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:

 

 

 

 

 

The Artic Institute’s China Series

In today’s post, the Finnish China Law Center would like to introduce the China Series created by the Arctic Institute.

The Arctic Institute is an interdisciplinary and independent think tank with a mission of developing solutions for challenges in the circumpolar north by providing data, analysis, and recommendations to policymakers, researchers, and the public.

Over the past decade, China has shown an irrefutable growth of involvement in the Arctic region. In light of this development, the Arctic Institute launched the China Series which will offer a comprehensive account of China’s policies and interests in the Arctic. The China Series will consist of numerous articles and commentaries on China’s Arctic involvement from the angles of politics, economy, environment and social impact.

In January of 2018, a white paper titled “China’s Arctic Policy” was published by  the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. It solidified and expressed China’s interest in the region by setting policy goals and plans for participation by the government. The policy goal is simply stated as understanding, protecting, developing and participating in the governance of the Arctic, so as to safeguard the common interests of all countries and the international community in the Arctic, and promote sustainable development of the Arctic. It also sets China up as “near-Arctic state” thus giving it rights in the region to conduct scientific research, navigate, perform flyovers, fish, lay submarine cables and pipelines, and even explore and exploit natural resources in the Arctic high seas.

At the time this blog post is written, the first four texts have been published in the China Series. They cover China’s involvement in Greenland, China’s black carbon emissions, US concerns about Chinese threats in the Arctic, and China’s Arctic identity. The first article “The tortuous path of China’s win-win strategy in Greenland” by Marco Volpe (MSc.) examines the improvement of bilateral relationships between China and the Arctic States by investing into the regions, doing joint research and taking on environmental and safety challenges. The second text “Reducing China’s Black Carbon Emissions: An Arctic Dimension” by Yulia Yamineva (PhD, senior researcher at the Centre for Climate, Energy and Environmental Law, University of Eastern Finland) takes an environmental angle and delves into China’s black carbon emissions. The text challenges China’s policy on black carbon emissions and highlights the importance of future co-operation because of the vast possible impact globally. The third text goes into the risks relating to China joining the “race to the North”. Titled “Defining the Chinese threat in the Arctic” and written by Yun Sun (Co-Director of the East Asia Program and Director of the China Program at the Stimson Center), it highlights how the Arctic is becoming a new domain of the power struggle between the United States and China. The fourth text of the series “Identity and Relationship-Building in China’s Arctic Diplomacy” by Marc Lanteigne (Associate Professor of Political Science at UiT-The Arctic University of Norway) touches on the importance of the relationships of China and other stakeholders in the Arctic and the identity China is forming as a part of its Arctic diplomacy.

According to the Arctic Institute, the articles will help facilitate cooperation with China in the region by promoting the understanding of the political, economic, and environmental dimensions of China’s Arctic engagement. Currently, China is involved in mostly an economic capacity through a multitude of projects such as infrastructure and mining operations. In contrast, the governance involvement of China has been rather limited. The underlying message of the China Series seems to be that it is the job of policymakers to harness this presence for the good of the region.

This blog post was written by one of the Center’s interns, 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.

Photo by Bahnfrend

 

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.

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.

China-related contents via Kanopy video streaming service

The University of Helsinki, a member institution of the Finnish China Law Center, has arranged trial access to Kanopy video streaming service. Students and researchers at the University may access Kanopy through Helka-database with the username and password that has been provided by the Helsinki University Library.

Kanopy offers thousands of films, movies, documentaries and educational videos on over 80 subjects, including Asian studies. It, thus, presents a great alternative for Chinese law and legal culture enthusiasts during this exceptional situation where campus libraries as well as all learning facilities are closed.

Through the streaming service, students and researchers can select among a wide variety of contents which document China’s history and transformation from developing nation to the world’s next largest economy, investigation into Chinese political, economic and social systems, and understanding of Chinese traditional and contemporary culture and society.

