Hybrid Seminar: Law, Economy and Development

On 21 May 2024, the hybrid seminar on the topic of ‘Law, Economy and Development’ will take place at 13:15 – 15:45 Helsinki time, at Lecture Hall F3006, Main Building of the University of Helsinki, Fabianinkatu 33. The event is jointly organized by the Rule of Law Center and the Finnish China Law Center, with the financial support of Jenni and Antti Wihuri Foundation and Tiina and Antti Herlin Foundation.

The seminar programme can be found here.

The event is free and open to all. Zoom link for the event will be sent to registered online participants.

We kindly ask you to register by 6 May by completing the following electronic form:


Background of the presentations

Capitalising on Sustainability: Behind the Rise of ESG

ESG is enthusiastically embraced, accompanied by legal efforts to guide ESG reporting practices, facilitate the national implementation of ESG disclosure, and embed ESG into corporate governance. As much as it reflects a genuine move towards environmental and social sustainability, this article argues that legal actions facilitating ESG will never fulfil the promises of ESG betterment, for these legal actions consolidate the underlying rationale of ESG investment, prioritising financial returns over any other considerations. By unravelling the underlying rationale of ESG investment, the paper not only questions the current enthusiasm over ESG investment and the flourishing of legal actions in pursuit of ESG but also uncovers the distributive effects of these legal actions. To put it differently, if we view the law not as the promoter and facilitator of ESG betterment but as the constitutive force of ESG practices, who might benefit from these legal mechanisms behind the flowery banner of ESG?

Historical Perspectives on Property Rights and Economic Development in Russia and the Soviet Union

Russian history provides social scholars with multiple opportunities to explore the effect of property rights on economic development. Indeed, over the last two centuries, the country saw such radical institutional reforms as the emancipation of serfs, nationalization of major productive assets by the Communists, and massive privatization after the collapse of the Soviet Union. A long history of insecure property rights is one of the explanations for the Russian relative economic underperformance. However, historical evidence of private property as a sufficient condition for higher economic efficiency and sustainable development is mixed. In the talk, I review recent empirical literature on the consequences of Russian historical property rights reforms for economic development. I also discuss how history could cast a long shadow shaping popular attitudes toward private property.

About the speakers

Kangle Zhang is an Assistant Professor at Peking University Law School in Beijing, China. Kangle obtained the Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Helsinki in 2020. Kangle’s research targets the linkages between international law and the economy, focusing on issuing ranging from economic inequality and financial market operations, corporations in international law, environmental protection in economic development, to human right to development.

Andrei Markevich is University Lecturer at the University of Helsinki (Finland) and Professor (on leave) at the New Economic School (Moscow, Russia). He studies the economic history of Russia, Eastern Europe, and North Eurasia. The development of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union in the 18th – 20th centuries is at the center of my research. He focuses on the interconnections between institutions and economic growth, the political economy of state socialism, and the long-run consequences of history.

The Evolving Case Law System in China

On 26 September 2023, a hybrid seminar titled “The Evolving Case Law System in China” was jointly hosted by the Finnish China Law Center and GENIAL. The event featured Qiao Liu, Professor and Deputy Director of the Centre for Chinese and Comparative Law, School of Law, City University of Hong Kong as the speaker, and  Jaakko Husa, Full Professor in Law and Globalisation at the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki presided as the chair of the seminar.

Professor Qiao Liu at the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki, 26 September 2023

Professor Liu described judges making law as an inevitable trend in China which arises from the abstractness of the provisions of laws, the imperative to to maintain consistency in judicial decisions as well as the vertical control exercised by the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) over lower courts.

Professor Liu elaborated that the SPC is empowered to select, edit and re-write its own judgments and cases from lower levels and publish them as guiding cases. All guiding cases are approved by the SPC Judicial Committee and adopt a defined structure and style. People’s courts of all levels should canzhao [参照,] guiding cases when deciding similar cases. He emphasized that this entails that the people’s courts should not only consider but also follow these guiding cases. The guiding cases, however, function differently from precedents in common law systems.  While the people’s courts may cite guiding cases in the legal reasoning section of judgment, only essential points/rules section of a guiding case should be canzhaoed. The application of guiding cases is increasing, yet judges frequently refrain from expressly citing them within their judgments.

