The Arctic Institute is an interdisciplinary and independent think tank with a mission of developing solutions for challenges in the circumpolar north by providing data, analysis, and recommendations to policymakers, researchers, and the public.
Over the past decade, China has shown an irrefutable growth of involvement in the Arctic region. In light of this development, the Arctic Institute launched the China Series which will offer a comprehensive account of China’s policies and interests in the Arctic. The China Series will consist of numerous articles and commentaries on China’s Arctic involvement from the angles of politics, economy, environment and social impact.
In January of 2018, a white paper titled “China’s Arctic Policy” was published by the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. It solidified and expressed China’s interest in the region by setting policy goals and plans for participation by the government. The policy goal is simply stated as understanding, protecting, developing and participating in the governance of the Arctic, so as to safeguard the common interests of all countries and the international community in the Arctic, and promote sustainable development of the Arctic. It also sets China up as “near-Arctic state” thus giving it rights in the region to conduct scientific research, navigate, perform flyovers, fish, lay submarine cables and pipelines, and even explore and exploit natural resources in the Arctic high seas.
At the time this blog post is written, the first four texts have been published in the China Series. They cover China’s involvement in Greenland, China’s black carbon emissions, US concerns about Chinese threats in the Arctic, and China’s Arctic identity. The first article “The tortuous path of China’s win-win strategy in Greenland” by Marco Volpe (MSc.) examines the improvement of bilateral relationships between China and the Arctic States by investing into the regions, doing joint research and taking on environmental and safety challenges. The second text “Reducing China’s Black Carbon Emissions: An Arctic Dimension” by Yulia Yamineva (PhD, senior researcher at the Centre for Climate, Energy and Environmental Law, University of Eastern Finland) takes an environmental angle and delves into China’s black carbon emissions. The text challenges China’s policy on black carbon emissions and highlights the importance of future co-operation because of the vast possible impact globally. The third text goes into the risks relating to China joining the “race to the North”. Titled “Defining the Chinese threat in the Arctic” and written by Yun Sun (Co-Director of the East Asia Program and Director of the China Program at the Stimson Center), it highlights how the Arctic is becoming a new domain of the power struggle between the United States and China. The fourth text of the series “Identity and Relationship-Building in China’s Arctic Diplomacy” by Marc Lanteigne(Associate Professor of Political Science at UiT-The Arctic University of Norway) touches on the importance of the relationships of China and other stakeholders in the Arctic and the identity China is forming as a part of its Arctic diplomacy.
According to the Arctic Institute, the articles will help facilitate cooperation with China in the region by promoting the understanding of the political, economic, and environmental dimensions of China’s Arctic engagement. Currently, China is involved in mostly an economic capacity through a multitude of projects such as infrastructure and mining operations. In contrast, the governance involvement of China has been rather limited. The underlying message of the China Series seems to be that it is the job of policymakers to harness this presence for the good of the region.
This blog post was written by one of the Center’s interns, 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.
The book was built on and developed from the report titled ‘China in the Arctic; and the Opportunities and Challenges for Chinese-Finnish Arctic Co-operation.’ The report was published in February 2019 as part of the project ‘Finland’s Arctic Council chairmanship in the times of increasing uncertainty’ funded by the Finnish Government’s Analysis, Assessment and Research Activities unit. It drew ample attention among the media and government officials from Finland and abroad, signaling an increased interest in China’s role in the Arctic. This has encouraged the authors to diversify and expand their approach to the theme.
The book offers an overview of China’s economic engagements in the Arctic, China’s policy regarding Arctic governance, and how it has evolved during the past years. It also discusses China’s interests and strategies in the region, and the initiatives the country has offered. It should be noted that the book is centered around economic and governance aspects, rather than the geopolitics implications of China’s involvement in the Arctic and its interaction with other players in the region.
