity to expand their network and learn different approaches to Chinese thought from other members.

In this and next autumns, two new 5-credit courses on Chinese thoughts will be organized by the University of Lapland. They will deal with classical Chinese language and textual reading on classical Chinese philosophy.  The courses, one offered in Finnish and the other in English, will provide students with knowledge and insight into different fields of Chinese philosophy. Students in the courses are welcome to attend events of the NNCT.

The inaugural seminar of NNCT will be organized on the 20th of April, at 10 AM to 12 Noon (UTC + 3).

For further information, please visit https://www.ulapland.fi/EN/Webpages/Nordic-Network-on-Chinese-Thought

Introducing the Members of the Board of the China Law Center

We are happy to introduce that for the 2021-2024 term, the member institutions of the Finnish China Law Center are represented on the Board by:

The Chair of the Board is Professor Pia Letto-Vanamo, Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki. The Deputy Chair is Matti Nojonen, Professor of Chinese Culture and Society, University of Lapland.

Read more about the Center’s Board Members below.

Professor, LL.D. Pia Letto-Vanamo is a legal historian and comparative lawyer specialized in European legal history, history of European integration, Nordic legal culture(s) and transnational law. Currently she is working as Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Helsinki. Professor Letto-Vanamo is the research director at the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki since 2012. She is member of the advisory board, Centre for Legal Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen since 2008; member of the Board, Aleksanteri Institute since 2011; member of the Board, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies at the University of Helsinki since 2014; and member of the Board of Federation of Finnish Learned Societies since 2016.

Professor Kimmo Nuotio is a renowned legal scholar with Chinese collaboration experience. He is currently the Professor of Criminal Law at University of Helsinki and is chairing the Strategic Research Council. He also has experience in collaboration with Chinese scholars and working with Chinese materials, including several seminars given at Chinese universities and academic institutions, as well as a journal article on comparative perspectives between Finnish and Chinese law — “the transformation of criminal law and criminal law theory in Finland and China”. He also recently edited a book concerning the Belt and Road Initiative — “Normative Readings of the Belt and Road Initiative”. He was also appointed as a member of Peking University Law School’s new Global Faculty in 2018.

Petri Kuoppamaki is Professor of Business Law at Aalto University Business School in Helsinki, Finland, and CEO of Competition Consulting Europe. His prior roles include Professor of Competition Law at University of Helsinki, Vice President Legal & IP at Nokia, Partner at Castrén & Snellman Attorneys, Investigator at European Commission, and Lawyer at Nordic Law. Prof. Kuoppamaki holds a Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) in Competition Law, EU Law, and Law & Economics from University of Helsinki.

 

Kari Hoppu is Professor of Business Law at Aalto University School of Business. His research focus is in contract, securities and marketing law. Hoppu has been a member or chairman of several Boards, i.e. Securities Complaints Board, Arbitration Institute of the Finland Chamber of Commerce, Redemption Committee of the Finland Chamber of Commerce, Board of Business Practice and Board of Trading Practices in the Food Supply Chain.

 

Dr. Ulla-Maija Mylly is currently Senior Research Fellow at University of Turku, faculty of law and Senior Project researcher at Hanken School of Economics (Helsinki). She was a TIAS postdoctoral researcher at the University of Turku 2017-2019. She did her first LL.M. at University of Turku and the second at Kyushu University, Japan (International Trade and Business Law). Ulla-Maija has earlier worked among others as a Senior Lecturer in Civil Law at the Faculty of Law and in various research positions at the Turku School of Economics and as a practicing lawyer. She is trained on the bench. August 2017 – July 2018 she was a Visiting Research Fellow at Oxford Intellectual Property Research Center.

Veli Matti Virolainen is Professor of Supply Management at LUT School of Business and Management. He has held several positions of trust including Member of Academy of Technical Sciences in Finland (2014 onwards), Member of association Finnish parliament members and researchers (2013 onwards), President of International Purchasing & Supply Education & Research Association (2012-2014), President of the International Federation of Production Research (2015 – 2019), and Member of Collegiate body of LUT (2017-2020). Professor Virolainen was also the founder and academic leader of Purchasing and Supply Management Programme.

Onerva-Aulikki Suhonen (LL.M., M.Sc.) works as a lecturer in civil law at the UEF Law School. Her teaching focuses on transnational commercial law and comparative law and supervision of commercial law theses. In her Ph.D. research, Suhonen studies the regulatory framework applicable to cross-border commercial contracts and analyses the development of transnational commercial contract law doctrine.

