A Nordic meeting of Nordic level collaboration in China law activities was held after the 10th Sino-Finnish bilateral seminar. The meeting took place at the Headquarters of the Nordic Investment Bank in Helsinki on 11 June 2019. The meeting was attended by representatives of Universities of Helsinki, Turku, Eastern Finland, Örebro, Lund, Oslo, Copenhagen and Peking.
The participants were received by the Bank’s General Counsel and Head of Legal Department Heikki Cantell who gave the Nordic delegation an insightful introduction to the history, culture and mission of the Bank.
After the introduction, the delegation was given a presentation on the enforcement of transnational labour standards by international financial institutions from a Chinese perspective by Associate Professor Chen Yifeng from Peking University.
In the meeting, the participants discussed developing Nordic China law cooperation in terms of research and education activities where synergy could be sought by joint activities. Professor Ulla Liukkunen introduced recent Center activities that have a Nordic dimension. Several future opportunities were discussed and will be developed further under the preparation of the China Law Center and the Faculty of Law of the University of Helsinki.
(Thanks to Mr. Jani Mustonen for contributing text for this article).
In a further sign of the strong and growing academic ties between the two institutions, a senior delegation from Peking University, lead by Vice President Tian Gang, has visited the University of Helsinki.
During her presentation, Professor Liukkunen noted that the Finnish China Law Center had for many years received strong input to developing its core activities from the Peking University Law School, which has worked together with the Finnish China Law Center and its member institutions on many research projects, as well as co-organized a number of international academic conferences, seminars and other events.
Professor Liukkunen also underscored her personal gratitude to friends and colleagues in Peking University Law School, including Professor Zhang Shouwen, Professor Ye Jingyi, Professor Li Ming, Professor Liang Genlin, Associate Professor Su Jiang, Assistant Professor Yan Tian and many others whose contributions have led to strong Sino-Finnish cooperation across different fields of law.
In addition, Professor Liukkunen noted that Professor Chen Yifeng of Peking University continues to play a key role in forging strong strategic legal research and education relationship between the universities, and increasingly China and the Nordic countries more broadly.
During the meeting, Professor Chen said he was proud of the existing collaboration and expressed CASS Law Institute’s wish to continue to deepen collaboration with ongoing facilitation and coordination carried out by the Finnish China Law Center.
Professor Chen also noted that he was pleased with the outcomes of joint research collaboration, especially labour law research and associated publications.
Professor Letto-Vanamo and Professor Chen approved further collaboration on research and publications. They also agreed to begin preparations for the co-organization of next year’s (10th) joint comparative law seminar.
(Thanks to Dr Yihong Zhang of the Faculty of Law of the University of Helsinki for contributing text for this article).
Reflecting a topic increasingly under public debate given the escalating effects of climate change, environmental protection featured prominently during the latest comparative law seminar organized by the Finnish China Law Center and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).
This year’s seminar focused on the environment and a range of other legal and social problems of global significance, as well as on effective responses to challenges raised by the inter-related and deepening processes of globalization and digitalization.
Professor Wen began by noting that the first green revolution was based on high-intensive agriculture, which vastly increased crop yields from the mid-20th century. At the beginning of the 21st century, a discussion has emerged around the need for a second green revolution. This debate has arisen because of the serious issues associated with high intensity farming, including eutrophication and loss of biodiversity.
The second green revolution, according to Professor Wen, urges more environment-friendly and sustainable approaches. Recently, scientists have suggested that the domestication of new crops would promote agricultural diversity and solve many emerging environmental degradation caused by intensive agriculture.
Domesticated crops refer to crops ‘in which the evolutionary process has been influenced by humans to meet their needs’. Professor Wen suggested that genome editing techniques (GETs) could be used as an efficient tool to accelerate the domestication of wild plants to providing enough food and livestock fodder in the future.
However, several legal issues pertaining to the feasibility of domesticating wild plants by GETs need to be addressed. Firstly, what kind of wild crops are to be domesticated and are they subject to existing international treaties such as Nagoya Protocol? Secondly, what will be the role of GETs in the process of domestication? Other questions arise arise, such whether this process should be subject to the current regulatory framework on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the EU, as well as and the implications of the ECJ ruling on GETs in July 2018.
In another presentation on environmental law, Professor Liu Hongyan of the CASS Institute of Law discussed the development of ecological rule of law in China, noting that political organizations and governmental organizations share the responsibility of supervising environmental protection in the country.