In addition, cases and SPC judgments published on the SPC Gazette, although lacking legal binding, can have influence in judicial practice.  The extent of this influence varies depending on specific circumstances. Not only the cases published in the SPC Gazette, but  judgments decided by higher-level or specialized courts also carry weight. These cases may assume special significance within a field of law. For instance, an earlier decision of a High People’s Court may directly impact the decision of an Intermediate People’s Court below, or a decision of a specialized court may be viewed as persuasive authority on legal issues falling within its area of expertise.


Professor Qiao Liu and Professor Jaakko Husa at the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki, 26 September 2023


17th Annual Conference of the European China Law Studies Association concluded with astounding success

The conference was a resounding success, with 27 panels and 2 roundtables delving into a wide array of topics crucial to Chinese law development as well as teaching of Chinese law in Europe and European academic co-operation with China.

This achievement owe much to the efforts of the University of Helsinki Faculty of Law, European China Law Studies Association and active participation of all speakers and attendees.

Additionally, we are grateful to Joel Toivola Foundation and Tiina and Antti Herlin Foundation that generously provided funding, as their support made this event possible.

Johanna Niemi, Dean of University of Helsinki Faculty of Law and Björn Ahl, President of the European China Law Studies Association giving concluding remarks, 22 September 2023, Helsinki
Group photos of the Conference participants, 22 September 2023, Helsinki

Hybrid Guest Lecture: Transnationalizing Labour Law: A Chinese Perspective

On 5 September 2023, Visiting Professor Yifeng Chen will give a hybrid guest lecture on ‘Transnationalizing Labour Law: A Chinese Perspective’. The event will be in hybrid (live & online) format.

Time:  5 September, 13:15 – 14:45 Finnish time

Venue: Zoom and Room P545, 5th floor of the Porthania Building (Faculty of Law), University of Helsinki, Yliopistonkatu 3, Helsinki

The event is free and open to all audiences. You can attend the seminar via Zoom or in person at Room P545 at the Faculty of Law of the University of Helsinki.

We kindly ask you to register by 4 September by completing the following electronic form:


Background of the presentation

Transnationalizing Labour Law: A Chinese Perspective

Transnationalization has been a visible trend of development in the regulation of labour conditions over the past two decades. Labour provisions can be found increasingly in free trade agreements, labor standards of international financial institutions, documents of corporate social responsibilities and so on. The transnationalizing of labour regulations has brought imminent challenges to the presumption of territoriality underlying national as well as international labour laws. The challenges are particularly acute in China where labour regulations are seen as domestic and thus irrelevant to its international policies. The presentation examines the development of transnational labour law and its impact on China. It further explores the potential role China may play in positively addressing the South-North gap in the current project of transnational labour law.

About the speakers

Yifeng Chen is an Associate Professor at the Peking University Law School and Deputy Director of the Peking University Institute of International Law. Before joining the Peking University, he was a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki from 2010-2013. His fields of interest include international law, international organizations, international and comparative labour law.


Online Seminar: The Application of the Proportionality Principle by Chinese Courts

On 20 June 2023, the Finnish China Law Center will hold an online mini seminar on “The Application of the Proportionality Principle by Chinese Courts” at 10:15-11:45 Helsinki time (9:15-10:45 CEST / 15:15-16:45 CST).

The event will be chaired by Björn Ahl, Professor and Chair of Chinese Legal Culture at the University of Cologne and President of the European China Law Studies Association.

The seminar programme can be found here.

The seminar is free and open to all. Zoom link for the event will be sent to registered participants.