 

Katja Lindroos is Professor of Commercial Law at UEF Law School. Her research focuses on emerging markets and the evolving regulatory framework for commerce. She concentrates on the role of law and trade in shaping the global economy, which directly impacts national and regional economies. Professor Lindroos has published widely on issues regarding internet, intellectual property rights, and food law.

 

Matti Nojonen, Professor of Chinese culture and society at Univerity of Lapland, Finland. Nojonen has been working on China for three decades on traditional and contemporary  Chinese philosophy, social, institutional and value base changes in China, institutional reform policy, traditional and current Chinese strategic thinking and Chinese over-seas direct investments (including Belt and Road Initiative).

 

Jukka Viljanen is Professor of Public Law at the Tampere University, Finland. He is a Member of Finnish Human Rights Delegation (2020-2024) and an expert before the Constitutional Law Committee of Finnish Parliament (since 2004 onwards). He was a member of Ministry of Justice working group that modified the Section 10 of the Finnish Constitution in 2015-2016. Professor Viljanen is currently leading a project funded by the Strategic Research Council under Academy of Finland called ALL-YOUTH and its subproject Resolving legal obstacles (2018-2023). He is also responsible leader of EVOLUTIVE- research project on impact of the Council of Europe Human Rights treaties (2021-22).

Dr. Matti Urpilainen is docent of tax law and has been working as a Senior Lecturer in Tax Law atTampere University, Faculty of Management and Business since 2012. His research interests include international tax law, EU tax law, and Finnish tax system.

 

 

Johanna Niemi is Professor and Professor of procedural law, University of Turku. Before joining the faculty in Turku she served as vice dean (education) at University of Helsinki. She has worked as a professor at Umeå University and as visiting professor at Lund University and been Fulbright scholar at University of Wisconsin. She is Doctor Honoris Causa at Uppsala University 2010. Professor Niemi’s research interests include criminal procedure, consumer insolvency, human rights and the construction of gender in legal discourses. She has led several socio-legal research projects. Some of her publications include Niemi et al (eds), International Law and Violence against Women: Europe and the Istanbul Convention, 2020; Nousiainen et al. (eds), Responsible Selves. Women in the Nordic Legal Culture, 2001.

Lauri Paltemaa is Professor of East Asian Contemporary History and Politics and the Director of the Department of Philosophy, Contemporary History and Political Science as well as the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Turku. He is also the Chair of the Finnish University Network of Asian Studies. His recent publications include Managing Famine, Flood and Earthquake in China – Tianjin 1958-85 published in 2016 by Routledge, and Lyhyt johdatus Kiinan historiaan (A Short Introduction to Chinese History (2018). His recent articles have appeared in journals such as Information, Communication and Society, The China Journal, China Information and The Modern Asian Studies. His research interests include Chinese internet politics, governance, disaster management and disaster politics, social movements and contemporary history.

Dr. Kati Nieminen (MA, LLD) is a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute for Criminology and Legal Policy at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki. Her research focuses on legal policy and legislative studies, as well as access to justice. Lately she has published articles on discrimination, minority rights, and evidence based policy and is currently affiliated with the Academy of Finland Strategic Research project “Silent agents affected by legislation: from an insufficient knowledge base to inclusive solutions” (SILE). In her teaching she promotes empirical and socio-legal approaches to law.

Interview with Michael Ristaniemi on his dissertation about antitrust – Part II

Michael Ristaniemi, 2019. / © SEPPO SAMULI

This is Part II of the interview with Michael Ristaniemi. In Part I we discussed his background and motivation for the dissertation. In this part we will dive deeper into the actual contents of the dissertation and Michael’s reflection on recent developments in antitrust globally with some comparative thoughts.

Did anything surprise you as you worked on the thesis? 

To be frank a lot of stuff surprised me and its more of a question what to emphasize. The first clear thing that was interesting to realize is that many things are so interrelated. When you are doing research as a student for your Master’s thesis and then for your PhD you are focusing on a very narrow niche. One major aha-moment for myself was realizing how this niche is really linked to many other areas and how they inter-develop. For instance, one article in my dissertation covered the fact that whatever the major economic powers of the globe think about cooperating really shapes how international competition can develop in practice. For example, the preference of how the US to cooperate bilaterally or multilaterally affects many things globally, including what I covered in my dissertation.

