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.


As we approach the Year of the Dragon, the Finnish China Law Center would like to extend warm wishes for a prosperous Chinese New Year to our Chinese, Nordic, and global friends and partners.

Reflecting on the past year, the Center has hosted numerous successful online and hybrid events covering a broad spectrum of topics in Chinese Law, including the distinguished 17th Annual Conference of the European China Law Studies Association. Our heartfelt appreciation goes to all co-organizers, chairs, speakers, commentators, and participants for their unwavering support throughout 2023.

Looking ahead to 2024, the Center remains committed to fostering research and education in Chinese law and legal culture through a rich array of events and activities.

Stay connected with us on our social media platforms for the latest updates!

Image by Freepik

Introducing the new Director of the Finnish China Law Center

It is with great pleasure that we introduce Professor Kimmo Nuotio as the new Director of the Finnish China Law Center.

Kimmo Nuotio is Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Helsinki Faculty of Law. He is also the Director of the Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy. He is also a member of the PKU Law School Distinguished Global Faculty.

Professor Nuotio was the Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Helsinki in 2010-2017 and the Chair of the Board of the Finnish China Law Center (2013 – 2019).

Professor Kimmo Nuotio played a pivotal role in establishing the Center, demonstrating commitment to fostering research and education on Chinese law and legal culture in Finland and collaboration with Chinese partners. Since 2009, he has actively engaged in building the cooperation between the Academy of Finland and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. In 2012, a significant milestone was achieved by the Academy of Finland’s specific funding call which was aimed at fostering Sino-Finnish legal research, providing the concretizing of the research interests of several member institutions of the Center in the form of six Academy of Finland-funded research projects. These projects were carried out through collaborative efforts between the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Institute of Law, and/or Chinese universities on one side, and their counterparts in Finnish universities on the other.

Professor Nuotio’s extensive efforts over the years also involved frequent visits to Chinese universities, where he actively promoted bilateral agreements. These agreements have formed the concrete basis for the expansion of Faculty-level cooperation. The Faculty of Law University of Helsinki has signed numerous mobility agreements covering both incoming and outgoing students, as well as research staff. This comprehensive approach includes esteemed institutions such as China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL), Fudan University, Peking University (PKU), Renmin University of China, Wuhan University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the University of Hong Kong, and Xi’an Jiaotong University. Notably, PKU stands out as a crucial and significant partner for the University of Helsinki, reflecting the depth and importance of their collaborative efforts.

With a distinguished background and extensive experience, Professor Nuotio brings an abundance of expertise and perspective to our organization.

Prof. Kimmo Nuotio giving guest lecture on ‘Agitation to Hatred as an Offense: Finnish, Nordic and European Perspectives’ at PKU Law School

On 17 October 2023, Professor Kimmo NuotioBoard Member of the Finnish China Law Center held a guest lecture on ‘Agitation to Hatred as an Offense Finnish, Nordic and European Perspectives’  as part of the PKU Law School Distinguished Global Faculty Lecture series.

Professor Nuotio’s lecture discusses the issues of agitation against population groups in Europe.  He mentions that in the Finnish Penal Code, a provision on the topic was first adopted in 1970 as required by the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination. The provision gained prominence following the 2015 immigration crisis in Europe, and the rise of far-right and nationalist movements such as the Nordic Resistance Front. He discusses the question of balancing freedom of speech and restricting illiberal and racist utterances, citing the prohibition of the Nordic Resistance Front in Finland case as an example.

Professor Nuotio further addresses specific issues such as the use of Nazi symbols, Holocaust denial as an offense, and the need for legal provisions against it in Finland and other EU member states. He talked about the relationship between religion and hate speech, mentioning that Finland still has a penal provision for breach of religious peace whereas the other Nordic states already have abolished them. The lecture also highlights the ongoing debate on how to protect freedom of speech while safeguarding minority populations.

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


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.

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.

Understanding Law with Chinese Characteristics

On 16 September 2022, the Finnish China Law Center hosted a hybrid seminar on the topic of ‘Understanding Law with Chinese Characteristics’. This event was part of the Center’s mini seminar series on topical issues of Chinese law.

On the left: Professor Ronald Brown, 16 September 2022

The seminar consisted of two presentations. The first was by Ronald Brown, Law Professor at the University of Hawai’i Law School and was titled as ‘Chinese Labor Practices, Treaties, Uyghurs, and CAI: Keeping Promises’. In his presentation, Professor Brown was speculating whether Chinese labor policies have shifted towards international standards or is it just that China is changing without change. The presentation examined the latter by calling attention to China’s many reservations of its signed and ratified international agreements.

The debate on Uyghurs have hampered China’s relationship with the West in the recent years. This issue was also raised in the presentation by Professor Brown who pointed out the different language used by the two sides: the West accuses China of ‘genocide’ while China constantly refers to the re-education camps which are needed in the thought-reform of the Uyghurs. The EU-China CAI might be pending, but the US’ new 2022 Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and EU countries’ Due Diligence laws were brought up as new legislation to watch for. Professor Brown concluded his presentation with recent comments by the UN Human Rights Committee that, for China, made an unfavorable assessment of the situation.


From left to right: Professor Martin Lavička, Professor Julie Yu-Wen Chen and Professor Ulla Liukkunen, Director of the Finnish China Law Center, Helsinki, 16 September 2022

The second presentation of the day was presented by Martin Lavička, Assistant Professor at Department of Asian Studies at Palacky University Olomouc, and Julie Yu-Wen Chen, Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Helsinki. The duo discussed the topic of ‘Recent Developments of the Rule of Law with Chinese Characteristics’. Like Professor Brown, this presentation was also opened with a rationale on China’s international law standards before moving onto the on-going discussion about rule of law in China.

