MENU

Are You Serious!

I have landed, and it is 4:39pm on my 3rd day and already so much has happened. I have moved in, been to orientation, met new people, experienced four new restaurants, and made it through my first trip to Walmart. Oh but wait I’m getting ahead of myself. Nǐhǎo, 你好, Welcome to Gabrielle’s Shanghai!!  I am studying in Shanghai, China, a place with beautiful culture, history, and great landmarks for pictures not to mention all of the new foods to try.

Students at the 1st night dinner.

One of the fun and amazing things about it is I am a 5’11 foot African American female. Isn’t that exciting because I think it is. I am here for a couple of reasons one studying abroad has always been a dream of mine, two I have always wanted to go to China, three this is one of the first major steps into reaching my goal of becoming a cultural anthropologist and archaeologist, and last but not least four I am here for self-growth. That’s a lot of reasons I know right but all of which will make this trip both enjoyable and a learning experience. Now that you know why I am here let’s get back to the story I was telling. It is only 4:39pm on my 3rd day and so much has happened. I have been busy since I landed on Wednesday the 8th. Just imagine that it left on the 7th of February and flew 17 hrs to be here on the 8th. Then once I landed, I dropped off my bags and headed right back out the door to have dinner with the group. The group being about 40+ people who also

My roommate Emma and a another student named Gabriel.

are here to participate in the program. It is a great way to meet new People but also get lost in the beauty of where you are and what you are doing.  The following morning we were given breakfast, while watching the snowfall outside. From that, point on it was a harsh cold and windy day but that did not stop us from walking to Shanghai University of Economics and Finance campus (SUFE)

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SUFE gate at west entrance

where we had our first day of orientation. After orientation we paired up with our Chinese roommates (shìyǒu 室友 ), unfortunately our roommate had not arrived yet so we joined a group of people have come to know and set off to get SIM cards, dinner and go to Walmart. Such a long two days unlike today. Today was

way more of a relaxed Friday and gave me the time to sit and reflect on what has happened so far but the best part was the lovely acrobat show we saw at the Ritz-Carlton tonight. One of the coolest experiences yet. Even though it might be busy now on the first four days I must say I have accomplished so much. I never expected I would be able to go to a Chinese Walmart,

Walmart in Shanghai, Yangpu district.

shop and enjoy the company and adventures I have had already.

This has been a great start to my semester long trip and I’m glad I can share it with you. Until next time I’m Gabrielle and Welcome to my Shanghai!!

 

 

10 Differences Between China and America

China vs America
East v. West

Here are 10 major differences between China and the United States based on my experience in Beijing this summer. Though I highlight differences, there are far more similarities between the countries. People generally want the same things in life and there are many ways to achieve those results. That being said, visitors to China should be aware of these key distinctions.

  1. Population

It is difficult to fully grasp just how many people are in China. Nothing can really prepare you. China has over 160 cities with a population of over 1 million. The Unites States has 10. Beijing is a huge city, both in density and landmass. People are everywhere. All the time. This leads to insane traffic, packed sidewalks, and significant pollution. However, it also creates a palpable urban buzz similar to my experience in New York. It is exciting; never boring. People come to Beijing from all over China, bringing with them unique cultures that creates a truly world class city for the arts, food, and politics.

  1. Subway

Speaking of the population, the subway is profoundly impacted. Beijing’s subway system is very modern, highly efficient, and inexpensive. However, riding the subway anytime near rush hour is both thrilling and absurd. Throw in Beijing’s extreme summer heat and it is far from fun. Cultural differences start with the queuing up process. Each subway station requires passengers to enter through security and have bags screened in an x-ray machine. This process is unavoidable often takes a very long time. Next, riders line up jockey for position to get on the train. As the train doors open, absolute chaos ensues. People push in attempt to get off the train as others push to board the train. It’s like two rivers flowing in opposite directions, crashing into one another at the train’s doorway. Once aboard, don’t even think of lifting your arms, moving your legs, turning your head, etc. Absolutely packed. Always!