Currently there is a lack of  a strong political will to cooperate multilaterally. In some extent China isn’t representative of that. They have their own multilateral agreements that are outside the ones that we are used to seeing in Western countries. But the trend that is seen generally across international law to patch the lack of political cooperation is the rise of so-called trans-governmental networks. They are not on the political level but rather authorities of different countries cooperating very closely. It has led to technocratic international governance as opposed to political level international law in a way. This in fact has a really strong impact, both positive and negative.

A second memorable point I want to mention is the ignorance of history in competition law. I think most people aren’t aware of the origin of competition law in the EU or the US. Nowadays it has been more about using modern-day economic theory to improve consistency of competition law application. This is important, but there is perhaps something to learn in how competition law started independently in both places (EU and US). Competition law is a response to the allergy towards too much economic and political dominance by companies and was a way to manage that dominance. It is something we are seeing a need for with the digital economy. A lot of the discussions that are being had today in competition law circles wouldn’t be all that different if we go back to the 1950s or even 30s.

We found the point you made in your thesis:” The EU has taken a much more interventionist approach than the American, or Chinese agencies have towards unilateral conduct of key digital platform firms, such as Amazon, Google, and WeChat” extremely interesting. Could you talk a bit more about China’s position? 

The general trend when I was writing my dissertation was that the EU was sort of the outlier by being interventionist to the extent it has been. Since I have finished my dissertation the US has brought two big lawsuits against both FB and Google, and China has published a draft revision to its anti-monopoly law (the Chinese competition law) and also drafted guidelines concerning the platform economy. Therefore, the tide is changing. I have to say I am not a huge expert on the application of Chinese competition law, but what I can say is that competition law is very new in China. The first competition law was enacted in only 2008. What they have been doing is mostly capacity building since then.

And regarding the huge fines that digital companies have faced in Europe, that is more of an exception than a rule. I can’t say what the reason is for the lenient treatment in China of giant digital companies. Nevertheless, what is clear is that the treatment has indeed been lenient compared to Europe. In the US, the treatment has been lenient because of a differing interpretation of relevant economics, which emphasizes size as a source of efficiency gains that consumers benefit from. The role of personal data is key in digital services.

That’s where you can tie in China. We know that the privacy discussion differs in China. The concept of privacy is different in the Chinese context and that the discussion around human rights, in general, is very different in China compared to the EU or the US. The differing treatment between the Chinese and Europeans may partially be a result of a different appreciation of the concept of personal data privacy, that’s at least a part of it. As I mentioned, in China there are interesting developments now underway during this year. There is going to be something more specific but currently, they are still at the draft guidelines stage for the platform economy and also a draft revision to their relevant competition law, as I mentioned earlier. These changes to the anti-monopoly law would enable their authorities – the SAMR –  to better tackle these huge digital companies.

You mentioned visiting China University of Political Science and Law, in Beijing during your research and wrote: “I got some important insights into the Chinese perspectives relative to my research”. Could you tell us a bit more about this?

I’ll start with the bigger picture to give some context. Since my theme was international competition law I did try to visit places abroad during my one and half year study leave. I actually managed to stay most of the time of my study leave abroad. I  spent one academic year at University of California, Berkeley after which I was in Brussels as a visiting researcher at Vrije Universiteit Brussel for a few months and then also, as you mentioned, in Beijing at the China-EU Law School.

Beijing was great actually, it was by chance that I noticed the scholarship that was circulated through our law school’s researcher email list. The China-EU Law School is a very interesting institution. It is partially funded by the EU and it’s within the larger university that is only dedicated to political science and law.  I understood it is highly regarded in China and it was a great experience to be part of it.

First of all, just the fact that they had an amazing legal library was great. Although there isn’t that much at the end of the day about Chinese competition law in English, mostly probably because of competition law is relatively new as mentioned earlier. I also enjoyed really good discussions with scholars and law students about their idea of economic law and policy. A highlight was when I got to discuss with, Hao Qian, one of the university’s associate professors who was actually involved in creating the anti-monopoly law in China. She told me about the cooperation that the Chinese had with Americans and Europeans when creating the anti-monopoly legislation. If I recall correctly the law resembles EU competition law on paper more than the US counterpart since Europeans were more willing to assist and provide technical assistance in the preparation phase than the Americans. Of course, how it is enforced and applied varies always country by country. But a very interesting discussions all in as a part of the visit.

