On 8 September, the Finnish China Law Center held an informal meeting between Björn Ahl, Professor and Chair of Chinese Legal Culture at the University of Cologne and students and researched at the Faculty of Law. This talk was titled as ‘Why and How Do We Study Chinese Law in Our Times’.
The talk highlighted various topics relevant to the students interested in Chinese law: current challenges, the features of Chinese legal system, and many aspects of academic cooperation between Western universities and China. Not least due to China’s zero-Covid strategy, the loss of physical access to Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan has caused damage to academic world. Practitioners and scholars have lost a way to discuss and conduct interviews with each other and the access to primary sources has been limited or made more difficult as a result. In the long run, this isolation might even lead to the lack of interest in the subject by younger researchers if longer stays are not possible.
However, the talk also shined some light on possible career prospects that remain for European students of Chinese law. China and developments of Chinese law will be influential for Europe as well, and despite the current challenges, Chinese markets remain as the most attractive in terms of long-term growth. This indicates why there is an urgent need of expertise on Chinese law in Europe.
Cooperation will not be easy. Academic freedom is limited in China and censorship of research publications is constantly taking place. Demand for cooperation still exists and some speculate Singapore’s development into a center of Chinese law research. For Europe, however, the most crucial thing remains to be the co-ordination of teaching and research of academic institutions in Europe. In any event, cooperation continues to be desired.
The blogpost was written by the Center’s intern, Samppa Penttinen.
The China Law Week 2020 kicked off with the first session entitled “Chinese Law and Legal Culture – a Diversity of Approaches”. The session was chaired by Professor Pia Letto-Vanamo, Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki.
The session began with a presentation titled “Taking account of History When Researching Contemporary Law” by Professor Letto-Vanamo. She emphasized the importance of history when researching comparative differences. In Professor Letto-Vanamo´s opinion, knowledge of contemporary politics alone is not sufficient to understand the reasons for comparative differences. She found that the only way to understand Chinese Law is to understand its history, not just legal history but for instance philosophical history and general Chinese mentality as well.
In the second presentation of the session, Professor Björn Ahl from the University of Cologne discussed the different approaches to Chinese legal culture. He first explained the Chinese legal culture, observing that Chinese legal culture as a residual concept lacks explanatory value, invites essentialized approaches to Chinese culture, and more prone to legal orientalism. Professor Ahl then introduced the Chinese legal culture in law-related Chinese studies at the University of Cologne, pointing out that learning Chinese law needs to start from an external and comparative perspective.
The third presentation on “Dispute Resolution in China: A Language Perspective” was given by Associate Professor Joanna Grzybek from Jagiellonian University in Kraków, who is also Deputy Head of the Polish Centre for Law and Economy of China. Professor Grzybek started by giving the overall legal status regarding dispute resolution in China. She stated that due consideration should be given to how language affects international communication and our frames of mind. She stressed that not only legal, but also historical and sociological angles are needed in legal linguistics research.
Professor Johanna Niemi from the University of Turku gave the next presentation on “Law and Gender: Finnish and Chinese Perspectives”. She focused on the positioning of the researcher while doing research in another culture and especially when working with the experts from a society different from the one the researcher is custom to. She highlighted the importance of remembering that post-colonial is not just history in many countries but something that still has an impact on the work culture and relationships to other countries even today.
The session closed with the last presentation about “Criminal Law in the Context of Rule of Law: Finnish and Chinese Perspectives” by Professor Kimmo Nuotio from the University of Helsinki. Professor Nuotio talked about how differently Finland and China approach criminal law and the concept of rule of law. In Finland, criminal law has to be compliant with the constitution, meaning that the state must ensure the protection of every individuals’ rights as well as the division of powers and an independent judiciary. In China, however, criminal law has a long tradition of enforcing justice with harsh methods and not guaranteeing fundamental rights or independence of the judiciary.
The Center would like to thank our interns, Elias Jakala, Li Yuan, Anwar Al-Hamidi, Sukhman Gill and Johanna Fähnrich for contributing text for this article.
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.
The information session was attended by representatives from some of the Center’s member institutions, and focused in particular on the use of CNKI (Tsinghua University) and LawInfoChina (Peking University).
The Center provides access to LawInfoChina to its member institutions. More information about the LawInfoChina service offered through the Finnish China Law Center can be found on the Center’s blog.
In addition, later this year the Center will start a trial of certain CNKI products relating to legal research. During the trial, the Center’s member institutions will have access to these CNKI products. The dates of this trial will be informed on the Center’s blog when they have been finalized.