Professor Liu noted that judicial organs also actively facilitate administrative organs in enforcing environmental law. For example, the People’s Congress and the People’s Procuratorate are supervisory organs of the environmental law system and can bring up administrative litigation if needed.
The development of China’s environmental law, Professor Liu argued, has the following characteristics: First, the prevailing view is that China should build its environmental law system according to its own national conditions. Second, the development of the environmental law system is diversified. For example, some localities have become pilot points for new regulations before they are passed as laws. Third, the official position is that the enforcement of environmental law cannot be uniform, but instead should be promoted in different stages.
Professor Eftestøl-Wilhelmsson and Ms Yliheljo argued that there is a political call for a behavioural change in the transport industry towards more sustainable transport solutions, and discussed whether and how information related to emissions from carriage of cargo could be used to trigger environmentally friendly decisions and the use of transport alternatives with the lowest emissions.
Observing that emission information is already used as an instrument to combat emissions from transport in the aviation sector, through the European Emission Trading System (ETS) for example, Professor Eftestøl-Wilhelmsson and Ms Yliheljo argued that transport industries outside the ETS could also use emission information to reach the climate goals set for the industry. The scholars described how this could be done by ‘pushing’ the parties to actively consider the emissions from different transport alternatives. The information might work as a ‘nudge’ towards more environmental and greener choices, with new technology providing the necessary practical means for measuring the emissions and delivering the results in real time.
Another scholar from the CASS Institute of Law, Lin Xiaoxiao, analyzed the environmental damage compensation regime in China.
Professor Lin observed that the legal regime of public-interest environmental litigation is mainly reflected in the revision of the Procedural Law of the Civil Litigation. However, because other laws that are relevant to environmental litigation have not been revised, it is unclear how the laws should be interpreted in public-interest environmental litigation. Recently, there has been some new legislation that regulates public-interest environmental litigation, including the Land Law.
At present, the legal regime of public-interest environmental litigation has the following characteristics: (1) The purpose of environmental litigation is to determine environmental liabilities; (2) Procedural regulations are becoming more comprehensive; and (3) Substantive legal rules need to be complemented.
Public-interest environmental litigation is usually brought by environment groups, with leading cases including the Taizhou Public-Interest Case and the Dezhou Air Pollution Case.
Professor Lin said that the current legal regime of public-interest environmental has the following problems: (1) The piloting proposal of reforming the regime of ecological environmental damage cases issued by the State Council is not fully consistent with current legal regulations: (2) The definition of ecological environmental damage is not clear; and (3) It does not provide sufficient legal basis for plaintiffs’ claims for compensation.
In addition to environmental law, the seminar covered rule of law, legal reforms in the context of the emerging Internet-based ‘sharing’ economy, trends in Chinese and Nordic labour law and social welfare systems and civil law issues.
‘It’s important for the Center to build inter-institutional and person-to-person relationships across the Nordic region and between the Nordic region and the rest of Europe’.
‘Strong relationships with our European partners complement the Center’s network of partnerships in China’, Professor Liukkunen says.
‘I look forward to working with the Center’s Director, Assistant Professor Piotr Grzebyk, to exchange information and experience about conducting China law-related research and education, and to explore deeper forms of inter-institutional cooperation’.
Professor Kimmo Nuotio, Chair of the Center’s Board, welcomes this initiative. ‘I have noticed rising interest in China in Polish academic circles. I visited the University of Warsaw just few weeks ago on other matters, and I was impressed about the work being done there’.
The collaboration was discussed during a visit to Finland by Maximilian Piekut, Deputy Head of the Polish Research Centre for Law and Economy of China.
The goal of the Center’s activities is to enhance the quality of legal research in Poland and better implement innovative solutions in legal research for the benefit of science, business and society.
The School of Law and Economy of China, established in 2018 under the framework of the Polish Research Centre for Law and Economy of China, offers year-long interdisciplinary courses to students of all faculties, entrepreneurs and senior-level managers as well as representatives of state and local administration in charge of cooperation with their Chinese counter-parties.
The School’s program is designed to build up knowledge and understanding of the Chinese legal system, economy, culture and language.
‘The Center is proud to contribute to an important academic and social discussion within the Nordic region about the role and significance of law in China, and China’s increasing involvement in global affairs’, Professor Liukkunen said.