Some key topics covered include:

  • China’s history
  • China’s Industrial Development
  • China’s world role China in Africa, Europe, Latin America
  • China’s political system
  • Internet censorship in China
  • Chinese economy
  • Businesses in China
  • China’s social development
  • Women in China
  • Conditions in rural China
  • China’s urban migration
  • Air and water crisis in China
  • Renewable energy in China
  • Education in China
  • Chinese law and criminal justice
  • Human rights in China

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

INTERNATIONAL MASTER’S PROGRAMME IN EAST ASIAN STUDIES WITH CHINA-focused COURSES AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TURKU

East Asia is an economically connected region with overlapping historical, linguistic, and cultural characteristics, as well as diverse nations and groups with different political systems and contemporary cultures.

For a more international perspective, University of Turku, a member institution of the Finnish China Law Center, sets up the master’s programme called East Asian Studies (EAST). With this Programme, participants will learn the sociocultural understanding and analytical skills of international relations and history development.

Students in the Programme would gain expertise on East Asian contemporary history, politics and societies and learn social science research methods. Additionally, they would have good opportunities for student exchange in East Asian universities as well as receiving East Asian study and research scholarships. The Programme provides expertise to enter international public, private and third sector professions. Students would also become qualified to apply to PhD programmes and pursue an academic career.

The Programme sets up six modules, including Study and Research Skills, Histories of East Asian Countries, Contemporary Politics, Societies, and Economies of East Asia, East Asia in Regional and Global Context, Master’s Thesis, Work Life Competences and Language Studies. It provides also courses on the following subjects about China:

Introduction to Chinese Contemporary History

Chinese Politics and Society

China’s Urban Governance and Sustainability

Chinese Economy 

Chinese Workplace Cultures

Chinese language study

The application period for the Programme begins on 8 January 2020, and ends on 22 January 2020 . For information about the application process and how to apply, please visit the Programme website.

The text is contributed by the Center’s intern, Ms. Zhiqi Luan. Zhiqi Luan is a graduate student at the China University of Political Science and Law, and an exchange student at University of Helsinki for the autumn term 2019-2020.

 

An interview with Prof. Kimmo Nuotio (Part II): Experience with Belt-and-Road and Chinese collaborations

Introduction to this blogpost

This is Part II of the two-part blog post on the interview with Prof. Kimmo Nuotio on his thoughts and recollection of the China Law Center, as well as other aspects of Chinese collaboration, including the Belt-and-Road Initiative. The interview has been done by our research assistant, Ngor Sin. Part I can be found here.

In Part II, we cover Prof. Kimmo Nuotio’s participation in Belt and Road Initiative-related projects, and his general experience of collaboration with Chinese scholars and education institutions. He also gave very insightful comments on his personal approach of how to collaborate with Chinese colleagues.

New Silk Road Law Schools Alliance and the related publication

One of the biggest efforts in BRI regarding legal science collaboration is the New Silk Road Alliance of Law Schools, which Prof. Nuotio has knowledge since the Alliance’s infancy. He recalled that during his visit to Xi’an Jiaotong University in 2014 to give the opening lecture of a Silk Road-related seminar, there was a discussion between him and the then-Dean of Faculty of Law of Xi’an Jiaotong University Wenhua Shan. During the talk for furthering cooperation between Chinese and foreign law schools, the idea of some new arrangement was developed. After some further exchanges and preparation especially on the Chinese side, the alliance was launched in 2015. From the start, the alliance aimed at bringing together high-quality Chinese and foreign law schools and having a regular platform for exchange of ideas and possible collaborations. Each year, the Alliance would hold Dean Meetings (such as the ones in 2016) as well as other academic conferences to discuss BRI-related topics.

Prof. Kimmo Nuotio signing the documents, bringing the University of Helsinki Faculty of Law in to the New Silk Road Law School Alliance in 2015.