‘Chinese policy and presence in the Arctic’ is the first comprehensive account of China’s endeavors in the Arctic region. ‘The book is unique in the sense that it does not follow the predominant alarmist approach which views China as a threat, but attempts to provide an objective analytical analysis of Chinese Arctic policy’, said Dr. Sanna Kopra. Since extensive reviews of China’s policy and presence in the Arctic are scarce, the book poses as a valuable contribution to the current collection of scholarly work on the topic and a must-read for students and scholars of China studies and Arctic affairs.
The book also offered an opportunity for the authors to focus on the environmental issues relating to China’s presence in the Arctic. The chapter ‘China, Climate Change and the Arctic Environment’ examines in great detail China’s ecological footprint in the Arctic and its role in international efforts to tackle climate change and pollution. ‘This is something that has not been discussed in this length in the existing literature’, added Dr. Sanna Kopra.
Globalization has brought about situations where which different bodies of law become increasingly intertwined beyond traditional borders. Legal experts and scholars are now required to examine the content of national, international, European, and transnational laws when they apply norms.
In order to deliver the most practical knowledge and insight into the increasing globalization of law and legal thinking, University of Helsinki, a member institution of the Finnish China Law Center, sets up a new master’s programme called Global Governance Law (GGL).
The two-year long research-oriented Master’s programme offers series of lectures, seminars and interactive tutorials built by internationally distinguished experts in their fields. It is designed to provide solid foundation and skills to prepare students for expert duties in public administration, international organizations, NGO, law firms, corporate legal departments, and legal academia. During their study, programme participants will be able to specialize in key fields of law are of particular interest to them such as Global Governance Law, Public International Law, European Union Law, Global Administrative Law, Human Rights Law, International Institutions, Finance and the Environment, and Business and Company Law.
“The Master’s programme also provides the opportunity to study Chinese law, rarely on offer in faculties of law”, said Päivi Leino-Sandberg, Professor of Transnational European Law and Director of GGL. The Director of the Finnish China Law Center, Professor Ulla Liukkunen is in charge of the Chinese law stream of GGL which provides courses on the following subjects:
Chinese legal system: history and presence
Business and Company law: governing economics
China in international organisations – transnational governance
Corporate social responsibility and fundamental labour rights in China
The application period for the programme begins on 03 Dec 2019 at 08.00 (UTC+2), and ends on 10 Jan 2020 at 15.00 (UTC+2). For information about the application process and how to apply, please visit the programme website.
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 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.
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.
Global warming and climate change is a topic that we see and hear about on a regular basis. When discussing climate change, it is impossible not to mention China. Sanna Kopra is a post-doctoral researcher in the Arctic Centre located in the University of Lapland and a visiting scholar in the Aleksanteri Institute located in the University of Helsinki and she has conducted extensive research into China in relation to climate change. Before examining her current activities in more detail, let’s revise her impressive academic history in the field of China.
Sanna has been interested in China for a lengthy period. Her interest was first sparked during her undergraduate studies, when she minored in Asian studies through the Finnish University Network for Asian Studies. “China had just become the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and it protested all attempts at setting emission reductions for developing countries. I examined China’s rhetoric in international climate discussions in my undergraduate thesis and this is something that still intrigues me”, Sanna reveals.
In addition to researching and studying China, Sanna has studied Chinese both in Finland as well as in China. Originally, Sanna envisioned taking advantage of her Chinese skills in her studies, but when her research developed and became more theoretical, there was no immediate need to utilize materials in Chinese. “For that reason, my Chinese skills have become more passive. In terms of my research, this is fine, as I’m interested in China’s role in international politics rather than China’s domestic policies”, Sanna observes.
All of her hard work in researching China and climate responsibility has certainly paid off. She won the International Studies Association English School Section’s Outstanding Research Paper Award last spring in the Junior Scholar category for her paper on ‘China and International Climate Responsibility: Agency and Institutional Change.’ Sanna divulges: “Barry Buzan, one of the gurus in the field, commented on the paper: ‘well done, read more, and carry on’. This alone was very reassuring for a young researcher like myself, but the award was the icing on the cake!”
