DIGITAL LECTURE SERIES: Current Affairs in China

The Centre would like to inform its readers of four Digital Lectures on Current Affairs in China, hosted by international scholars on different pressing issues and development of the Chinese society. These lectures are organized as part of the Chinese Study Program at UiB (Department of Foreign Languages).

China’s rise as a powerful economic and political power has made it both a strategic partner and a systemic rival to Europe particularly because while some praise China’s efficiency in implementing political priorities, others criticize its authoritarian political system that aggressively suppresses any kind of dissent.

These lectures will explore the contradicting characters of Chinese politics, economy and society and other relevant issues of our time. For effective cooperation, now and future, it is essential that we understand the country and learn how to communicate with its people. This includes topics that vary from climate change to digital economy and many more. The lectures are open to students, staff, and the broader public as well; to learn about Chinese society and to engage in discussions.

17th March  (12–13.30): BUILDING STATE CAPACITY

Christian Göbel (Chair of China Studies at the University of Vienna) speaks on how repression has increased under Xi Jinping, but more importantly so has online participation. It is vital to understand how the regime uses public participation to monitor local officials, while at the same time cracking down on activities that had been tolerated previously.

This lecture is funded by the European Research Council.

https://www.uib.no/en/fremmedsprak/142402/building-state-capacity

24TH March  (12–13.30): ACCOUNTABILITY OF CORPORATE ACTORS

Constantin Holzer (a postdoc at the Department of Asian Studies at Cork University College) will speak on the paradigmatic and regulatory shift from ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ to ‘Corporate Social Credit System’ and its wider consequences on state-business relationships and entrepreneurs in China. The rise of the digital economy, the current leadership and the regulation of behavior, a threat to companies’ autonomy or new opportunities and legal security.

https://www.uib.no/en/fremmedsprak/142403/accountability-corporate-actors

14TH April  (12–13.30): GRAPPLING WITH THE CRISIS

Professor Yang Laike (Dean of the Department of International Economics at East China Normal University) expands on the Covid-19 pandemic’s effects on China’s foreign trade and national economic development and its potential progress in 2021 and 2022. The pandemic has, amongst other things, disrupted the global supply chains and dragged the global economy and the repercussions were and will be felt in all economic and societal sectors.

https://www.uib.no/en/fremmedsprak/142404/grappling-crisis

21ST April  (12–13.30): CLAIMING LABOUR RIGHTS

Daniel Fuchs (a postdoc at the Department of Asian and African Studies at Humboldt University) based on his long-term fieldwork in China, provides insights into migrant labour unrest’s current characteristic that can be felt in the country currently as well as situates them within the history of worker protests in reform China.

https://www.uib.no/en/fremmedsprak/142405/claiming-labor-rights

If you have questions regarding the lectures, please contact Julia Marinaccio: Julia.Marinaccio@uib.no

This blog post was written by one of the Center’s interns, Sukhman Gill. Sukhman is from Finland but did her LL.B in England. She is currently doing a Master’s in International Business Law at the University of Helsinki and a M.Sc. in Economics and Business Administration at Hanken School of Economics. She is particularly interested in Comparative Law, Cross-Border Transactions and Intellectual Property Law.

Interview with Michael Ristaniemi on his dissertation about antitrust – Part II

Michael Ristaniemi, 2019. / © SEPPO SAMULI

This is Part II of the interview with Michael Ristaniemi. In Part I we discussed his background and motivation for the dissertation. In this part we will dive deeper into the actual contents of the dissertation and Michael’s reflection on recent developments in antitrust globally with some comparative thoughts.

Did anything surprise you as you worked on the thesis? 

To be frank a lot of stuff surprised me and its more of a question what to emphasize. The first clear thing that was interesting to realize is that many things are so interrelated. When you are doing research as a student for your Master’s thesis and then for your PhD you are focusing on a very narrow niche. One major aha-moment for myself was realizing how this niche is really linked to many other areas and how they inter-develop. For instance, one article in my dissertation covered the fact that whatever the major economic powers of the globe think about cooperating really shapes how international competition can develop in practice. For example, the preference of how the US to cooperate bilaterally or multilaterally affects many things globally, including what I covered in my dissertation.

