European China Law Studies Association to hold the 15th Annual Conference

When: 24- 26 September 2021

The 15th Annual Conference of the European China Law Studies Association (ECLS) will be hosted by the Polish Research Centre for Law and Economy of China and the University of Warsaw School of Law and Economy of China. Since the ECLS’s main objective is to encourage comparative and interdisciplinary research on Chinese law, the conference will be a platform for scholars and professionals to exchange their ideas about Chinese law and policies. The organizers hope for many contributions in form of papers and presentations on the general topic of China’s legal system and in particular its recent development.

Although there is no strict specification on the choice of topic, the organizers especially welcome submissions that concern the following themes:

  • Blockchain, big data & artificial intelligence in China
  • Sino-US trade war and its legal implications for Europe
  • Legal aspects of the Belt and Road Initiative
  • Codification of Laws in China
  • Rule of Law and Chinese Constitutionalism
  • Chinese and Comparative Labour Law
  • Legal Issues of Poland-China Relations
  • Chinese law and society
  • China’s new structure of Party and state
  • National supervision law and the new supervisory mechanism
  • New developments in China’s judicial reforms
  • China in the international legal order.

Call for abstracts:

The ECLS welcomes the submission of abstracts/ papers for presentation, as well as proposals for full panel sessions. Both abstracts (max. 300 words) and proposals for panel sessions (max.1000 words) should include the title of the paper; name, institution, and email address of the author(s); and up to five keywords. Proposals for panel sessions should furthermore include abstracts of all proposed papers as well as a short integrative statement explaining the theme of the panel (all in one document).

Proposals for panels on recently published books are welcomed as well and are required to include a short explanation of the book’s importance and brief biographies of the participants.

Alternate formats of presentation as well as the participation of young researchers are also encouraged.

Proposals should be submitted online; the submission form can be found here: http://chinalaw.wpia.uw.edu.pl/ecls-annual-conference/. All proposals will be subject to peer-review by the organizing committees. The deadline for submissions of abstracts and panel proposals is 30 May 2021, and the deadline for submission of full papers is 6 September 2021.

All questions and suggestions can be addressed to eclswarsaw@wpia.uw.edu.pl.

This blog post was written by one of the Center’s interns, Johanna Fähnrich. Johanna is an exchange student from Germany. She will be studying law at the University of Helsinki until next summer and recently joined the team of the China Law Center because she is interested in learning about different legal systems and comparing them to each other.

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.

 

NEW PUBLICATION: CHINESE CONTEXT AND COMPLEXITIES — COMPARATIVE LAW AND PRIVATE INTERNATIONAL LAW FACING NEW NORMATIVITIES IN INTERNATIONAL COMMERCIAL ARBITRATION

Ulla Liukkunen, Professor of Labour Law and Private International Law at the University of Helsinki and Director of the Finnish China Law Center, has published an article under the title “Chinese context and complexities – comparative law and private international law facing new normativities in international commercial arbitration”. The article appeared in the first edition of the electronic journal Ius Comparatum, a new project of the International Academy of Comparative Law (IACL) that focuses on the necessity of using comparative methods in order to get a better understanding of international arbitration.

The article discusses how recent developments in Chinese private international law affect international commercial arbitration. In global terms, the organization of cross-border dispute resolution is changing as a part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) development. With the BRI, Chinese interest in international commercial arbitration has gained a new dimension as BRI promotes the expansion of Chinese dispute resolution institutions and their international competitiveness. These developments challenge the current narrative of international arbitration.

The article states that private international law is explored as a framework for discussion of noteworthy characteristics of the Chinese legal system and legal culture that are present in international commercial arbitration. Comparative methodology is proposed to be rethought so that it can promote an understanding of Chinese law in the arbitration process. The article argues for adopting comparison as a methodological approach in arbitration. Comparison as a process penetrates the decision-making of arbitrators, also governing the conflict-of-law dimension. Moreover, the article argues that considerations of the Chinese private international law and arbitration regime speak for a broader comparative research perspective towards international commercial arbitration.

The article as well as the whole journal are available on the website of IACL.

