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The Rule of Law with “Chinese Characteristics”

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4 Responses

  1. Lawrence Cunningham says:

    Fascinating report. What a great way to spend spring break, for you and your students, past and present! Two broad queries:

    1. Any news of the influence of the rule of law programs at Peking University (started a few years ago by Jeff Lehman, formerly Dean of Michigan Law and president of Cornell) or the one run by Temple University (started years ago by former Temple Dean Robert Reinstein)?

    2. Whatever the relative power of politics and law in China, do people appreciate the great distance between the ideal and the reality in the United States? There continue to be egregious instances in the U.S. where “politics trumps law.”

  2. Ray Campbell says:

    It’s a bit early for Peking University’s School of Transnational Law to have had much influence inside the Chinese system just yet. We graduate our first class this spring. With a faculty mainly drawn from the US and Europe, and with few of us fluent in Mandarin, faculty influence on China also has been indirect.

    That said, things are going well. We’re still a start up but things are falling into place. The students are amazingly good. Support from Peking University and of the city of Shenzhen (where we are located, next to Hong Kong) has been strong. Our students, among the very best in China, are graduating with a good understanding of Western culture and western legal systems, and will carry that with them to jobs in international firms, Chinese firms, multinational corporations and government. We are starting a law review, and our students have had success in the Jessup and Vis international moot court competitions. Over time, our influence will depend on many things (whether we are considered to be a ‘legitimate’ US style school by the criteria available to judge that, the success of our students, the excellence of our faculty) but there is extraordinary potential to play a meaningful role.

  3. Robert Percival says:

    The question whether people in China appreciate the gap between the ideal and the reality of U.S. law is an important issue. Given the state of their legal system, far too many Chinese students assume that U.S. law is perfect by comparison. One of my friends who teaches a course in U.S. public interest law in a Chinese law school reports that his students praised him for being their first professor to emphasize that the U.S. legal system is not perfect. The students reported that it actually gave them more hope to learn that it also was a struggle for the U.S. to reach the point where its legal system is at now.

    In my talk at the Chinese law firm in Shanghai I discussed the political flak our environmental law clinic has taken for suing the poultry industry for polluting the Chesapeake Bay. I noted that I had responded to this criticism by arguing that this is what often happened in China, but that it should not happen in the U.S. Unfortunately it does, and we must be careful not to lead the Chinese into thinking it is never a problem in the U.S.

  4. Ray Campbell says:

    My experience has been that many Chinese are actually pretty quick to note imperfections in the US political, judicial and economic systems, and on occasion to see equivalencies where things in fact are not really all that similar. It really depends. In general, Chinese students are more trusting and less cynical than US students of a similar age, and some glorify the west in the same way certain people in the US romanticize the east, but I don’t think it would be correct to draw a conclusion that all Chinese students or lawyers think our system works all that well. The preference for arbitration, for example, reflects concerns about the Chinese system, but it also reflects concerns about the US system.

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