What are you planning on now after the doctoral degree?

Well I work as VP, Sustainability at Metsä Group and  I am continuing with that for the time being. It is a great platform to learn about management and sustainability. I’m also writing and researching related topics in a couple ongoing projects, and I am a collaborator in a project that just received funding from the Academy of Finland on crisis preparedness and the security of supply. To put it all in one sentence: right now the focus is economic law and policy, businesses as societal actors and the practical and academic opportunities there may be relating to these topics. But otherwise, we will see, who knows.

Michael and another PhD student, Juho Saloranta at China-EU School of Law

The interview and report were done by the Center’s intern, Mr. Jakub Pichna. Jakub is a Master’s student at the University of Helsinki’s International Business Law program with a BSc. in Economics and Business Administration from the University of Turku.

Interview with Michael Ristaniemi on his dissertation about antitrust – Part I

Michael Ristaniemi, 2019. / © SEPPO SAMULI

Michael Ristaniemi, currently the VP, Sustainability at Metsä Group, has defended his dissertation titled International Antitrust: Toward upgrading coordination and enforcement on 31 October 2020. Professor Petri Kuoppamäki, a Board member of the Finnish China Law Center was one of the examiners and public opponents. Michael’s dissertation has a very interesting chapter on international antitrust on how the three economic superpowers the USA, the EU, and China approach international antitrust, and the possibility to enhance international cooperation. Therefore, the Center would like to take the opportunity to further discuss the dissertation, Michael’s stay in Beijing at the China University of Political Science and Law and his future plans. In Part I of the interview, Michael’s background and his motivation for writing about antitrust are discussed. Part II will cover the dissertation more concretely.

Could you tell us a bit about your background?

I am Finnish-American but I have lived most of my life in Finland. I was born and raised in Espoo but then moved to study law at the University of Turku. During my student years, I had a bit of an international mix: I did two semesters abroad, one in California and one in Thailand, and an internship in Washington DC at the law firm Morgan Lewis (previously known as Bingham McCutchen). I focused my studies on business law and since graduating in 2011 I’ve worked in the private sector primarily as an in-house counsel in international Finnish companies. In 2012, quite shortly after I graduated I started a PhD project on the side, and then I took a year and a half study leave to focus on the dissertation which was a great period in between professional working life.

All in all, I would say my legal background is heavily impacted by having worked only in the private sector with commercial law and business law questions.

Could you tell us about your doctoral research? What is your motivation behind pursuing the topic? 

Besides focusing on business, I have always been interested in societal questions which is an interesting reason to study law in general: you get to study the rules of society and how everything works. From that perspective competition law is great for understanding society because it is essentially the rules of our market economy and the framework within which businesses function.

I started my deep dive into competition law early in my law school career. I wrote my bachelor’s and master’s theses in the realm of competition law so my dissertation was sort of a continuum.

I wrote my Master’s thesis on airline alliances in light of competition law. I found the topic peculiar in its nature; it is a very political sector when you think about it. The airline industry has rules that prevent merging. Without these political rules, there would be a lot fewer airlines in this world. Because airlines can’t merge they cooperate more closely than typical competitors in a more rules-free industry. For instance, airlines agree on pricing on a certain route.

With my dissertation, when mirroring it with what I had learned from my master’s thesis, I felt that this interplay of politics and competition law was a weird situation and it would be interesting to dive deeper into it through more general research. That’s basically how the topic was born. It also got a bit more energy through the work I was doing at Cargotec and then at Metsä Group, which are both international businesses, operating globally in global markets. Through my work, I came to contact with global markets. I could really see the current situation up close: you have many competition laws all around the world and authorities that don’t really cooperate that well. All this happens within a framework of rules that aren’t that consistent in how they are enforced. This creates a burden on businesses and is generally ineffective. I believe my work has a practical impact and is not only an academic consideration.

Michael at his his dissertation defence on 31 October 2020 with Professor Antti Aine (University of Turku) serving as custos and Professor Petri Kuoppamäki (Aalto University) as opponent

The interview and report were done by the Center’s intern, Mr. Jakub Pichna. Jakub is a Master’s student at the University of Helsinki’s International Business Law program with a BSc. in Economics and Business Administration from the University of Turku.