We kindly ask you to register by 18 June by completing the following electronic form:


Background of the presentation

Selective Application of the Principle of Proportionality in Chinese Administrative Litigation

This paper provides a quantitative analysis of the application of the principle of proportionality in administrative trials, based on published online judicial decisions. The analysis reveals an imbalanced impact with regards to its three sub-principles. We observe that the level of support obtained from national legislation in applying the principle of proportionality, a factor previously overlooked, significantly influences the outcomes. Our findings indicate that both the principle of necessity and the narrowly-defined principle of proportionality demonstrate mediating effects in the correlation between national legislation and judicial decisions, suggesting that judges selectively apply the proportionality principle in administrative trials. We propose two strategies to promote the localization of the principle of proportionality. For the principles of appropriateness and necessity, actualization can be achieved in line with the current surge in administrative law codification. As for the narrowly-defined principle of proportionality, a proper understanding and handling of the relationship between public and private interest is essential. Furthermore, judges should be urged to explicitly delineate the criteria for assessing relevant interests during their reasoning process to improve the objectivity of interest measurement.

State-centric Proportionality Analysis in Chinese Administrative Litigation

This article examines the application of proportionality in Chinese administrative litigation over the last two decades, and argues that courts in administrative litigation that serve the party-state and tend to uphold state/collective interest have altered proportionality to be state-centric. It finds that the courts invoked proportionality in a negligible portion of all administrative litigation judgments and had inadequate emphases on protecting individual rights. Proportionality has not appreciably assisted the courts in enhancing their oversight of governmental power and protection of individual rights. This article suggests that this is attributed to the restricted function of administrative litigation in China’s party-state governance structure and owing to the country’s long-held belief that public interest takes precedence over individual rights. Administrative litigation, which China’s ruling party employs to resolve principal-agent issues, is seriously constrained. The courts are expected to review the formal legality of executive actions, but not their substance. Informed by the Chinese human rights belief, which favors collectivism over individualism, the courts are skewed toward public interest in the balancing analysis when applying proportionality.

About the speakers

Dr. Xiaohong Yu is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the School of Social Sciences, Tsinghua University. She earned her Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University. Prior to her position at Tsinghua, she served as an An Wang Postdoctoral Fellow at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and was a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Government at Harvard University. Her primary research interests include Chinese politics, comparative judicial politics, and empirical legal studies. She continually explores China’s judicial reforms, the interplay between law and politics in China, and instructs courses such as “Judicial Politics” and “Law and Politics in the Era of Big Data.” Her scholarly work has been featured in leading domestic and international journals and academic presses, including the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, China Review, Cambridge University Press, CASS Journal of Political Science, Tsinghua Law Review, Open Times, and China Law Review, among others.

Dr. Shiling Xiao is a Post-doctor Research Fellow at the School of Law, City University of Hong Kong. He obtained his PhD in law from HKU, MPhil in international and comparative law from the University of Macau, and LLB from the Southwest University of Political Science and Law. He was a practising lawyer in Mainland China and was called to the bar in 2018. His research interests embrace comparative public law, human rights law and judicial review. His publications appear in International Journal of Constitutional Law, Hong Kong Law Journal, Journal of Comparative Law and others.

Result of the Call for Papers for the 17th Annual Conference of the European China Law Studies Association

The result of the Call for Papers for the 17th Annual Conference of the European China Law Studies Association has been sent to all participants. If you have submitted an abstract/proposal, please check your email inbox and spam/junk folder just in case the email has been filtered there.

A large number of abstracts/proposals were submitted, and we were very impressed with the quality and diversity of the papers we received. We would like to extend our gratitude to all the participants for their interest and contributions.

If you have been accepted to present your paper, congratulations! We look forward to your presentation during the conference. If,  your paper was not selected, please do not feel discouraged. The selection committee reviewed a considerable amount of excellent submissions this year, of which we were only able to select a certain portion for the conference. We encourage you to continue your research and try again next time.

Online Seminar: Chinese Companies Abroad and the Host Country’s Laws: the Case of Dirty Industries in Serbia

On 4 April 2023, University of Helsinki Chinese Studies and the Finnish China Law Center will hold an online seminar on “Chinese Companies Abroad and the Host Country’s Laws: the Case of Dirty Industries in Serbia“. The event will be moderated by Julie Yu-Wen Chen, Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Helsinki.

Time: Tuesday 4 April, 14:00-15:30 Helsinki Time (13:00-14:30 CEST)

Venue: Online. Please register before Friday 31 March at https://elomake.helsinki.fi/lomakkeet/122724/lomake.html to receive link.