This blog post was written by one of the Center’s interns, Johanna Fähnrich. Johanna is an exchange student from Germany. She will be studying law at the University of Helsinki until next summer and recently joined the team of the China Law Center because she is interested in learning about different legal systems and comparing them to each other.

An interview with doctoral candidate Kangle Zhang

Kangle Zhang is a doctoral candidate in the discipline of international law, and a research fellow at Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights, University of Helsinki. His doctoral dissertation entitled ‘Not Equal: Towards an International Law of Finance’ focuses on income and wealth inequality that is linked to operations in the international financial market (and the potential of international law for fighting it). On 17 August 2020, he will defend his dissertation with Professor Anne Orford (Melbourne Law School) serving as opponent and Professor Martti Koskenniemi (University of Helsinki) as custos. The Finnish China Law Center took the opportunity to discuss with Kangle about his experience as a doctoral student at the University of Helsinki, and about his involvement in Chinese law-related activities at the University of Helsinki and the Finnish China Law Center.

Finnish China Law Center: Could you say a little about your background?

Mr. Kangle: Many thanks for asking me to do the interview. I was at first resistance toward the idea—I was not sure if any of my experience might be of interest to other, nor if this interview could go beyond the normal praise. But perhaps this would also be a point of reflection for myself, and it might serve institutional purposes.

I have been at University of Helsinki for 6 years. Before this, I did my undergraduate degree in international politics and master’s degree majoring in international law in China at Peking University. I would be so bold as to label myself an “internationalist”. Peking University is genuinely a great place for academic advancement—I developed my interest in international law there with the encouragement of my professors.

On a more personal level, I war born and raised in a small village in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in the north-west of China. I have definitely benefited from the economic growth of China, in the sense that the broader social mobility accompanying economic development enabled me to receive education at levels would be unimaginable at my parents’ generation.

Finnish China Law Center: Could you tell us about your doctoral research? What is your motivation behind pursuing the topic?

Mr. Kangle: My doctoral thesis starts by describing the link between the international financial market and economic inequality. From there, it [i] examines the law of international finance and its relation to inequality, [ii] suggests an explanation for the nonchalance of the financial system and rules therein towards enlarging inequality, and [iii] proposes the inclusion of international financial market into the purview of international law research—the nexus of an international law of finance. The dissertation suggests that an international law of finance would be a field where international lawyers actively engage with the intertwined network of actors and rules in the financial market, where they master the vocabulary and grammar of finance, dissect the distributive significance of the legal design of the financial market, and make good use of their toolbox by examining the role of state in enabling financial market operations.

My biggest motivation is to understand inequality and if possible contribute to fighting it. I grow up in rural China and the periods of my study in Beijing, plus my years in Finland (and for sometime in the US and UK), have exposed me to the reality of inequality. In Finland, the societal organization is quite different (comparing with many parts of the world) in the sense that generally, some basic social welfare measures are in place. However when comparing the living situation in Finland and in for example China, it definitely raises some questions. I tend to think that the inequalities (and related to which human suffering) are related to money and finance. And considering that the architecture of finance are, broadly speaking, legal arrangements, I deem that (international) lawyers might be offering some useful ideas in fighting inequality that is related to the financial market operations.

My second motivation lies in an observation, that a growing amount of students from “elite” universities are going to the finance industry. This trend has been witnessed (and written about) in different countries. This seems to suggest some sorts of changes in the ways economies are organized. At the same time, the financial system is essential to the economy, both in the sense that its collapse leads to a broader economic recession and that it could be offering the necessary support in times of crisis. And all these are fiercely debated in economics. In other words (and for lawyers and regulators), we do not really know how to cope with this field that is significantly important in our societies and to people. I took the doctoral project as a process of learning and understanding about finance and societal organization.

The third and perhaps more theoretical motivation lies in my interested in the public/private distinction. Debates on international economic order, domestic societal organization, development, and globalization seem to hinge on an idea of a continuum of governmental intervention into the market. In other words, oppositional categories—of government and market, public and private—are assumed, regardless of the abstractness and indeterminacy of each category. Such a distinction penetrates deeply into our daily lives, reifies legal institutions and processes, and shields exploitation and unjust distribution from contestation. I tend to think that the financial system (and more specifically money) is a fundamental domain in which this distinction functions—that finance is the linkage between different social actors and their activities. And the operations of the financial system are enabled by this very distinction.

