A bit of a delayed post here from Beijing. Our program is essentially two parts; first we study for three weeks at Peking University and then have an optional externship program for the remainder of the summer. I am participating in both and will keep you abreast of what life is like both as a student and summer associate at an American law firm in China.
Peking University is the most prestigious school in China. That may be an understatement. People literally line up outside the gates of the university to take pictures. Yes, there are gates. We have class each day for roughly four hours and then go on cultural trips in and around Beijing.
Something most people may not know is that law is a relatively new concept in China and is developing rapidly. The People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949 and the bulk of China’s law began only 30 years ago. For an ancient country with so much history, its law is very new. It is an exciting time for legal issues in China since so many of the policies are currently under reform. The country is making great strides in a variety of legal matters, but predictably in a country with over 1.3 billion people, change is not always fast. Below are two recent courses we have covered with brief recaps to give you a gist of what is happening and where things are headed.
Contract law: very new concept in China that has been essential to its economic growth. Contract law allows for foreign investment (big deal) but also domestic business partnerships between farmers and urbanities. People no longer need to exclusively do business with those whose families they know, trust, etc. Great for business!
Criminal law: obviously very important and developing. Major differences between China and the United States include: 1) China does not follow common law; thus, no case law; 2) China’s Supreme People’s Court is made up of over 700 justices and hears cases on a wide variety of issues; 3) judges in China do not write public opinions; and 4) there are over 3,000 “basic” courts in China and over 700 “intermediate” courts. A huge challenge for China is interpretation of laws since its judges do not have precedent or explanations from lawmakers. The courts use a handful of non-binding “guiding cases” as a roadmap, but outcomes can vary widely depending on location.
Recent cultural trips of note include Tiananmen Square, National Center for Performing Arts (The Egg), Summer Palace, and The Great Wall.
Tiananmen Square is probably the most famous location in Beijing. It is an essential stop for anyone visiting. During our visit, the square unexpectedly closed and we were quickly ushered away. Bonus excitement! It is enormous and looks even bigger when completely empty.
National Center for Preforming Arts (The Egg) is an ultramodern structure built for performing arts. It is located just behind Tiananmen Square and is representative of “New China”; very modern and sleek. I was fortunate enough to see the Philadelphia Philharmonic there.
The Summer Palace is a sprawling palace and lake located North of Beijing near Peking University. We wandered around the lake, checked out the impressive structures and meticulously kept gardens. It is a nice, leisurely visit that is very popular with locals and tourists.
Last but not least, The Great Wall of China. It is about 2 hours outside the city and is accessible from many locations on the wall. We went on a Saturday and hiked around for several hours. Words don’t do it justice. Definitely a must-see if you are in China.
Stay tuned for more adventures and a peek into what it is like to be a summer associate in Beijing!