  1. Internet

Internet is widely accessible throughout Beijing. However, major differences are connection speed, reliability, and censorship. Hearkening back to the population, bandwidth issues are understandable given the number of people online. It is extremely frustrating trying to check email, let alone download a podcast or watch a video. Connection is also fairly unreliable. Some days it’s just slow or disconnects frequently. You will get used to it. On the other hand, it takes quite a long time to adjust to China’s internet censorship. Accessing social media like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram all require a good VPN. As do reputable Western news outlets like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Though certain websites are blocked in China, a VPN makes it appear as if you are in an unrestricted location (Hong Kong, Singapore, etc.). While this usually works, it makes the speed even slower. Access to information is vital for any nation. Censorship hinders productivity, business, innovation, and politics. Not being able to post a selfie on Instagram is the least of China’s concerns.

  1. Bathrooms

There are essentially two styles of toilets in China: “squat toilet” and Western style. As the name suggests, the squat toilets are basically holes in the ground and are found even in luxurious places. Hand soap and tissue paper is also somewhat uncommon. It’s a good idea to keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you.

  1. Pale Skin

Chinese people adore pale white skin. It is a sign of higher social position. There are many skin creams marketed to help people make their skin whiter. Majority of Chinese women use umbrellas and/or avoid the outdoors during the daytime. It is not uncommon to see women wearing jackets to cover skin in the summer. Beijing gets very hot. The Western idea of sun tanning is truly a foreign concept in China.

  1. Dining

It should go without saying that the food is much different in China. I happen to love it (check out my favorite restaurants). However, dining in China can be much different than other parts of the world (beyond chopsticks). First, the location of your seat matters a lot. The most important person in your group will always sit with their back facing away from the entrance. The next most important people will sit on either side of that person and so on. The person with their back to the door is often the one who will pay. When dining in larger groups, the table is almost always round and features a “Lazy Susan” that moves the dishes around the table.

Drinks (other than the occasional beer) are served warm or hot. Chinese people do not drink cold beverages; it hurts their stomach. Room temperature or hot is always preferred. Rice is also served at the very end of a meal, if at all. Rice is thought of as filler food and rarely ordered when dining at a restaurant. It is only ordered if you are still hungry after eating the main dishes.

  1. Clean Water

China does not have clean drinking water, even in “first tier” cities. As such, it requires drinking bottled or boiled water. In a country with over 1.3 billion people, this is a massive problem. Plastic bottles are horrible for the environment and the difficulty of getting clean water to those in poor, rural areas is significant.  1 Liter bottles of water can be purchased for 4 RMB or less.  Plan accordingly.

  1. Saving Face

Chinese culture values the concept of ‘saving face.’ Confrontation in public is highly discouraged. People are rarely seen arguing, yelling, and certainly not fighting. People never air out their differences in public. I once saw two scooters crash on the street. Both parties got up off the ground, looked at each other, picked up their scooter and road away. Not a single word was spoken. This would never happen in the US. As someone studying law, this is a unique challenge. People seldom sue one another or go to court. The idea of tort law is still very new and not widely used. This stands in stark contrast to America.

  1. Right of Way

In most countries, pedestrians have the right of way. Drivers wait for walkers to cross before passing through an intersection or street. Not in China. Cars are king here. When at an intersection and the light turns green, you must always check to see if cars are coming (even if their lane has a red light). Cars always have the right of way and people walking or on bikes must pay careful attention. Many of my American friends initially found it rude when cars nearly hit them while crossing a street only to later discover that they were in fact in the wrong. Pay careful attention to this difference!

  1. Dryers

Many homes will have a washing machine but none will have a dryer. In China, people hang clothes up to dry in the sunlight. Someone told me that they believe the sun helps clean the clothes. My hutong is lined with clothes hanging in the windows of apartments and our apartment has a sunroom dedicated to drying laundry on hangers. Though it takes longer and makes my clothes crunchy, I applaud the environmentally friendly method.

Summer Legal Associate in Beijing

Sheppard MullinWith former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

Now that the program at Peking University has concluded, I have started working as a Summer Associates at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton’s office in Beijing. Sheppard Mullin is an American law firm with headquarters in California and offices around the globe. The Beijing office does work in a wide variety of practice areas including Corporate, Intellectual Property, Antitrust, and Entertainment.

I feel very lucky to be working alongside a team of very bright Chinese attorneys. Partners James Zimmerman and Scott Palmer are leaders in their fields and Special Counsel Becky Koblitz is an expert in Antitrust law. Needless to say, it has been a great experience, thus far. Mr. Zimmerman is also the current Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce China, which has provided additional opportunities to learn from and network with business executives navigating the complexities of doing business in China.