Currently there is a lack of  a strong political will to cooperate multilaterally. In some extent China isn’t representative of that. They have their own multilateral agreements that are outside the ones that we are used to seeing in Western countries. But the trend that is seen generally across international law to patch the lack of political cooperation is the rise of so-called trans-governmental networks. They are not on the political level but rather authorities of different countries cooperating very closely. It has led to technocratic international governance as opposed to political level international law in a way. This in fact has a really strong impact, both positive and negative.

A second memorable point I want to mention is the ignorance of history in competition law. I think most people aren’t aware of the origin of competition law in the EU or the US. Nowadays it has been more about using modern-day economic theory to improve consistency of competition law application. This is important, but there is perhaps something to learn in how competition law started independently in both places (EU and US). Competition law is a response to the allergy towards too much economic and political dominance by companies and was a way to manage that dominance. It is something we are seeing a need for with the digital economy. A lot of the discussions that are being had today in competition law circles wouldn’t be all that different if we go back to the 1950s or even 30s.

We found the point you made in your thesis:” The EU has taken a much more interventionist approach than the American, or Chinese agencies have towards unilateral conduct of key digital platform firms, such as Amazon, Google, and WeChat” extremely interesting. Could you talk a bit more about China’s position? 

The general trend when I was writing my dissertation was that the EU was sort of the outlier by being interventionist to the extent it has been. Since I have finished my dissertation the US has brought two big lawsuits against both FB and Google, and China has published a draft revision to its anti-monopoly law (the Chinese competition law) and also drafted guidelines concerning the platform economy. Therefore, the tide is changing. I have to say I am not a huge expert on the application of Chinese competition law, but what I can say is that competition law is very new in China. The first competition law was enacted in only 2008. What they have been doing is mostly capacity building since then.

And regarding the huge fines that digital companies have faced in Europe, that is more of an exception than a rule. I can’t say what the reason is for the lenient treatment in China of giant digital companies. Nevertheless, what is clear is that the treatment has indeed been lenient compared to Europe. In the US, the treatment has been lenient because of a differing interpretation of relevant economics, which emphasizes size as a source of efficiency gains that consumers benefit from. The role of personal data is key in digital services.

That’s where you can tie in China. We know that the privacy discussion differs in China. The concept of privacy is different in the Chinese context and that the discussion around human rights, in general, is very different in China compared to the EU or the US. The differing treatment between the Chinese and Europeans may partially be a result of a different appreciation of the concept of personal data privacy, that’s at least a part of it. As I mentioned, in China there are interesting developments now underway during this year. There is going to be something more specific but currently, they are still at the draft guidelines stage for the platform economy and also a draft revision to their relevant competition law, as I mentioned earlier. These changes to the anti-monopoly law would enable their authorities – the SAMR –  to better tackle these huge digital companies.

You mentioned visiting China University of Political Science and Law, in Beijing during your research and wrote: “I got some important insights into the Chinese perspectives relative to my research”. Could you tell us a bit more about this?

I’ll start with the bigger picture to give some context. Since my theme was international competition law I did try to visit places abroad during my one and half year study leave. I actually managed to stay most of the time of my study leave abroad. I  spent one academic year at University of California, Berkeley after which I was in Brussels as a visiting researcher at Vrije Universiteit Brussel for a few months and then also, as you mentioned, in Beijing at the China-EU Law School.

Beijing was great actually, it was by chance that I noticed the scholarship that was circulated through our law school’s researcher email list. The China-EU Law School is a very interesting institution. It is partially funded by the EU and it’s within the larger university that is only dedicated to political science and law.  I understood it is highly regarded in China and it was a great experience to be part of it.