Finnish China Law Center: How has your experience been being a doctoral student at the University of Helsinki?

Mr. Kangle: Perhaps three points are worth mentioning here. First, the Doctoral Programme at Helsinki (and perhaps the Nordic countries in general) is quite different comparing with it in many other parts of the world. Here you are in a way considered a (quasi-)faculty member. This means that you have teaching obligations and are actively involved in the broader discussions at the faculty. I have very much benefited from this process. I enjoy teaching quite a lot, and in order to teach something, I need to try and understand the subjects as much as possible. I have also had the opportunity to teach what I am researching on, which helped with my own research.

Second, writing a dissertation at the Erik Castrén Institute is fantastic. The enthusiastic doctoral students, visiting researchers and very helpful (and sometimes very critical) senior scholars make this a vibrant and thought-provoking community.

Third, the Finnish China Law Center serves as a great platform for discussion on China-related legal issues. I have actively tried to avoid writing about China in my dissertation. In fact I am quite tired of all the China related works by Chinese researchers—there is some value in it but I do not see how better academic works could be produced if it is only the Chinese working on China-issues, the Indians working on Indian-issues, the Kenyians working on Kenya-issues (for example). That said, I am most definitely interested in China-related matters, and the Finnish China Law Center brings in many scholars from various backgrounds and with often very different views. I have quite enjoyed some of the events and discussions at the Center.

Finnish China Law Center: What do you think about the research and education in Chinese law and legal culture at the University of Helsinki?

Mr. Kangle: In terms of research in law, I have seen some really interesting works by Professors Ulla Liukkunen and Yifeng Chen. I was not involved in the few Chinese law research projects thus cannot speak on these projects. I did work with Professor Kimmo Nuotio and Professor Wenhua Shan at Xi’an Jiaotong University in publishing a edited volume tiled ‘Normative Readings of the Belt and Road Initiative: Road to New Paradigms’. I appreciate the research initiatives at the University of Helsinki, and Helsinki is most definitely an important habour in research (and education) in Chinese law and legal culture internationally. Perhaps it would be beneficial furthering the link between the legal research works and the legal practices. The growing international commerce certainly calls for legal support in, for example, tax, arbitration, or even more practically shipment issues. This is perhaps not just for Finnish business but also the broader northern European business community. Some good initiatives have been taken and I am hoping to contribute in this process.

When education is concerned, our Faculty (and the University) has established connections with many Chinese universities. This offers not only a platform for scholarly communication but also (and perhaps more importantly) for student exchanges. I think these are great endeavors and will be of benefit in the long run.

Finnish China Law Center: How have you been involved in furthering Chinese law research activities and cooperation with Chinese partners at the University of Helsinki and the Finnish China Law Center?

Mr. Kangle: As mentioned, I have worked to co-edit a volume on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The volume started at an international conference on the BRI in Helsinki under the umbrella of the new New Silk Road Law Schools Alliance. I have acted as a contact person for our faculty in the Alliance. Perhaps a few more words on the Alliance: it is consisted of twenty-some law schools internationally, seeking to promote research and teaching collaborations. Through the Alliance, our faculty built and furthered connections with the National University of Singapore, the University of Hong Kong, Taiwan University, and many other universities in different parts of the world including Australia and the US. I have also participated in interesting conferences and seminars at the Center. I would also wish to add that I will be involved in the Global Governance Law master’s programme starting the next academic year, to teach a course on Chinese financial regulations. I am also very much looking forward to join and be involved in the activities at the Center now that I am almost done with my doctoral research.

Finnish China Law Center: Do you have any plan after the doctoral degree?

Mr. Kangle: If everything goes smoothly and nothing too majorly wrong happens, I will take up a two-year postdoc position at Peking University Law School. In these two years, I would like to expand my doctoral thesis and do more research relating to the potential of international law in fighting income and wealth inequality.