Prof. Kimmo Nuotio giving guest lecture on Criminal Law as Transnational Law at PKU Law School

On 17 November 2020, Professor Kimmo Nuotio, Board Member of the China Law Center joined the 2020 Fall Semester Online PKU Law School Distinguished Global Faculty lecture series. The lecture series aims to further the internationalization of PKU Law School and foster global awareness among law students beyond the confinement of national boundaries.

Professor Nuotio contributed to the series with a presentation on “Criminal Law as Transnational Law”.

If international criminal law is a concept already relatively well-known, the concept of transnational criminal law is still a relatively new one. Neil Boister has proposed an understanding that whereas international criminal law proper is based on values and principles, the transnational criminal law only is about state’s collaborating in addressing issues of cross-border criminality. Accordingly, transnational criminal law deals with international illegal market, where criminal activities often are organised and run for profit. Transnational criminal law deals with a rather scattered set of topics, and the aim is to strengthen the enforcement of the agreed norms by means of international treaties. In his talk, Professor Nuotio presented this scene and discussed the problems in the creation of transnational criminal law, as the most powerful states have had a biggest say in the drafting of such treaties. As a result, transnational criminal law of today has some problematic features, which should be addressed: it should be enlightened. He also talked about how we could relate an enlightened version of transnational criminal law with law and development studies. Finally, he examined if and how transnational criminal law could be transformed and become a genuine global criminal law.

Professor Genlin Liang and Professor Su Jiang from PKU Law School acted as commenters for Professor Nuotio’s lecture. The lecture received positive feedback from PKU Law students who found his topic very interesting, especially regarding transnational criminal law.

CHINA LAW WEEK 2020 SESSION 4: REFORM AND EMERGING ISSUES IN CHINESE PRIVATE LAW AND THE COURT SYSTEM

Chair of the session, Professor Jukka Mähönen, 23 October 2020

The China Law Week 2020 closed with a session on “Reform and Emerging issues in Chinese Private Law and the Court System”. It was chaired by Jukka Mähönen, Professor of Cooperative Law at the University of Helsinki and Professor of Law at the University of Oslo.

 

Professor Jin Haijun speaking on “Legal Reform and the New Chinese Civil Code: An Introduction”, 23 October 2020

In the first presentation, Professor Jin Haijun from Renmin University gave a brief insight into the Chinese newly made civil law codification. The new Chinese Civil Code was adopted in May 2020 and will be effective from the beginning of next year. Even though the Civil Code is new, Professor Haijun emphasized that most parts of its legislation are not new. For instance, already existing corporative law was basically incorporated in the new civil code. According to Professor Haijun, intellectual property rules were a hot topic during the drafting of the code. Professor Juha Karhu from the University of Lapland commented on the presentation by mentioning for example the way that the code was built putting together different pieces.

Professor Juha Karhu speaking on “Nordic Perspective on the New Chinese Civil Code”, 23 October 2020

Professor Karhu then proceeded with his presentation on the Nordic perspective on the new Chinese Civil Code. Some civil codes of the modern time were discussed, and their economic, political, and cultural background were explored to see why and how the codes were born. The presenter talked about the French Civil Code, the German “Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch”, the situation in the US, and the Chinese Civil Code 2020. Notably, the Chinese Civil Code is based on the economic rise with the opening-up policy and the socialist market economy. The Code also shows Chinese characteristics. It is inspired by various legal systems, but the systematic nature is based on the endemic questions in China.

Dr. Kangle Zhang speaking on “Emerging Issues in Chinese Finance & Business Law”, 23 October 2020

The third presentation was given by Dr. Kangle Zhang from Peking University Law School about emerging issues in Chinese finance & business law. In Dr. Zhang’s opinion, China is moving towards financial liberalization. There is a trend of providing necessary capital and offering the customers better returns than bank deposits. The establishment of Shanghai pilot free trade zone helps ease legal burden for trading and financial purposes.

 

Dr. Wei Qian speaking on “Do Positive Disability Policies Promote Social Inclusion of the Disabilities in China?”, 23 October 2020

The fourth presentation was held by Dr. Wei Qian from the China University of Labour Relations, School of Labour Relations and Human Resources. The pandemic raised a number of issues where the group of disabled elderly people were particularly affected. Local governments in China were fast to enact new policy, and set disabled people, as well as children and elderly people as priority groups that will receive special attention in any big crisis. Dr. Qian talked about how disability policies in China promote the social inclusion of disabled people and how the policies changed under the current Covid-19 situation.