First of all, just the fact that they had an amazing legal library was great. Although there isn’t that much at the end of the day about Chinese competition law in English, mostly probably because of competition law is relatively new as mentioned earlier. I also enjoyed really good discussions with scholars and law students about their idea of economic law and policy. A highlight was when I got to discuss with, Hao Qian, one of the university’s associate professors who was actually involved in creating the anti-monopoly law in China. She told me about the cooperation that the Chinese had with Americans and Europeans when creating the anti-monopoly legislation. If I recall correctly the law resembles EU competition law on paper more than the US counterpart since Europeans were more willing to assist and provide technical assistance in the preparation phase than the Americans. Of course, how it is enforced and applied varies always country by country. But a very interesting discussions all in as a part of the visit.

What are you planning on now after the doctoral degree?

Well I work as VP, Sustainability at Metsä Group and  I am continuing with that for the time being. It is a great platform to learn about management and sustainability. I’m also writing and researching related topics in a couple ongoing projects, and I am a collaborator in a project that just received funding from the Academy of Finland on crisis preparedness and the security of supply. To put it all in one sentence: right now the focus is economic law and policy, businesses as societal actors and the practical and academic opportunities there may be relating to these topics. But otherwise, we will see, who knows.

Michael and another PhD student, Juho Saloranta at China-EU School of Law

The interview and report were done by the Center’s intern, Mr. Jakub Pichna. Jakub is a Master’s student at the University of Helsinki’s International Business Law program with a BSc. in Economics and Business Administration from the University of Turku.

Interview with Michael Ristaniemi on his dissertation about antitrust – Part I

Michael Ristaniemi, 2019. / © SEPPO SAMULI

Michael Ristaniemi, currently the VP, Sustainability at Metsä Group, has defended his dissertation titled International Antitrust: Toward upgrading coordination and enforcement on 31 October 2020. Professor Petri Kuoppamäki, a Board member of the Finnish China Law Center was one of the examiners and public opponents. Michael’s dissertation has a very interesting chapter on international antitrust on how the three economic superpowers the USA, the EU, and China approach international antitrust, and the possibility to enhance international cooperation. Therefore, the Center would like to take the opportunity to further discuss the dissertation, Michael’s stay in Beijing at the China University of Political Science and Law and his future plans. In Part I of the interview, Michael’s background and his motivation for writing about antitrust are discussed. Part II will cover the dissertation more concretely.

Could you tell us a bit about your background?

I am Finnish-American but I have lived most of my life in Finland. I was born and raised in Espoo but then moved to study law at the University of Turku. During my student years, I had a bit of an international mix: I did two semesters abroad, one in California and one in Thailand, and an internship in Washington DC at the law firm Morgan Lewis (previously known as Bingham McCutchen). I focused my studies on business law and since graduating in 2011 I’ve worked in the private sector primarily as an in-house counsel in international Finnish companies. In 2012, quite shortly after I graduated I started a PhD project on the side, and then I took a year and a half study leave to focus on the dissertation which was a great period in between professional working life.

All in all, I would say my legal background is heavily impacted by having worked only in the private sector with commercial law and business law questions.

Could you tell us about your doctoral research? What is your motivation behind pursuing the topic? 

Besides focusing on business, I have always been interested in societal questions which is an interesting reason to study law in general: you get to study the rules of society and how everything works. From that perspective competition law is great for understanding society because it is essentially the rules of our market economy and the framework within which businesses function.

I started my deep dive into competition law early in my law school career. I wrote my bachelor’s and master’s theses in the realm of competition law so my dissertation was sort of a continuum.

I wrote my Master’s thesis on airline alliances in light of competition law. I found the topic peculiar in its nature; it is a very political sector when you think about it. The airline industry has rules that prevent merging. Without these political rules, there would be a lot fewer airlines in this world. Because airlines can’t merge they cooperate more closely than typical competitors in a more rules-free industry. For instance, airlines agree on pricing on a certain route.

With my dissertation, when mirroring it with what I had learned from my master’s thesis, I felt that this interplay of politics and competition law was a weird situation and it would be interesting to dive deeper into it through more general research. That’s basically how the topic was born. It also got a bit more energy through the work I was doing at Cargotec and then at Metsä Group, which are both international businesses, operating globally in global markets. Through my work, I came to contact with global markets. I could really see the current situation up close: you have many competition laws all around the world and authorities that don’t really cooperate that well. All this happens within a framework of rules that aren’t that consistent in how they are enforced. This creates a burden on businesses and is generally ineffective. I believe my work has a practical impact and is not only an academic consideration.