The activities of Chinese companies abroad are an integral part of the robust transformation of today’s economic, geopolitical, and sociocultural landscapes at the local, regional, and global levels. The presence of Chinese capital abroad has been encountering and provoking a wide range of reactions among different political and social actors—from suspicion, reservation, and resistance to warm welcome and exceptional enthusiasm.

This talk will look at the ongoing situation in Serbia, a country governed by a regime that has been among the closest partners of the Chinese government and Chinese companies in Europe and beyond. The talk will focus on the legal dynamics that enable and maintain the much acclaimed “iron-clad friendship” between the two countries and the energetic economic interactions between their governments and businesses. The legal dynamics in question pertain to the Chinese companies that work in Serbia’s dirty industries, namely the production of tires, iron, and steel. Special attention will also be paid to the analysis of the legal aspects of China’s presence in Serbia’s copper and gold mining industry.

About the Speaker

Dušica Ristivojević is a senior researcher in the Department of Cultures of the University of Helsinki. Dušica specializes in the longue-durée dynamics of China’s global interactions, print and digital media, and social organizing in and out of China. She is finalizing her book manuscript on the transnational links of China’s political movements and is observing the country’s presence in Europe’s Eastern peripheries with regard to dirty industry and digital technology.

The Social Credit System in China

On 17 November 2022, the Finnish China Law Center held an online seminar on the topic of ‘The Social Credit System in China ‘. The event is part of the Center’s mini seminar series on topical issues of Chinese law.

The event began with a presentation on “Debating the Legality of Social Credit in China – A Review of Chinese Legal Scholarship” by Björn Ahl, Professor and Chair of Chinese Legal Culture at the University of Cologne and President of the European China Law Studies Association. Björn explained that Chinese legal scholars conceptualize the social credit system (SCS) as an emerging ‘reputation state’ or as an unprecedented instance of ‘social engineering’. The SCS is consisted of three main pillars: the financial credit industry, credit tools to enforce laws and court decisions as well as mechanisms to strengthen the integrity of government affairs. Compared to the other areas of the SCS, the regulatory environment of financial credit is relatively mature and relevant data protection laws provide for a basic level of legal protection of data subjects including effective legal remedies. Government integrity in the third pillar is facilitated by the extension of the credit disciplinary measures to state organizations and personnel. While the first and third pillar are less controversial as there exist basic legal protections with regard to the former and the latter is neither well-developed nor directed at private entities, the recent legal debates and thus Björn focused on the second pillar that has developed ‘social credit tools’, in particular joint disciplining for trust-breaking mechanisms, in order to strengthen the enforcement of law and court decisions.

The second speaker, Marianne von Blomberg, Research Associate and PhD candidate at the Chair of Chinese Legal Culture, University of Cologne discussed “Reputational Regulation through the Social Credit System”. Marianne first clarified that the SCS is not a national social credit score for each citizen but is many local pilot projects, some of which use scores. The punishments are not based on scores but on violations of the law. She went on to examine the SCS and its disciplinary measures including formal joint agency disciplining, and reputational disciplining through local government websites, local social credit information platforms, national social credit, information platforms, State agency websites, regional newspapers, map apps in Wechat, regional TV and radio, broadcasting and warnings in dial tones. Marianne also explored the large-scale disclosure of government information, which lies at the core of SCS reputational punishment, has long been implemented in China as access to government data empowers public oversight over state administrations. This purpose was first manifested in the Open Government Information Regulations passed in 2007, which mandate administrative agencies to disclose information to increase the level of transparency in government work. Governmental information disclosure can, in a different fashion, also serve regulators. Regulators disclose, or mandate organizations to disclose themselves, information that indicates how well they comply with laws and regulations Such regulatory disclosure is based on the idea that the engine for change is reputation, and the fuel for that engine is information.

The seminar concluded with insightful comments on the topic by Huifen Yin, Associate Professor at the School of Law, Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

Third Chinese Finnish Colloquium on Criminal Law

The Third Chinese Finnish Colloquium on Criminal Law will be held online tomorrow 25 November at 8: 40 am (Helsinki Time).