The publication “Normative Readings of the Belt and Road Initiative” is the direct result of the conferences. This book is an early reflection of the legal aspects in BRI. In Prof. Nuotio’s opinion, BRI is mainly a foreign policy concept, but it is interesting to conduct research on this policy, as the legal aspect of BRI comprises of not only Chinese law, but also international law, especially rules regarding how China deals with its neighbours, how the BRI investments are made and are protected by legal regimes. He also mentioned the reason for this publication is to make the best use of materials published in the conferences, as he believe that all collaborations should be serious and should result in some sort of published works, so that the world at large also can read about the results of the academic collaborations.

“Normative Readings of the Belt and Road Initiative” offers normative readings on China’s master plan on foreign affairs, in the context of China as the rising power Covers fields including legal philosophy, Chinese philosophy, labor protection, financial mechanism, environmental protection and other non-trade aspects of the BRI Written for researchers and governmental actors.

General Experience of collaboration with Chinese scholars and institutions

Talking about his experience in China, Prof. Nuotio is very positive about his collaboration as well as visits in general. His recent seminar in Peking University on sexual offences was a success. The proceedings of the seminar, including Prof. Nuotio’s presentation and responses from the audience was recently published online (in Chinese), which Prof. Nuotio is very pleased to hear about. For him, although scholars are often responsible for high-level abstract knowledge production, there must be some groundwork done in order for the legal systems to develop. He also noticed that despite the geographical differences, discussions about problems arising from the legal systems of different countries, such as China and Finland, are almost always the same, thus comparative studies would play a vital role in assisting the development of legal systems.

Prof. Kimmo Nuotio sharing the Finnish experience in development of criminal law concerning sexual offences in Peking University in 2019.

From there, Prof. Nuotio also spoke about his general perception about collaboration with Chinese scholars and institutions in general. He regarded Chinese scholars highly for their openness and frankness. As a criminal law professor, he reckoned that sometimes society has wicked problems that must be confronted and solved, and scholars must be able to openly and freely discuss these problems. He noted the importance of scholars to be able to speak and exchange ideas freely, as only honest and frank exchanges among scholars are meaningful and productive.  He also noted the huge differences in social and political systems between Finland and China, and thought that it is the scholars of that legal system to solve their respective problems with their own ways. The academic exchanges were, in his opinion, rather to tell about experiences on how the respective sides have dealt with the problems commonly faced, and what are the reflections of developments or policies concerned.

Background of Prof. Kimmo Nuotio

Prof. Kimmo Nuotio is a renowned legal scholar with Chinese collaboration experience. He is currently the professor of criminal law at University of Helsinki and is chairing the Strategic Research Council. Previously, he was the Dean of the Law Faculty at University of Helsinki between 2010–2017, and was also the chair of the board of China Law Center between 2013–2019. He also has experience in collaboration with Chinese scholars and working with Chinese materials, including several seminars given at Chinese universities and academic institutions, as well as a journal article on comparative perspectives between Finnish and Chinese law — “the transformation of criminal law and criminal law theory in Finland and China”. He also recently edited a book concerning the Belt and Road Initiative — “Normative Readings of the Belt and Road Initiative”. He was also appointed as a member of Peking University Law School’s new Global Faculty in 2018.

An interview with Prof. Kimmo Nuotio (Part I): The development of the China Law Center from its infancy

 

Introduction to this blog post

In this two-part blog post, we would be reporting on the interview of Prof. Kimmo Nuotio, done by our research assistant, Ngor Sin. In the interview, Prof. Nuotio talked about how the China Law Center was first conceived and subsequently established, followed by his participation in the scholarly efforts on the Belt and Road Initiative and New Silk Road Law Schools alliance. Lastly, Prof. Nuotio recalled his personal experience and views on collaboration with Chinese scholars. Part II can be found here.

The first part of this interview blog post would cover Prof. Nuotio’s experience with the China Law Center, as well as his personal opinion on the impact and development of the work done by the  Center. In the second part, we would cover Prof. Nuotio’s participation in collaboration with Chinese scholars in general, as well as his recent involvement in the Belt and Road Initiative scholarly efforts and the New Silk Road Alliance of Law Schools.