Michael at his his dissertation defence on 31 October 2020 with Professor Antti Aine (University of Turku) serving as custos and Professor Petri Kuoppamäki (Aalto University) as opponent

The interview and report were done by the Center’s intern, Mr. Jakub Pichna. Jakub is a Master’s student at the University of Helsinki’s International Business Law program with a BSc. in Economics and Business Administration from the University of Turku.

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.

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.

Programme of China Law Week 2020 announced

The Finnish China Law Center is pleased to announce the long-awaited programme for the China Law Week 2020.

The event will include four information-packed sessions on the following topics:

  • Chinese Law and Legal Culture – A Diversity of Approaches
  • Chinese Labour Law in International and Comparative Perspectives
  • New Challenges for China’s Belt and Road Initiative
  • Reform and Emerging Issues in Chinese Private Law and the Court System

The detailed programme can be found here.

China Law Week 2020 is free of charge and open to the public. Participants can attend the whole event or individual sessions if they so wish.

Registration to the event is required. We kindly ask you to register by 18 October 2020 by completing the following electronic form: https://www.lyyti.fi/reg/China_Law_Week_2020_8204

For further questions and inquiries, please contact Le Bao Ngoc Pham, the Center’s Coordinator, at ngoc.pham@helsinki.fi.

China Law Week’s speakers. First row (from left to right): Associate Professor Chen Yifeng (Peking University), Assistant Professor Yan Tian (Assistant Dean, Peking University), Associate Professor Joanna Grzybek (Polish Centre for Law and Economy of China), Professor Pia Letto-Vanamo (Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki), Professor Ronald C. Brown (University of Hawai’i Law School). Second row (from left to right): Professor Kimmo Nuotio (University of Helsinki), Dr. Kangle Zhang (University of Helsinki), Dr. Wei Qian (China University of Labour Relations, School of Labour Relations and Human Resources), Professor Sean Cooney (University of Melbourne), Professor Yan Dong (Beijing Foreign Studies University School of Law). Third row (from left to right): Professor Alan C Neal (University of Warwick), Professor Ulla Liukkunen (University of Helsinki, Director of the Finnish China Center), Professor Julie Yu-Wen Chen (University of Helsinki, Director of the Confucius Institute), and Professor Jin Haijun (Renmin University). Last row (from left to right): Professor Juha Karhu (University of Lapland), Professor Björn Ahl ( University of Cologne, President of the European China Law Studies Association), Professor Matti Nojonen (University of Lapland), and Professor Johanna Niemi (University of Turku).

 

PROFESSOR JUHA KARHU ON THE NEW CHINESE CIVIL CODE – PART II

Today’s blog post will feature the second part of the Center’s interview with Professor Juha Karhu about his thoughts on the civil law codification project in China.

In this part, the interview focuses on the advantages and disadvantages of civil law codification, Professor Karhu’s special interest in the rights in rem discussion, and his advice for the teaching of the Chinese civil code to non-Chinese students.

Advantages and disadvantages of codification

Professor Karhu points out that prior to the Chinese civil code, various areas of civil law were already regulated in special pieces of legislation, i.e. Contract Law, Law of Real Rights, Marriage Law, Adoption Law, Inheritance Law, etc. There is no doubt that special legislation would make it simpler to target each legal problem individually and to amend the law when the desired outcome is not reached. This advantage could be lost with the codification of civil law since the Chinese legislator may close the door to making of special legislation in areas where the civil code is applicable. It is doubtful whether every problem could be solved on the basis of the general and abstract rules that form the backbone of any civil code.