The core of the presentation focused on the development of religious freedoms under Xi Jinping. The assessment included a look on the recent administrative measures which, in summary, imply growing control of the party-state. Religious groups are set to function in accordance with the CCP’s ideologies. Assistant Professor Lavička and Professor Chen noted that this process started long before Xi and is set to continue in these times when the CCP’s tolerance to any contesting ideologies is becoming lesser. The duo concluded the presentation by an observation that the convergence of law-in-practice and law-in-books, considering China’s recent developments, may not always be a good thing.

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

International Law in Chinese Courts

On Tuesday 6 September 2022, Björn Ahl, Professor and Chair of Chinese Legal Culture at the University of Cologne and President of the European China Law Studies Association, gave a guest lecture at the Finnish China Law Center. The topic of his presentation was ‘International Law in Chinese Courts’.

Professor Björn Ahl, Helsinki, 6 September 2022

The lecture discussed Chinese law and legal scholarship on the domestic effects of international law, application of international law by Chinese courts, Chinese courts’ interpretation of international law and domestic law and Chinese courts’ participation in international norm-making.

The Chinese Constitution does not stipulate the effects of international law within the domestic legal system. However, ordinary legislation and judicial interpretations of the Supreme People’s Court include enabling clauses that mandate the direct application of international law under certain conditions . However, in recent years, provisions that refer to international law were removed from legislation which signals that international treaties have become less relevant for domestic courts. General observations of Chinese scholarship shows that domestic courts display a conservative attitude towards international law and often hesitate to apply treaty provisions.

Professor Ahl went on to examine application of international law by Chinese courts especially in case of IP, human rights, double taxation avoidance  and diplomatic and consular treaties, as well as their interpretation of international law. He observed that domestic courts have developed a consistent practice of directly applying over 30 international treaties to disputes about IP, international trade, maritime commerce and international air and rail transport as well as judicial assistance in civil and criminal matters. Chinese courts increasingly rely on the principle of consistent interpretation. However, courts in general do not apply international treaties that constrain executive organs of the State.

Concerning Chinese courts’ participation in international norm-making, Professor Ahl noted that overall party-state  policy encourages Chinese state organs to participate actively in the formulation of international norms and to strengthen discourse power and influence in international legal affairs. Domestic court decisions may have the effect of confirming rules of international law or give them a novel interpretation that may trigger protest or acquiescence by other states. Only if domestic court decisions are noticed, persuasive and endorsed by other states, courts, international organizations or codifying bodies, they may exercise certain influence on the complex processes of the development of international law.

Doctoral defence: Equality in law ensures the fulfillment of fundamental rights in China, Pia Eskelinen, 9 September 2022

M.Sc. (Admin.) Pia Eskelinen will present her dissertation on the legal status of women in China, especially regarding land rights in rural areas, for public review on 9 September 2022 at 12:00. The The public examination will take place at University of Turku, Calonia 1.

The public examination can also be followed remotely at https://echo360.org.uk/section/d10ad3ff-8805-45ab-b752-65e10980be33/public

Docent Anja Lahtinen (University of Helsinki) will serve as opponent and Dean Johanna Niemi (University of Helsinki Faculty of Law) as the custos. The event will be held in Finnish.


In recent years, Chinese society has progressively begun to be defined by Confucian values and society’s interference with media freedom. This has also affected the working /operational environment of Chinese women. In her doctoral thesis, Eskelinen examines the legal status of rural Chinese women and women’s legal position in Chinese society. The thesis shows that the application of legislation in China has become more unequal, with women and their basic rights being placed in a more disadvantageous position.

Eskelinen uncovers what the legal status of rural Chinese women is in relation to land rights. Alongside this question, Eskelinen considers and examines more in general, the question of women’s legal status and the equal status of women in Chinese society and how President Xi Jinping’s political discourse has affected the status of women in China.

News concerning the Chinese rural women often goes unnoticed due to bigger news. News related to the economy and dissidents is important and must be made visible. Eskelinen, however, states that rural Chinese women form a large individual group whose contribution to China’s economic and social development often goes unmentioned.

“The everyday life of ordinary women forms an integral part of China’s gross national product and well-being”, Eskelinen points out.

President Xi Jinping’s impact on the state of China’s gender equality

In recent years, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has returned to a society where Confucian values ​​increasingly determine how society works. In addition to this, society’s interference with media freedom, for example, has alarmingly increased. According to Eskelinen’s doctoral research, the turning point was in 2016. At that time, President Xi gave a speech in which he emphasized that Confucian values ​​are engraved in the hearts of Chinese people.

“After the speech, China began to move back to a more patriarchal society and women’s operating environment narrowed. It was considered that a women’s place is to take care of the family”, Eskelinen says.

In addition to this, women’s organizations in different regions started offering different courses to women, which focused on how to be good wives and daughters. Eskelinen regards the most worrisome is that the application of legislation has become more unequal, as it places women and their basic rights at a disadvantage.

Women’s appreciation and problems from the point of view of equality

Eskelinen wants to highlight the appreciation of women and the problems in equality, because women’s role and contribution to the well-being of different countries are often ignored. Finland is no exception.

In Finland, the “Lotta’s” contribution to the war effort has been downplayed, and a solution to the wage gap in female-dominated fields has still not been found. “It’s easy to appeal to the lack of money”, Eskelinen reminds.

According to Eskelinen, however, it is important to see beyond the money, attitudes and structures.

“It is not enough, for example, to light buildings in blue in honor of nurses. The idea is beautiful, but it only creates an illusionary appreciation, not a real one”, Eskelinen reflects.

Eskelinen hopes that societies from China to Finland would pay more attention to ordinary people and ordinary women and give them real value.

Contact information:
Pia Eskelinen
050 323 7296

The blogpost was written by the Center’s intern, Annette Rapo.