The event is jointly organized by University of Helsinki Faculty of Law and Peking University Law School.

Please see the programme here.

The Zoom link is below.

Meeting ID: 609 313 8826

Pincode: 100402

All are welcome to attend. No registration required.

Speakers at the First Finnish-Chinese Colloquium on Criminal Law in August 2016.

Prof. Kimmo Nuotio giving guest lecture on Methodology of Criminal Law Theory: Art, Politics or Science? at PKU Law School

On 29 October 2022, Professor Kimmo NuotioBoard Member of the Finnish China Law Center held a guest lecture on Methodology of Criminal Law Theory: Art, Politics or Science? as part of the PKU Law School Distinguished Global Faculty Lecture series. The lecture discussed the role of the general doctrines of penal liability in the criminal law theorising.

In 2021, Professor Nuotio published the edited volume “Methodology of Criminal Law Theory: Art, Politics or Science?”  together with Professor Shin Matsuzawa. In his presentation, Professor Nuotio told the story behind this book and introduced some ideas that had come up in the different chapters. One debate concerns the issues was whether we should abandon a normativist approach and move towards a more realist and even causalist understanding of law as the Scandinavian Realists suggested a few decades ago.

He especially discussed the different paths of development as regards the conceptual understanding of the crime, which is a summary of the understanding of the comprehensive system of the different prerequisites of penal liability. He also made some remarks on this search for a concept of crime in a comparative setting.

The German doctrine stands for many as the most progressive and as the ideal model which has been discussed or even copied in many countries. But can it be copied? Professor Nuotio commented on the discussion from a Finnish point of view. The Finnish story tells that a long-term German influence was interrupted after the World War II, and when the connections were built again in the 1980’s, this did not lead to a transfer and direct adoption of German ideas, but rather to a birth of a genuine Finnish doctrine which is related to the German one but which is more pragmatic.  In the Finnish case the development of the national doctrines was linked to the need to modernise the outdated text-books as well as the need to be able to serve the legislature which was about to reform the so-called general part of the Penal Code. German criminal law theory was not he only source of inspiration, since also Swedish and other Nordic law was relevant and served as a point of reference. Also the case law of the Supreme Court of Finland played a role since the doctrine had to be compatible with it as well.

In Finland a legal reform of the general part of the Penal Code was completed in 2004. The provisions on penal liability are more detailed and comprehensive than the original ones included in the general part of the Penal Code of 1889, thus serving the interests of legal certainty as suggested by the criminal law principle of legality. The criminal law principle of legality itself had become listed as one of the fundamental rights of the individual in the Finnish constitution.

Why and How Do We Study Chinese Law in Our Times

On 8 September, the Finnish China Law Center held an informal meeting between Björn Ahl, Professor and Chair of Chinese Legal Culture at the University of Cologne and students and researched at the Faculty of Law. This talk was titled as ‘Why and How Do We Study Chinese Law in Our Times’.

The talk highlighted various topics relevant to the students interested in Chinese law: current challenges, the features of Chinese legal system, and many aspects of academic cooperation between Western universities and China. Not least due to China’s zero-Covid strategy, the loss of physical access to Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan has caused damage to academic world. Practitioners and scholars have lost a way to discuss and conduct interviews with each other and the access to primary sources has been limited or made more difficult as a result. In the long run, this isolation might even lead to the lack of interest in the subject by younger researchers if longer stays are not possible.

However, the talk also shined some light on possible career prospects that remain for European students of Chinese law. China and developments of Chinese law will be influential for Europe as well, and despite the current challenges, Chinese markets remain as the most attractive in terms of long-term growth. This indicates why there is an urgent need of expertise on Chinese law in Europe.

Cooperation will not be easy. Academic freedom is limited in China and censorship of research publications is constantly taking place. Demand for cooperation still exists and some speculate Singapore’s development into a center of Chinese law research. For Europe, however, the most crucial thing remains to be the co-ordination of teaching and research of academic institutions in Europe. In any event, cooperation continues to be desired.

The blogpost was written by the Center’s intern, Samppa Penttinen.