China Minor Programme at the University of Lapland

In today’s post, the Finnish China Law Centre will be introducing a minor programme offered at the University of Lapland, titled “China: Domestic, Global and Arctic Trajectories”. Spearheaded by Professor Matti Nojonen, the programme adopts an interdisciplinary approach when considering the relationship between domestic driving forces within China, its visions of globalisation as well as its escalating engagement in the Arctic Regions. Upon completion of the course, students will be expected to be equipped with the proficiency of meta-cognitive skills in conceptualizing the distinctive Chinese domestic realities. Through that, it is expected that students will have a better proficiency when interacting with Chinese companies and institutions in the global and regional context, particularly that of the Arctic region.

This minor programme has a scope of 25 ECTS credits, where the following six courses, each granting 5 ECTS credits upon completion are being offered.

1. Chinese Culture and History 

The course offers a critical and pluralist view on the history and culture of China, which encompasses the intersectionalities underlying the continuity and discontinuity of institutions, virtues and culture on a meta-level, and how that continues to affect nation building in modern China.

2. China’s Political System and China as a Global Actor

The course discusses the recent development of China which allows its ascension from a global actor to great power through a political lens by analyzing the role of the Party and other institutions. It seeks to provide the perspective where the Arctic as a region is not immune to the ambition of China’s strategy and policies which is driven by both economic and political actors.

3. China – Business and State

This course aims to explore the issues influencing the economic development, business practices and strategic behavior of China. A critical examination of how traditional culture shapes market and business behavior is undertaken. This courses also seeks to analyse the growing Chinese economic activities and presence in the Arctic region from both state-endorsed and private involvements through investments and tourism.

4. Chinese Society – China and Media

The course provides a multidimensional analysis of the role and forms of media and how that shapes interactions in daily life. The role of “parallel” media companies is studied in relation to their connection with the Party and censorship machine in China. Furthermore, the demography of social media users is given attention in highlighting the dynamics between freedom of speech and censorship.

5. Legal Culture and Legal System in Chinese Society

The course focuses on the question of a Chinese understanding of the rule of law through a historical and theoretical lens. Furthermore, a contextual approach is taken whereby each year a particular sector of legal development in China will be studied in detail through the intersectionality of culture, institutions and politics.

6. Chinese Language 

The course aims to provide students with the basic knowledge of Chinese language and related cultural issues.

The course welcomes the participation of all degree and exchange students at the University of Lapland and Open University. The courses run throughout the academic year. Therefore, students will have the flexibility of taking individual modules from the programme or participate in the entire minor programme. The flexibility of the course is also extended to students from other disciplines where there are no pre-requisites that are required for their participation in the course.

The language of instruction for all modules and materials used in the programme is in English. The studies employ a wide variety of pedagogical approaches in the forms of lectures, seminars, movies and media analyses, related literature as well as a flipped-classroom approach, encouraging engagement beyond the chalk-and-talk settings. Aware of the virtue of partnership, the university often invites guest researchers from partner universities to deliver guest lectures to complement the learning of the students.

The programme has been running for four years now and has attracted 535 students.

More information on the course can be found at the University of Lapland’s website and weboodi.

This blog post was written by the Center’s intern, Mr. Kelvin Choo Wei Cheng. Kelvin is a undergraduate student at the University of Warwick, and an exchange student at University of Helsinki for the autumn and spring terms 2019-2020.

 

The Rise of China and Normative Transformation in the Arctic Region

Sanna Kopra Helsingissä 15.05. 2019. Compic/Kimmo Brandt

In today’s post, the Finnish China Law Center is pleased to introduce the research project ‘The Rise of China and Normative Transformation in the Arctic Region’ led by Dr. Sanna Kopra, Academy of Finland post-doctoral researcher in the Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland, visiting scholar in Aleksanteri Institute at the University of Helsinki, and Senior Fellow at the Arctic Institute.

The project was awarded €237,970.00 by the Academy of Finland, and is hosted by the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, one of the member institutions of the Finnish China Law Center.

The research not only addresses China’s interests and activities in the Arctic, but also investigates the normative transformation those activities may support or initiate in the Arctic region. The project asks, with China’s growing role in the area, what kind of impacts it could have in the normative framework in the Arctic, what kind of norms China wants to promote or not to promote in the regional, and how the existing governance framework, particularly the Arctic Council, has addressed China’s involvement in the region. The project’s key concept is the notion of responsibility. Thus, it also examines China’s notion of responsibility in the Arctic, whether it is deferred from the one formulated by other Arctic players, especially the 8 Arctic states, and whether there is some normative discourse or differentiation between the non-Arctic states and Arctic states, etc.