“Environmental responsibility is a meaningful way for China to define great power responsibility, and thereby legitimize itself as a great power. Although China has several domestic reasons to control climate change, Beijing is also unwilling to sacrifice its economic interests for the environmental good. This is why the European Union has a significant role – with ambitious climate politics the EU can encourage China to take even bigger responsibility”, Sanna discloses.
The withdrawal of the USA from the Paris Agreement, and people’s increasing interest in the environment and sustainable development in general, underline the fact that Sanna’s book concentrates on an exceedingly current topic. Sanna flashes that she could even consider writing another book one day, but about China’s Arctic politics.
Indeed, several countries are interested in the Arctic and their resources, and China is no exception. One indication of China’s interest in the region is China receiving an observer status in the Arctic Council. This means that even though China has no voting rights, it can now participate in the Arctic Council as an observer country. Furthermore, the Arctic is “an important region for environmental sciences and China is interested in knowing how Arctic climate change can influence China in relation to food safety and weather phenomena, to name a few”, Sanna explains.
The Academy of Finland recently awarded Sanna with a three-year grant for her research on the rise of China and the normative transformation in the Arctic region in spring 2018. She is currently examining how the rise of China is shaping the processes in which notions of responsibility are defined, allocated and operationalized in the Arctic.
“While China’s Arctic interests have been studied a great deal, most of that research has failed to consider which values and norms actually guide China’s Arctic activities, or how China’s growing role in the area challenges the already existing norms and practices in the Arctic areas”, Sanna clarifies. This is what her current research delves into.
When asked about her 2018 highlights, her response is immediate: publishing her first book and receiving a grant from the Academy of Finland. 2019 has also started memorably, as she is spending the first couple of months on a research exchange at the University of Tromsø in Norway. “I hope to learn a lot about Arctic politics and I look forward to meeting new people. I also wish to see amazing scenery – despite the polar night!”
Reflecting a topic increasingly under public debate given the escalating effects of climate change, environmental protection featured prominently during the latest comparative law seminar organized by the Finnish China Law Center and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).
This year’s seminar focused on the environment and a range of other legal and social problems of global significance, as well as on effective responses to challenges raised by the inter-related and deepening processes of globalization and digitalization.
Professor Wen began by noting that the first green revolution was based on high-intensive agriculture, which vastly increased crop yields from the mid-20th century. At the beginning of the 21st century, a discussion has emerged around the need for a second green revolution. This debate has arisen because of the serious issues associated with high intensity farming, including eutrophication and loss of biodiversity.
The second green revolution, according to Professor Wen, urges more environment-friendly and sustainable approaches. Recently, scientists have suggested that the domestication of new crops would promote agricultural diversity and solve many emerging environmental degradation caused by intensive agriculture.
Domesticated crops refer to crops ‘in which the evolutionary process has been influenced by humans to meet their needs’. Professor Wen suggested that genome editing techniques (GETs) could be used as an efficient tool to accelerate the domestication of wild plants to providing enough food and livestock fodder in the future.
However, several legal issues pertaining to the feasibility of domesticating wild plants by GETs need to be addressed. Firstly, what kind of wild crops are to be domesticated and are they subject to existing international treaties such as Nagoya Protocol? Secondly, what will be the role of GETs in the process of domestication? Other questions arise arise, such whether this process should be subject to the current regulatory framework on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the EU, as well as and the implications of the ECJ ruling on GETs in July 2018.
In another presentation on environmental law, Professor Liu Hongyan of the CASS Institute of Law discussed the development of ecological rule of law in China, noting that political organizations and governmental organizations share the responsibility of supervising environmental protection in the country.
Professor Liu noted that judicial organs also actively facilitate administrative organs in enforcing environmental law. For example, the People’s Congress and the People’s Procuratorate are supervisory organs of the environmental law system and can bring up administrative litigation if needed.
The development of China’s environmental law, Professor Liu argued, has the following characteristics: First, the prevailing view is that China should build its environmental law system according to its own national conditions. Second, the development of the environmental law system is diversified. For example, some localities have become pilot points for new regulations before they are passed as laws. Third, the official position is that the enforcement of environmental law cannot be uniform, but instead should be promoted in different stages.