Professor Björn Ahl speaking on “Chinese Court Reforms and their Impact on Decision Making”, 23 October 2020

The last presentation of the day and the China Law Week was held by Björn Ahl, Professor and Chair of Chinese Legal Culture at the University of Cologne. He outlined the Chinese court reforms and their impact on decision making. According to Professor Ahl, there has been a contradiction in the reform dynamics between law and the political context within the judicial reform in China. This reform can be seen from a political context where there has been an enhanced dominant party state with violations of human rights. On the other hand, reform of the legal institutions has taken place where judges enjoy more autonomy in decision making to an extent that they never have been.

 

With 19 chairs and speakers from 7 countries and over 70 participants from 15 countries, the China Law Week 2020 had connected people with interest in Chinese law and legal culture from all over the world. Offering presentations and discussions on a broad spectrum of topics, the event had provided a valuable opportunity to learn more about the latest developments in the world of Chinese law.

The Finnish China Law Center would like to thanks the chairs, speakers, and participants conference for having made the China Law Week 2020 a resounding success. We hope to see you again in the Nordic China Law Week 2021!

 

The Center would like to thank our interns, Elias Jakala, Anwar Al-Hamidi, Anqi Xiang, Annette Rapo, and Johanna Fähnrich for contributing text for this article.

CHINA LAW WEEK 2020 SESSION 3: NEW CHALLENGES FOR CHINA’S BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE

Chair of the session, Professor Björn Ahl, 22 October 2020

The China Law Week 2020 continued with the third session on “New Challenges for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)”. It was chaired by Björn Ahl, who is Professor and Chair of Chinese Legal Culture at the University of Cologne and Visiting Professor at the University of Helsinki.

 

Professor Julie Yu-Wen Chen speaking on “The Localized Approach in Understanding One Belt One Road’s Impacts”, 22 October 2020

Julie Yu-Wen Chen, Professor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Confucius Institute at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Helsinki, gave the first presentation. Professor Chen talked about the localized approach in understanding One Belt One Road (OBOR)’s impacts. Her presentation covered two parts: the problems of China-centric approaches when studying the BRI’s actual impacts and the theoretical framework. Professor Chen uses the strategic action field (SAF) for her BRI research, which she defined as a “socially constructed arena” where actors constantly pull and haul their interests on a particular space and issue due to their contentious or unclear nature.

Professor Ronald C. Brown speaking on “China’s BRI in Central Eastern European Countries: “17+1”: Connectivity, Divisiveness, or Pathway to EU-China?”, 22 October 2020

The session continued with a presentation by Professor Ronald C. Brown. Professor Brown centered his presentation on China’s BRI in Central Eastern European Countries, through the concept of 17+1. The main issue here is whether the 17+1 concept helps China to connect with the EU or whether it divides it or could lead to a pathway to EU-China “pre-trade agreement”. BRI gains connectivity to China and maximizes economic growth opportunities but the questions of who is more important (EU or China) for 17+1 countries and who to give loyalty to if there is a conflict linger.

 

Professor Jin Haijun speaking on “An Overview of Intellectual Property Protection and Cooperation under the BRI”, 22 October 2020

Professor Jin Haijun from Renmin University held the next presentation with the title “An Overview of Intellectual Property Protection and Cooperation under the BRI”. He emphasized that China has launched several initiatives such as the Digital Economy International Cooperation Initiative and the Joint Statement on Pragmatic Cooperation in the Field of Intellectual Property for the BRI countries. China has further opted to include IP provisions in the Civil Code. It also has specialized IP courts and tribunals. China has also placed special attention on constant reforms for IP action, protection and cooperation among BRI countries, and patent court system reforms.

Professor Yifeng Chen speaking on “Transnational Labour Protection and the Belt and Road Initiative”, 22 October 2020

Associate Professor Yifeng Chen from the Peking University Law School followed with a presentation about transnational labour protection and the BRI. He highlighted the labour dimension of the BRI and introduced different approaches to incorporate labour into the BRI. They are: using the ILO conventions and encouraging ratification, promoting ILO fundamental labour rights protection, incorporating labour into international economic arrangement, and encouraging corporate social responsibility.

 

Professor Matti Nojonen speaking on “China’s Arctic Policy and the “Polar Silk Road” Initiative”, 22 October 2020

In the fifth presentation, Professor Matti Nojonen from the University of Lapland discussed China’s Arctic Policy and the “Polar Silk Road” Initiative. A few years ago, China introduced the “Polar Silk Road” Initiative. China has been involved in Arctic affairs and the Nordic economy for decades, which makes it easy for most states to adjust to the new project. Of course, there are still a lot of challenges to face. The project must be adjusted to local circumstances such as the existing national law and all involved countries and companies have to reach agreements on specific strategies.