One of the challenging issues, in Professor Karhu´s opinion, would be regulating digital behaviors. How would the questions regarding new digital forms of business, digital ways of interaction, social media, and so on be properly decided on the ground of such general and abstract rules? Nevertheless, special laws do not have the same unity as a civil code, and conflicts between the provisions of individual laws are inevitable. A civil code would help to mitigate these problems. Furthermore, a civil code would have the advantage of giving more weight to political, economic, and social decisions in China as long as such decisions are in line with the civil code and can be backed up by an article of the code.

Rights in rem and the civil code discussions

Professor Karhu is especially interested in following the discussions in China on the question of ownership or, more precisely, rights in rem. Private property is protected in China, but not in the same manner as in Western countries. For instance, private ownership of land is not recognized in the draft Chinese civil code. However, under rights in rem, there are rights to the land even if there is no private land ownership. This concept contains interesting Chinese characteristics. One of them flows from imperial China’s administration of land title according to which peasants and farmers could still develop certain rights on the soil of the land since skillful farmers would raise the value of the soil. The same concept did not exist in the European feudal systems.

This example also demonstrates that rights in rem are not so foreign to Chinese culture and history. Therefore, it is very important to look at how rights in rem will find their role in the development of Chinese society and economy, and what the proper level of protection and various forms of protection of private property are, particularly since these rights have defined business contexts and played an essential role in business financing as collaterals.

Teaching and the Chinese civil code

Professor Karhu has a lot of experience in teaching Chinese law. During February 2020, he taught the course ‘Chinese Civil Code 2020 – A Dream Come True?’ at the School of Law and Economy of China, Faculty of Law and Administration of the University of Warsaw. He observes that some foreign students tend to think they could learn about Chinese law simply by reading legal texts, underestimating the roles of history, culture, and politics. The truth is that no law anywhere could be taken separately from the legal culture.

Throughout his many academic visits to China, Karhu realizes that the key to teaching Chinese law is to make sure that students understand the learning tasks in such a way that these tasks involve not only reading the text of the law but understanding the legal culture as a part of Chinese culture. He also emphasizes the importance of encouraging students to be open-minded and ask questions instead of making assumptions tacitly based on their own society.

 

Juha Karhu, Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Lapland, Finland was Professor of Contract Law and Tort Law at the Law Faculty of the University of Lapland during 1993-2017. He was also Dean of the Law Faculty from 2013 to 2017. His research focuses on the foundations of commercial law, including themes like the role of legal principles in dynamic contractual networks, the methods of calculating damages in business relations, the legal protection of business assets in cooperation projects, and the role of fundamental and human rights in new global economy. His research is characterized by strong comparative perspectives. His international contacts include University of Munster (Germany), Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (London), University of Gothenburg (where he was part-time Visiting Professor 2012-2016), and Indian Development Foundation (New Delhi, one month in 2015). Professor Karhu was also active in building up his expertise on Chinese legal system, and relations with Chinese Law Schools (especially Renmin University of China School of Law). He is the honorary doctor of University of Gothenburg and University of Turku. He was also awarded the price of “Academic Lawyer of the Year” in 2019 by the Finnish Society of Lawyers, with special notice to his role in developing the co-operation between Finnish and Chinese universities and legal institutions.

 

 

Professor Juha Karhu on the new Chinese Civil Code – Part I

In 2014, the civil law codification entered a new stage in China when the Central Committee of the Communist Party called for a new round of compilation in its Decisions on Major Issues Concerning Comprehensively Moving Governing the Country According to the Law Forward. The entire draft civil code shall be presented to the Congress in 2020 for the final legislative step.

In light of this development, the Finnish China Law Center had the pleasure to invite Juha Karhu, Professor (emeritus) of Contract Law and Tort Law at the Law Faculty of the University of Lapland, and the pioneer of China law research and Chinese network development in Finland, on an interview about his view on the central topics concerning civil law codification in China.

This first part of the interview discusses the motivations behind the new round of civil law codification in China, and the influence of Western law on the Chinese draft civil code.

Motivations behind civil law codification in China

According to Professor Karhu, there are three kinds of reasons behind China’s latest attempt at codification of civil law: historical reasons, political reasons and economic reasons.