The birth of China Law Center

Prof. Nuotio first recalled how the idea of establishing the China Law Center came about. In 2009, the Institute of Law, Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS Law) and the Academy of Finland agreed to collaborate in the field of comparative law, related to rule of law topics. Such collaboration resulted in several comparative law conferences held among Finnish and Chinese legal scholars, which has become a tradition since. Details of the conferences are reported on our blog: 2019, 2018, 2017).

According to Prof. Nuotio, the actual plan of building a China Law Center has been materialised in 2012-2013. Given the increase in collaboration, it has been noted that a coordinating unit between Finnish institutions and Chinese institutions is needed. Therefore, around 2012, discussions regarding the establishment of such unit initiated among the Finnish institutions, and the Center was formally launched in 2013. While the Center is based at the University of Helsinki, the whole Sino-Finnish collaboration, including the establishment of the Center, is a joint effort among all the Finnish institutions, which eventually become members of the Center.

Representatives of the Center, the Academy of Finland and the Faculty of Law of University of Helsinki visited Peking University Law School in 2013

Impact and other Thoughts about the China Law Center

On the questions regarding the impact of the China Law Center on Sino-Finnish collaboration, Prof. Nuotio is very positive about the Center’s work. He referred the Center as a national center for coordination of Sino-Finnish research efforts in legal sciences. Another notable achievement that the Center has obtained would be the China Law Center collection, which has been built with the assistance of the Center’s Chinese partners, notably Faculty of Law of Peking University, and is currently hosted by the University of Helsinki Library.

On the impacts that the China Law Center might have been exerting on the scholarly scene, Prof. Nuotio noted that research efforts are usually not easily quantifiable. Instead, it is the existence of the China Law Center that leads to many other possible Sino-Finnish collaboration. In his opinion, the China Law Center presents an alternative to the Chinese scholars on possible collaboration partners and opportunities. Through the Center, Chinese scholars have started to explore European and particularly Nordic legal tradition. Although the Center is not the only European institution engaging the same kind of work, it is the first one in the Nordic countries.

CASS President and delegation visiting the China Law Center in 2017

Prof. Nuotio remarked that the China Law Center is like a baby that he has built from scratch, since he has been involved in the establishment of the Center, and later was also heavily involved in the strategic development of the China Law Center. He is now very happy to see the Center’s current development and that it is very active in Sino-Finnish collaboration. He is also please to notice that every member institution of the Center is making the best use of the Center, and hope that this will continue under the new leadership of the Center’s Board.

In the next part, we will talk about Prof. Nuotio’s personal experience in Chinese collaborations and his recent involvement the Belt and Road Initiative-related projects.

Background of Prof. Kimmo Nuotio

Prof. Kimmo Nuotio is a renowned legal scholar with Chinese collaboration experience. He is currently the professor of criminal law at University of Helsinki and is chairing the Strategic Research Council. Previously, he was the Dean of the Law Faculty at University of Helsinki between 2010–2017, and was also the chair of the board of China Law Center between 2013–2019. He also has experience in collaboration with Chinese scholars and working with Chinese materials, including several seminars given at Chinese universities and academic institutions, as well as a journal article on comparative perspectives between Finnish and Chinese law — “the transformation of criminal law and criminal law theory in Finland and China”. He also recently edited a book concerning the Belt and Road Initiative — “Normative Readings of the Belt and Road Initiative”. He was also appointed as a member of Peking University Law School’s new Global Faculty in 2018.

Sanna Kopra and the Quest to Understand China’s Climate Politics and Arctic Agenda

Global warming and climate change is a topic that we see and hear about on a regular basis. When discussing climate change, it is impossible not to mention China. Sanna Kopra is a post-doctoral researcher in the Arctic Centre located in the University of Lapland and a visiting scholar in the Aleksanteri Institute located in the University of Helsinki and she has conducted extensive research into China in relation to climate change. Before examining her current activities in more detail, let’s revise her impressive academic history in the field of China.