The session closed with a panel discussion under the motto “What are the emerging challenges of the BRI?”

Panel discussion: Emerging challenges for the BRI, 22 October 2020

The Center would like to thank our interns, Sukhman Gill, Elias Jakala, Li Yuan, Anwar Al-Hamidi, Anqi Xiang, Annette Rapo, and Johanna Fähnrich for contributing text for this article.

 

CHINA LAW WEEK 2020 SESSION 2: CHINESE LABOUR LAW IN INTERNATIONAL AND COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVES

Chair of the session, Professor Ninon Colneric, 21 October 2020

The second session of the China Law Week 2020 was held under the theme “Chinese Labour Law in International and Comparative Perspectives”.  The Chair of the session was Professor Ninon Colneric, former Judge at the Court of Justice of the European Communities and Co-Dean at the China-EU School of Law at the China University of Political Science and Law.

 

Professor Sean Cooney speaking on “Digital Platforms and New Challenges for Labour Law”, 21 October 2020

Sean Cooney, Professor of Law at Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne held the first presentation on labour and employment law challenges of digital platform-based employment. These platforms provide flexibility and opportunities for the workers and convenience for the consumers. However, empirical studies show that this new method of organizing labour is not without problem. The main questions addressed during the presentation are: should the workers be treated as employees, what collective bargaining should be allowed, how do the workers access social protection systems, and what methods are used for dispute resolution.

Professor Ulla Likkunen speaking on “International Employment Contracts in China – the Influence of Labour Law and Private International Law Trends”, 21 October 2020

The second presentation by Ulla Liukkunen, Professor of Labour Law and Private International Law at the University of Helsinki and Director of the Finnish China Law Center was entitled “International Employment Contracts in China – the Influence of Labour Law and Private International Law (PIL) Trends”. The presentation discussed Chinese PIL and cross-border labour questions about international employment contracts. She noted that in China, PIL is still a young field of law with a late policy start. The development of Chinese PIL requires broader attention as labour rights need safeguards in a cross-border setting that substantive law alone cannot afford.

Associate Professor Yan Dong speaking on “Labour Disputes of Chinese Posted Workers in the B&R Countries”, 21 October 2020

The third presentation “Labor Disputes of Chinese Posted Workers in the B&R Countries” was held by Yan Dong, Vice-Dean and Associate Professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University School of Law . He presented his research about Chinese workers posted in B&R countries. The number of Chinese posted workers increased gradually. However, the current literature gap exists. Data about workers’ labor issues in the B&R countries is incomplete. There are insufficient legal rules about applying Chinese labour laws under the doctrine of overriding mandatory rules. The research design is to collect all the cases by investigating the labor dispute in the B&R countries. The aims of Professor Dong’s study are to uncover the labor issues and test the doctrine of overriding mandatory labor rules in action.

Professor Ronald C. Brown speaking on “Labor Law Adjustments for Workers in China and the U.S. during the Pandemic”, 21 October 2020

The fourth presentation was given by Ronald C. Brown, Professor of Law at the University of Hawai’i Law School . In his presentation, he discussed how the Covid-pandemic has affected labour law in China and the US. When looking at reported cases and deaths, China has survived the pandemic more successfully. The presentation looked at reasons in labour law changes that contributed to this feat. On a high level, the approaches were very similar: funding packages, lockdowns, and mask recommendations, but the results were different. The presentation showed comparatively how high level policies were implemented and how the different cultures reacted to the response on a micro level.

Assistant Professor Yan Tian speaking on “The Change of the Image of Worker in China’s Law of Bankruptcy”, 21 October 2020

The session closed with a presentation by Yan Tian, Assistant Professor and Assistant Dean at Peking University Law School. His speech was about the images of workers on China’s law of bankruptcy. Professor Tian first compared the old and new laws of bankruptcy to observe the changes in the images of workers. Secondly, he compared the laws of bankruptcy and the Chinese constitution. Finally, Professor Tian compared the past and future of the laws of bankruptcy.

The Center would like to thank our interns, Jakub Pincha, Zhe Zhao, Li Yuan, and Johanna Fähnrich for contributing text for this article.