Firstly, historically it is worth noticing that it takes decades to build a long-lasting civil code. In Europe, the civil codes have existed for centuries, for example, in France, the civil code has been around for over 200 years and in Germany over 100 years. Since the 1950s, there have been many attempts to draft a civil code for the People’s Republic of China, and the current round was finally taken up by the Communist Party leadership in 2014. Thus, the codification is not a novel idea but it has become a gradual process in recent Chinese history. While the previous plans were not successful, they have in effect written the key parts of the civil law legislation.

Secondly, for some, it came as a surprise that China was able to build a civil code, but Professor Karhu, having had a particular interest in various parts of Chinese civil law, could see that even during the drafting process of Contract Law, the Law of Rights in rem, and the Tort Liability Law, it was taken into consideration that the pieces of legislation would, later on, form a part of a wider civil code. Therefore, the development towards a Chinese civil code has not happened by chance, but through purposeful planning. The code strengthens the legal background of Chinese economic activities.

Lastly, from a political point of view, it has been over 40 years since China’s Reform and Opening Up in 1978. The 2014 decision of compiling a new civil code by the Chinese Communist Party reflects the idea that it was now the time to signalize economic actors both inside and outside the country that the Chinese economy has established itself so far and so strongly that writing this kind of civil code is possible. The code is of course not only for economic actors but for all Chinese people. However, Professor Karhu emphasizes that one of the main emphases has been to enable businesses and market transactions.

Influence of Western law on the Chinese draft civil code

Commenting on the influence of Western law, Professor Karhu first points out that many Western scholars, while quite knowledgeable about the Chinese legal system, tend to assume that China has adopted entire civil law models from their home countries whenever they find some similar conceptual structures, principles, and rules in the draft code. He does not believe that this is a good way to comprehend the Chinese civil code. It is obvious that to be part of the global economy, China has borrowed certain standards that come from other countries. Nevertheless, as the Chinese civil code is first and foremost a code for the people of the PRC, the Chinese characteristics are conspicuous. For example, the Chinese draft civil code employs a three-year standard duration of limitation of actions, instead of the present two years. The reasons for this change are following. Since it has been only  a little more than 40 years after the Opening Up period, the Chinese people have not been fully  accustomed to the regulations and legal norms, as well as all legal procedures to have their interests heard, which is why a two-year period would be insufficient. Meanwhile, two years would not be too short for Europeans who have been living for centuries under their civil rules.

 

Juha Karhu, Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Lapland, Finland was Professor of Contract Law and Tort Law at the Law Faculty of the University of Lapland during 1993-2017. He was also Dean of the Law Faculty from 2013 to 2017. His research focuses on the foundations of commercial law, including themes like the role of legal principles in dynamic contractual networks, the methods of calculating damages in business relations, the legal protection of business assets in cooperation projects, and the role of fundamental and human rights in new global economy. His research is characterized by strong comparative perspectives. His international contacts include University of Munster (Germany), Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (London), University of Gothenburg (where he was part-time Visiting Professor 2012-2016), and Indian Development Foundation (New Delhi, one month in 2015). Professor Karhu was also active in building up his expertise on Chinese legal system, and relations with Chinese Law Schools (especially Renmin University of China School of Law). He is the honorary doctor of University of Gothenburg and University of Turku. He was also awarded the price of “Academic Lawyer of the Year” in 2019 by the Finnish Society of Lawyers, with special notice to his role in developing the co-operation between Finnish and Chinese universities and legal institutions.

 

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.

Björn Ahl and the pursuit of interest in Chinese law research

Björn Ahl is Professor and Chair of Chinese Legal Culture at the University of Cologne. He currently holds the position of President of the European China Law Studies Association. The Finnish China Law Center had the pleasure to conduct an interview with him on his personal experience and recommendations for students and young professionals in researching Chinese law.