For Professor Liukkunen, the strength of Nordic China Law Week 2018 lay in the breadth and relevance of themes covered, the wide appeal of events to both the public and private sectors, and the involvement of scholars and participants from China, the Nordic region and other countries.
‘That the events during the Week were so well-attended testifies to the fact that Nordic interest in Chinese law and the Chinese legal system continues to grow’, Professor Liukkunen said.
‘I was particularly pleased at the diversity of participants during the Week. While the focus was primarily scholarly and academic, the organizers were careful to balance law, theory and concrete practice. This was important, including because of the Nordic business community’s deepening engagement with China’.
‘As Nordic China Law Week 2018 was organized to take account of both academic and practical perspectives, its events attracted participants not just from Nordic and Chinese academia, but also from legal practice, the Finnish corporate community – including entrepreneurs from Finland’s thriving startup scene, which is increasingly engaging with China – as well as participants from NGOs, international organizations, the media and the diplomatic community’.
‘For example, over 10 nationalities were represented among the more than 80 registered participants in the China Law Research Workshop. Startup founders, ambassadors, students, Finnish government representatives, leading Nordic scholars and representatives of multinational corporations discussed how to research and apply Chinese law, including the practicalities of doing field work and conducting business in China’, Professor Liukkunen said.
‘The Center is grateful to Professor Jukka Kola, Rector of the University of Helsinki, for his support of Nordic China Law Week 2018, including through holding a Rector’s Reception after one of the Week’s flagship events, the China Law Research Workshop, hosted by the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Professor Pia Letto-Vanamo’.
‘From the beginning, the Finnish China Law Center has received significant input to developing its core activities from the Peking University Law School, which has worked together on many research projects and co-organized a number of international academic events with the Center and its member institutions’, Professor Liukkunen said.
‘I would like to congratulate in particular my friends and colleagues from Peking University Law School, including Professor Zhang Shouwen, Professor Ye Jingyi, Professor Li Ming, Professor Liang Genlin, Associate Professor Su Jiang, Assistant Professor Yan Tian and many others whose contributions have led to strong Sino-Finnish cooperation across different fields of law’.
‘Assistant Professor Chen Yifeng has also been instrumental in building the strategic relationship in legal research and education between the University of Helsinki and Peking University, and more broadly between legal academia in China and the Nordic countries’, Professor Liukkunen said.
The round-table discussion was held as part of Nordic China Law Week 2018, and was attended by scholars from 10 universities in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway.
The event was was open to those affiliated with universities or research institutions in the Nordic region whose research or teaching relates to the law and China (including Chinese law, comparative law involving China, and China’s engagement with international law).
Professor Pia Letto-Vanamo, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Helsinki, chaired the meeting, which provided a forum in which scholars shared their China law-related activities and plans.
Forms and possibilities of inter-institutional collaboration at a general level were explored during the two hour-long gathering.
Scholars also discussed Nordic-wide involvement in events being organized by the Faculty of Law at the University of Helsinki and the Finnish China Law Center, including the 9th Bilateral Seminar on Comparative Law with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) (Beijing, September 2018).
As a result of the meeting, discussions are continuing between Nordic institutions about better coordinating the region’s approach to China law research and education and promoting knowledge and awareness of Nordic legal models and systems in China.
The meeting was one of many events organized during Nordic China Law Week 2018, with others including:
As was the case with the first Workshop, the event was attended by a diverse range of people. The over 80 registered attendees of more than 10 nationalities included university scholars, think tank researchers, diplomats, students, lawyers, those working in business (ranging from large multinational corporations to startups), entrepreneurs and government representatives.
Professor Julie Yu-Wen Chen, Professor of Chinese Studies and Director of Confucius Institute at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Helsinki, discussed the relationship between culture and research involving contemporary China.
Professor Matti Nojonen (University of Lapland), Deputy Chair of the Finnish China Law Center, drew upon his experience in China and ongoing research when talking about the ‘Intersections of Economics, Business and the Law in China: Implications for Legal Research’.
Another well-received presentation at the Workshop was given by Post-doctoral Researcher Dr Yihong Zhang (University of Helsinki), who drew upon her academic background and experience as a corporate lawyer in China when speaking on the China’s Company law regime.
The Workshop ended with Rector’s Reception hosted by Dean Letto-Vanamo, which provided an excellent opportunity for speakers and participants to network and have in-depth discussions about the themes covered during the Workshop.