The China Law Week 2020 kicked off with the first session entitled “Chinese Law and Legal Culture – a Diversity of Approaches”. The session was chaired by Professor Pia Letto-Vanamo, Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki.
The session began with a presentation titled “Taking account of History When Researching Contemporary Law” by Professor Letto-Vanamo. She emphasized the importance of history when researching comparative differences. In Professor Letto-Vanamo´s opinion, knowledge of contemporary politics alone is not sufficient to understand the reasons for comparative differences. She found that the only way to understand Chinese Law is to understand its history, not just legal history but for instance philosophical history and general Chinese mentality as well.
In the second presentation of the session, Professor Björn Ahl from the University of Cologne discussed the different approaches to Chinese legal culture. He first explained the Chinese legal culture, observing that Chinese legal culture as a residual concept lacks explanatory value, invites essentialized approaches to Chinese culture, and more prone to legal orientalism. Professor Ahl then introduced the Chinese legal culture in law-related Chinese studies at the University of Cologne, pointing out that learning Chinese law needs to start from an external and comparative perspective.
The third presentation on “Dispute Resolution in China: A Language Perspective” was given by Associate Professor Joanna Grzybek from Jagiellonian University in Kraków, who is also Deputy Head of the Polish Centre for Law and Economy of China. Professor Grzybek started by giving the overall legal status regarding dispute resolution in China. She stated that due consideration should be given to how language affects international communication and our frames of mind. She stressed that not only legal, but also historical and sociological angles are needed in legal linguistics research.
Professor Johanna Niemi from the University of Turku gave the next presentation on “Law and Gender: Finnish and Chinese Perspectives”. She focused on the positioning of the researcher while doing research in another culture and especially when working with the experts from a society different from the one the researcher is custom to. She highlighted the importance of remembering that post-colonial is not just history in many countries but something that still has an impact on the work culture and relationships to other countries even today.
The session closed with the last presentation about “Criminal Law in the Context of Rule of Law: Finnish and Chinese Perspectives” by Professor Kimmo Nuotio from the University of Helsinki. Professor Nuotio talked about how differently Finland and China approach criminal law and the concept of rule of law. In Finland, criminal law has to be compliant with the constitution, meaning that the state must ensure the protection of every individuals’ rights as well as the division of powers and an independent judiciary. In China, however, criminal law has a long tradition of enforcing justice with harsh methods and not guaranteeing fundamental rights or independence of the judiciary.
The Center would like to thank our interns, Elias Jakala, Li Yuan, Anwar Al-Hamidi, Sukhman Gill and Johanna Fähnrich for contributing text for this article.