Professor Ahl began with his law studies at the University of Heidelberg in the 1990s and spent one year at the Law School of Nanjing University as an exchange student to improve his Chinese and take classes in Chinese law. According to him, foreign students in Chinese law schools were very rare at that time. ‘It was quite an open atmosphere among students, and we had fascinating discussions about Chinese and international law issues’, he reminisced. After finishing his law studies in Germany, he worked for some time at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg, and then went back to Nanjing University to become the Associate Director of the Sino German Institute of Legal Studies. The interactions with Chinese colleagues and students during these times and being able to witness Chinese law’s rapid development had profoundly shaped his interests at this early stage of his career.

The focuses of Professor Ahl’s research include Chinese public law, comparative law and Chinese positions on public international law, and his main interests have always been comparative law and public international law. In his doctoral dissertation, he studied the application of international treaties in China. Since then, Chinese scholarship of public international law and Chinese state practice of public international law have become more and more relevant and complex topics.

During his teaching and research in Cologne, Professor Ahl has contextualized Chinese law by applying a concept of legal culture in order to tackle the challenges of studying Chinese law from an external and comparative perspective. He observed that while the context of law is regularly omitted in doctrinal legal research that takes an internal, participant-oriented approach to its object of study, external factors are more relevant for the understanding of foreign law if the people who study such law do not share the same preconceptions and preconceived attitudes as those who create and apply the law. Therefore, an approach to the research of Chinese law that is specifically sensitive to the historical, political, economic and institutional conditions of the creation, application and enforcement of law appears most suitable to avoid misconceptions and misrepresentations about the meaning and operation of Chinese law.

When being asked about the methodologies for conducting research in the field of Chinese law from the perspective of a foreign researcher, he pointed out that the answer to this question depends on the research question that the researcher wishes to pursue. However, if one likes to investigate a doctrinal question, he suggested that the researcher should not entirely omit context factors, in particular, if he or she takes a comparative approach. Otherwise, the researcher may end up with false or misleading results. He contended that this applies to the study of any foreign jurisdiction and does not pertain exclusively to Chinese law.

The interview concluded with Professor Ahl’s advice for students and young professionals wanting to go into researching Chinese law. He remarked that the fundamental basis of any meaningful research in Chinese law is a good proficiency in Chinese language. The next asset would excellent training in Chinese law. He recommended enrolling in a Chinese law school through an exchange programme as the most practical way to have the first exposure to Chinese law. He additionally noted that it would be very useful to get an insight into how law works in practice, which can be done through an internship in a Chinese law firm.

The Centre hereby takes the chance to express our gratitude to Professor Ahl for taking the time to participate in our Featured Researchers interview series.

Finnish China Law Center expands cooperation beyond the Nordic

The year 2019 oversaw the fruitful collaboration between the Finnish China Law Center, Saint Petersburg State University, and the Polish Research Centre for Law and Economy of China.

On 18 October 2019, the three institutions co-organized an international conference on ‘Methodology of researching and teaching Chinese law.’ The conference created platform for discussion on the issues of Chinese law research and teaching through sharing of ideas, research and practice. It ended in tremendous success in terms of both participation and reception. This suggested a strong interest among Finnish, Russian and Polish scholars and specialists in China law education and research, and strong potential for Chinese law-related inter-institutional cooperation.

The year 2020 promises further collaboration between the three institutions in the form of seminars, workshops, and dialogues.  For starter, researchers from Saint Petersburg State University, and the Polish Research Centre for Law and Economy of China will join and contribute their expertise in the Nordic China Law Week 2020 during 20 to 23 April  at the University of Helsinki.

The Center welcomes students, researchers, practitioners, and the wider public from all over the world to take part in an exciting week packed with presentations and discussions surrounding the current hot topics in Chinese law and legal culture.

‘The Center would like to take this opportunity to expand our impact in fostering education and research on Chinese law, and strengthen our contacts and partnerships with other institutions that conduct Chinese law research and education within and beyond the Nordic,’ says Director Ulla Liukkunen.

From left to right: Professor Ulla Liukkunen, Director of the Finnish China Law Center; Assistant Professor Piotr Grzebyk, Head of the Polish Research Center for Law and Economy of China; and Associate Professor Elena Sychenko, Head of the undergraduate programme in Jurisprudence (with an in-depth study of the Chinese language and legal system) at Saint Petersburg State University