Regarding research methodology, Dr. Kopra mainly uses content analysis and discourse analysis. Having a strong interest in history, she aims to combine also the historical approach to shed light on the historical evolution of the normative framework and notion of responsibility in the Arctic.

As part of the project, Dr. Kopra spent two months on a research exchange at the University of Tromsø in Norway during 2019. ‘It was a good academic exchange. It helped me develop new ideas, receive helpful feedback, and get new information and data’, she said.  She plans to conduct a research visit to Iceland next spring.

Publication:

 

 

 

 

 

INTRODUCING NEW VISITING PROFESSOR BJÖRN AHL

The Finnish China Law Center is pleased to welcome Professor Björn Ahl who will start as the new part-time visiting professor at the University of Helsinki from October 2020.

Björn Ahl is Professor and Chair of Chinese Legal Culture at the University of Cologne. He is also President of the European China Law Studies Association (ECLS).

Professor Ahl has vast experience in China law research. His research focuses on constitutional development, in particular on judicial reforms and rights litigation, in China. Chinese administrative law and practice of public international law are a further focal point of his research. Moreover, his areas of interest include comparative law, legal transfers, and legal culture, which are related to Greater China and Chinese legal development.

Professor Ahl will collaborate with the Center in multiple areas of Chinese law such as comparative law, public law, social credit system, court practice, and Chinese interpretation of international law. The collaboration aims at advancing research in Chinese law at the European level.

New publication: Chinese Policy and Presence in the Arctic

The Finnish China Law Center is pleased to introduce the new book entitled ‘Chinese policy and presence in the Arctic’ edited by Professor Timo Koivurova and Dr. Sanna Kopra from the University of Lapland.

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.

The book is available on the publisher’s website at https://brill.com/view/title/55687.

Belt and Road Initiative in Russia and Kazakhstan

On Wednesday 4 March 2020, a partner of the Finnish China Law Center, the Confucius Institute at the University of Helsinki held a seminar on the topic of ‘Belt and Road Initiative in Russia and Kazakhstan’.

Considering that 7 years have passed since the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was introduced by President Xi Jinping at Nazarbayev University in 2013 and there has been increasing awareness of this project and suspicion of its exact impact and influence, the Seminar aimed to provide up-to-date views and perspectives of two experts from Russia and Kazakhstan regarding the BRI.

Professor Julie Yu-Wen Chen, Professor of Chinese Studies and Director of Confucius Institute, opened the Seminar.

The Seminar began with a presentation on  ‘The Belt and Road Initiative: Views from Russia’ from Professor Nikolay Samoylov (St. Petersburg State University). Professor Samoylov remarked that the Russian Government regards the BRI as having economic and political significance since boosting Russia and China’s relation and promoting alignment of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Silk Road Economic Belt are elements of the BRI. For Russian politicians and leaders, the future of the Eurasian Economic Union is very important, and they wish to connect it with the Chinese BRI.

He added that the BRI is becoming an increasingly crucial aspect of China and Russia’s cooperation as shown through the active negotiation and consultation process of promoting Eurasian economic integration within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Silk Road Economic Belt. In 2017, the Eurasian Economic Commission drew up a list of prioritized projects to be implemented by Eurasian countries in support of the Silk Road Economic Belt project. A majority of these projects involve the construction of new roads and modernization of existing roads, establishment of transport and logistic centers, and development of key transport hubs. Russia has proposed 3 main logistic projects, including the construction of a high-speed railway between Beijing and Europe, motorway connecting China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, and Europe, and development of the Northern sea route. Professor Samoylov noted that Russia has set out the goal that over the next 6 years, it shall increase the full capacity of the Baikal – Amur Main Line and the trans-Siberian railway to 880 million tonnes per year, cut fright delivery time from far East to the Western border of Russia to 7 days, increase the volume of transit of shipments on Russian railways almost four-folds, thus turning the country into a global leader in cross Asia transit shipping. Therefore, these projects are especially significant to Russia.