Professor Eftestøl-Wilhelmsson and Ms Yliheljo argued that there is a political call for a behavioural change in the transport industry towards more sustainable transport solutions, and discussed whether and how information related to emissions from carriage of cargo could be used to trigger environmentally friendly decisions and the use of transport alternatives with the lowest emissions.
Observing that emission information is already used as an instrument to combat emissions from transport in the aviation sector, through the European Emission Trading System (ETS) for example, Professor Eftestøl-Wilhelmsson and Ms Yliheljo argued that transport industries outside the ETS could also use emission information to reach the climate goals set for the industry. The scholars described how this could be done by ‘pushing’ the parties to actively consider the emissions from different transport alternatives. The information might work as a ‘nudge’ towards more environmental and greener choices, with new technology providing the necessary practical means for measuring the emissions and delivering the results in real time.
Another scholar from the CASS Institute of Law, Lin Xiaoxiao, analyzed the environmental damage compensation regime in China.
Professor Lin observed that the legal regime of public-interest environmental litigation is mainly reflected in the revision of the Procedural Law of the Civil Litigation. However, because other laws that are relevant to environmental litigation have not been revised, it is unclear how the laws should be interpreted in public-interest environmental litigation. Recently, there has been some new legislation that regulates public-interest environmental litigation, including the Land Law.
At present, the legal regime of public-interest environmental litigation has the following characteristics: (1) The purpose of environmental litigation is to determine environmental liabilities; (2) Procedural regulations are becoming more comprehensive; and (3) Substantive legal rules need to be complemented.
Public-interest environmental litigation is usually brought by environment groups, with leading cases including the Taizhou Public-Interest Case and the Dezhou Air Pollution Case.
Professor Lin said that the current legal regime of public-interest environmental has the following problems: (1) The piloting proposal of reforming the regime of ecological environmental damage cases issued by the State Council is not fully consistent with current legal regulations: (2) The definition of ecological environmental damage is not clear; and (3) It does not provide sufficient legal basis for plaintiffs’ claims for compensation.
In addition to environmental law, the seminar covered rule of law, legal reforms in the context of the emerging Internet-based ‘sharing’ economy, trends in Chinese and Nordic labour law and social welfare systems and civil law issues.
He says the publication was an international effort that aims to shed light on under-explored non-trade normative aspects of China’s epic global infrastructure project, as well as the initiative’s socio-legal implications.
‘The book focuses on aspects of the so-called ‘New Silk Road’ Initiative that we thought deserved more attention, such as issues relating to culture and legal philosophy, environmental law and protection, social responsibility, and the rule of law, judiciary and the role of lawyers’.
‘Given the scale and importance of the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative, we also felt it necessary that the book generate critical insights into how the project could or should develop and be better regulated’, Professor Nuotio says.
The book was also edited by Professor Shan Wenhua, one of China’s leading scholars on the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative.
Professor Shan is founding Dean of the School of Law and founding Director of the Silk Road Institute for International and Comparative Law (SRIICL) at Xi’an Jiaotong University.
Doctoral Researcher Zhang Kangle of the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki, also co-edited the publication and authored a chapter on the relationship between China’s new financial institutions and the country’s global strategy.
Dr Guilherme Vasconcelos Vilaca, also of the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki, contributed a chapter on ‘Strengthening the Cultural and Normative Foundations of the Belt and Road Initiative: The Colombo Plan, Yan Xuetong and Chinese Ancient Thought’.
‘This reflects ever-deepening interest in Chinese law in the Nordic academic, and broader public, arena’.
‘In addition, Nordic China Law Week 2018 is being held in response to strong and growing interest in Chinese law and the Chinese legal system from the private and non-profit sectors’, Professor Liukkunen says.
‘In light of corporate demand, including from local SMEs and startups, Nordic China Law Week 2018 will include many events on Chinese business and corporate law, including Chinese intellectual property law’.