Sanna has been interested in China for a lengthy period. Her interest was first sparked during her undergraduate studies, when she minored in Asian studies through the Finnish University Network for Asian Studies. “China had just become the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and it protested all attempts at setting emission reductions for developing countries. I examined China’s rhetoric in international climate discussions in my undergraduate thesis and this is something that still intrigues me”, Sanna reveals.

In addition to researching and studying China, Sanna has studied Chinese both in Finland as well as in China. Originally, Sanna envisioned taking advantage of her Chinese skills in her studies, but when her research developed and became more theoretical, there was no immediate need to utilize materials in Chinese. “For that reason, my Chinese skills have become more passive. In terms of my research, this is fine, as I’m interested in China’s role in international politics rather than China’s domestic policies”, Sanna observes.

Sanna has undeniably been active in her China studies. She obtained her doctoral degree in 2016. Her doctoral dissertation focused on China and the International Practice of Climate Responsibility. In addition to being a board member at the Finnish Peace Research Association, she is also a board member at the Nordic Association for China Studies.

Sanna Kopra (to the right) receiving the award for her paper on ‘China and International Climate Responsibility: Agency and Institutional Change.’ Photo credit: Liisa Kauppila.

All of her hard work in researching China and climate responsibility has certainly paid off. She won the International Studies Association English School Section’s Outstanding Research Paper Award last spring in the Junior Scholar category for her paper on ‘China and International Climate Responsibility: Agency and Institutional Change.’ Sanna divulges: “Barry Buzan, one of the gurus in the field, commented on the paper: ‘well done, read more, and carry on’. This alone was very reassuring for a young researcher like myself, but the award was the icing on the cake!”

Sanna has also recently published her first book named ‘China and Great Power Responsibility for Climate Change’, which deepens her earlier work on China and climate responsibility.

“Environmental responsibility is a meaningful way for China to define great power responsibility, and thereby legitimize itself as a great power. Although China has several domestic reasons to control climate change, Beijing is also unwilling to sacrifice its economic interests for the environmental good. This is why the European Union has a significant role – with ambitious climate politics the EU can encourage China to take even bigger responsibility”, Sanna discloses.

Cover of Sanna Kopra’s book, “China and Great Power Responsibility for Climate Change” (Routledge 2018). Picture credit: www.routledge.com.

The withdrawal of the USA from the Paris Agreement, and people’s increasing interest in the environment and sustainable development in general, underline the fact that Sanna’s book concentrates on an exceedingly current topic. Sanna flashes that she could even consider writing another book one day, but about China’s Arctic politics.

Indeed, several countries are interested in the Arctic and their resources, and China is no exception. One indication of China’s interest in the region is China receiving an observer status in the Arctic Council. This means that even though China has no voting rights, it can now participate in the Arctic Council as an observer country. Furthermore, the Arctic is “an important region for environmental sciences and China is interested in knowing how Arctic climate change can influence China in relation to food safety and weather phenomena, to name a few”, Sanna explains.

The Academy of Finland recently awarded Sanna with a three-year grant for her research on the rise of China and the normative transformation in the Arctic region in spring 2018. She is currently examining how the rise of China is shaping the processes in which notions of responsibility are defined, allocated and operationalized in the Arctic.

“While China’s Arctic interests have been studied a great deal, most of that research has failed to consider which values and norms actually guide China’s Arctic activities, or how China’s growing role in the area challenges the already existing norms and practices in the Arctic areas”, Sanna clarifies. This is what her current research delves into.

Sanna Kopra on a research exchange in Tromsø, Norway. Photo credit: Sanna Kopra.

When asked about her 2018 highlights, her response is immediate: publishing her first book and receiving a grant from the Academy of Finland. 2019 has also started memorably, as she is spending the first couple of months on a research exchange at the University of Tromsø in Norway. “I hope to learn a lot about Arctic politics and I look forward to meeting new people. I also wish to see amazing scenery – despite the polar night!”