Professor Nikolay Samoylov on Russia’s views toward the Belt and Road Initiative

Over the past 5 years, Russian international relation experts have produced a large quantity of academic and expert publications and debates designed to explain the BRI to the society and political elites. There is a firm opinion that the implementation of the BRI would inevitably strengthen China’s influence in the Central Asia region. However, some expert groups opine that the Silk Road Economic Belt is essential for changing the entire global geopolitics. They are convinced that Russia should retain the role of a regional leader in Central Asia and that integration with the Silk Road Economic Belt is not an obstacle, but a facilitating factor. Others view Beijing’s actions not as an opportunity but a threat to Russian national defense. In between these two extreme trends, another group tries to explain Beijing’s actions through their own interpretation of social-economic goals in China. They contend that China’s priority is to solve China’s social-economic task which is not possible without an active foreign policy. This task focuses on 3 areas: creating new transport and logistic infrastructure to link Europe and Asia via Russia, directing Chinese investment in the high-tech industry and engaging China through investment, loan, and technology, implementation of projects that use new instruments for the development of Russian Far East and northern sea route.

The Seminar continued with a second presentation titled ‘How is BRI Playing in Kazakhstan? Findings from a Survey’ by Professor Chris Primiano (KIMEP University) which focused on Kazakhstan and particularly how students at KIMEP University view the BRI. Professor Primiano explained that university students in Kazakhstan represent the future elites and so it is important to get engaged with students at KIMEP, one of the leading universities in Kazakhstan to understand how they view the Chinese BRI.

Professor Primiano observed that there is tremendous discontent in Kazakhstan directed at China for two main reasons being Chinese FDI and the situation in Xinjiang with the vocational camps. The Chinese FDI comes with Chinese workers in contrast to western FDI. In order to accept one of these infrastructure projects the host government also accepts Chinese workers. The perception of jobs being taken away from locals in Kazakhstan and that the Chinese workers are benefiting more than Kazakhstani nationals create a good amount of push-back. The actions of China in Xinjiang also add to the disapproval from certain segments of Kazakhstan since there have been many ethnic Kazakhs or Kazakhstani nationals who have been in these vocational camps.

Professor Chris Primiano on how students at KIMEP University view the BRI

The survey by Professor Primiano and his colleagues aims at finding out whether participants view the BRI as a win-win/mutually beneficial situation, or as China benefiting itself at the expense of Kazakhstan. The survey questions were related to demographic variables (age, gender, income, rural or urban, etc) and attitudinal variables impacting one’s views on the BRI i.e. What are their views on democracy? and Do they equate democracy with economic development than with political rights?

Some general trends can be inferred from the survey. Those whose parents earn higher incomes viewed China more favorably. Those whose parents have higher education view China in a more positive way. The students who equate democracy with economic development would view China more positively and those who equate democracy with social or political rights concept will have a negative take on China. The people spending more time reading and watching TV news tended to have a more unfavorable view of China.

Professor Primiano explained that the survey employed both open-ended and closed-ended questions, for example: What do you associate with China? Why is China involved in Central Asia with infrastructure and development projects? And does the BRI create a win-win for Kazakhstan? etc. Regarding the first question, 206 of the respondents had positive views about China’s BRI, associating it with advancing globalization, trade and mutual benefits. 27% wrote that BRI was about neo-colonialism with China benefiting at the expense of other countries. Some respondents said they ‘never heard of this’ or ‘do not know anything about the BRI.’ On the second question, less than 3% of the participants replied that the BRI was not mainstream in Central Asia. The majority said that China’s purpose was its own interests only. 30% opined that it was to advance the interests of China and other countries in Central Asia. The remaining 11% answered with ‘don’t know’ or ‘not sure.’ Relating to the third question, 60% felt that they lack proper information to comment on the matter.

To sum up about the survey, Professor Primiano remarked that a strong majority were not well aware of this initiative while surprisingly, China selected Kazakhstan as a place to announce BRI and there have been significant investments and tremendous funding from China. In the future, survey experiments will be done with treatment and control groups provided with additional information on the BRI.