The Week is targeted at lawyers, those in business (including entrepreneurs), people working in governments or international organizations, academics, students, those working in NGOs /civil society and anyone with an interest in learning about Chinese law and legal culture.
All events are free and open to the public, with the exception of the Nordic China Law Scholars Meeting (aimed at senior scholars from education and research institutions in the Nordic region, though junior academics, including doctoral candidates, are welcome to join). The host of the Nordic China Law Scholars Meeting will be Professor Pia Letto-Vanamo, Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Helsinki.
The newly-established Sino-Finnish Research Center for Science, Technology and Innovation (Sino-Finnish STI Center), co-founded by Finnish China Law Center member institution the University of Vaasa and the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Strategy and Development, held an International Forum on Energy Transition during Vaasa EnergyWeek (19 – 23 March 2018).
The International Forum on Energy Transition was held from 8:30-15:30 on 20 March 2018 at Vaasa City Hall (8:30-12:30) and Fabriikki F118, University of Vaasa (13:30-15:30). The event was free and open to all.
Full program and list of speakers
The purpose of the International Forum on Energy Transition was to engage policy makers, research experts and industrial practitioners from China and Europe to discuss energy transition activities and related policies policies. By doing so, the organizer’s hoped to promote international cooperation between China and Europe towards green growth.
Speakers at the Forum included Dr Jari Kuusisto (Rector of University of Vaasa), Pan Jiao Feng (President of Chinese Academy of Sciences Institutes of Science and Development), Professor Bai Quan (Vice-Director of the Energy Efficiency Center, Energy Research Institute, National Development and Reform Commission), Joakim Strand (Member of Parliament of Finland), Guo Xiaoguang (Counselor of Chinese Embassy to Finland) and more.
The full program and list of speakers can be found here.
About the Sino-Finnish STI Center
The aim of the new Sino-Finnish STI Center is develop a think tank supporting policy makers and business in Europe and China. The Center’s mission is to address environmental and societal challenges and promote economic growth by means of conducting policy studies on science technology and innovation.
Luova’s current research investigates how China’s environmental governance is imbued with local experiments and variation. She has found that enforcement of environmental regulations varies greatly.
‘There are striking differences in enforcement between the bureaucratic North and flexible South, and the wealthy East and less-developed West’, Luova says.
‘The recent re-centralization efforts and stricter environmental policy enforcement have not been effective in diminishing variation because of strong local interests and weak capacities in many cities’.
According to Luova, slack enforcement means that there can be large diversity in implementation even among sub-municipal units in a city.
‘It is therefore very important to pay attention to regional variation when dealing with China’.
‘Mega-city districts are nowadays powerful actors. With sub-municipal variation remaining unexplored, my recent research project has analysed the implementation of environmental policies and regulations in three urban districts in the city of Tianjin’, she says.
In conducting her in-country research, Luova has faced increasing challenges in obtaining official documents and arranging interviews with Chinese civil servants as a result of a ‘tightening political atmosphere’.
‘I have been able to conduct interviews only thanks to my simultaneous participation in official sister-city delegation visits to Tianjin’, Luova says.
‘During my visits to China, I arranged focus-group interviews at city and district level departments of education and environmental protection. I also had a possibility to visit several so called “green schools” in Tianjin and get acquainted with local environmental NGOs’.
In addition to urban governance in China, Luova’s teaching and research interests include regional cooperation in East Asia, domestic migration in China, management of international labour migration in China and East Asia, ethnic issues in China and more generally, regional features and differences in China.
Luova’s research on regional differences in the implementation and enforcement of environmental law and policy in China, ‘Environmental policies enter the educational sector: Different shades of green at district level’, will be published in Greening China’s Urban Governance: Tackling Environmental and Sustainability Challenges (Jørgen Delman, Ren Yuan, Outi Luova, Mattias Burell, Oscar Almén eds) by Springer in 2018. Other related publications are also in the pipeline.