My second week at the firm featured events with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (pictured above) and a reception for the Shanghai International Film Festival with Robb Klein who heads up the firm’s entertainment practice. Both were insightful discussions touching on legal issues that I care deeply about.

I am also fortunate to work alongside other talented Summer Associates from the United States. I wanted to give you a chance to learn a little about each of us.

Beijing, ChinaCelebrating the 4th of July with AmCham China in Beijing

Betsy Tao
Indiana University Maurer School of Law
Rising 3L JD/MBA
Legal Interest Area: Intellectual Property and Technology

Why did you come to China: My law school sponsors a global summer internship program to send IU students into summer positions around the world. I applied to the China placement because I was interested in working for a US-based firm on international intellectual property issues.

What has surprised you most about China: Beijing is a just a very large Chinese city. As one of the largest cities in the world, I expected to find a more global atmosphere, specifically in terms of food, language, and daily interactions. There are Western influences like American fashion brands and modern office buildings, but Beijing remains deeply true to its own culture, history, and traditions, even as it grows as a global center of commerce.

Would you recommend a summer associate position in China to an American law student? YES! Any chance you have to live and work outside your home base will broaden your experiences and perspective. China is an interesting legal market, and many firms here work for international and/or global clients. Intellectual property is an especially interesting practice area in China because of the cultural and political differences from the United States on the concept and enforcement of intellectual property. Having the ability to research global issues, communicate with colleagues and clients from other cultures, and navigate a foreign legal market and foreign city are all skills that will make you a better lawyer. And—it’s an adventure!

Advice on working in China: Practice Mandarin! Your office may or may not use English, and you will not be able to speak English in most restaurants, stores, or taxis. Try to learn at least a few basic phrases. Do your research about the practice area in which you will be working before you leave; know what resources you will and will not be able to access on the Chinese internet. Be open-minded – try new experiences and new foods; travel around the city and the country, if possible; embrace the difference in the local culture; and look at your experience as a grand adventure (it is!).

Xiao Ma (肖)
Indiana University Maurer School of Law
Rising 3L
Legal Interest Area: Dispute Resolution

Why did you come to China?
To get an experience of working in an Am100 law firm.

What has surprised you most about China?
The fast-growing Chinese legal market.

Would you recommend a summer associate position in China to an American law student?
For those who may have an interest in practicing International law, the knowledge of China, especially Beijing, would be a great fortunate for your career.  There are some things you just cannot learn from a book or others, you need to see and feel by yourself.  For those who just want to practice domestic transactional work, a summer in Beijing would also be very helpful.  Sino-American business will take a big portion of the American legal market in future, some basic understanding of Chinese business and Chinese law can be help you stand out during the recruiting season.

Ryan Chan
University of San Francisco School of Law
Rising 2L

I came to China because in college I’ve always wanted to study abroad either in Beijing, China, or Hong Kong. Moreover, since I am Chinese, I have always wanted to learn more about my own culture/history. I also feel most comfortable here.

What surprised me most about China would be the pollution and language barrier. As I have heard before arriving, China’s pollution is terrible but it is another thing to see it in person. The pollution looks worse than the fog in Daly City, CA. Coming to China, I thought I could easily communicate with other Chinese people. However, Cantonese is very different from Beijing’s Mandarin.

I would recommend a summer associate position in China to an American law student only if the firm is an American law firm. I can’t imagine working in a Chinese law firm if everyone there speaks Mandarin.

Maria Crespo
University of San Francisco School of Law
LLM IP, Mexico
Legal Interest Area: International Transactions, International Intellectual Property

Why did you come to China: Sheppard and Mullin offered a unique opportunity to expand my international transactions background and knowledge in Intellectual Property (Trademark) law with Chinese legal exposure.

What has surprised you most about China: The culture is amazing, cuisine, music, architecture, to mention some.

Would you recommend a summer associate position in China to an American law student?  I strongly recommend a summer associate experience in China, and strongly recommend Sheppard and Mullin as a supportive and educational experience. My experience at Sheppard and Mullin is had been great, it is a pleasure to have such a smart team. I learned the Chinese legal process in trademarks, and how to understand the Chinese cases. Sheppard and Mullin’s employees were very helpful for me to accomplish this goal.

Olivia Sullivan
Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Rising 2L
Legal Interest Area:  International law- commercial litigation

Why did you come to China: I came to China because I took an introduction to Chinese law course at Loyola and was intrigued by both their legal system and culture. I’ve always been interested in international law and China is the place where many companies are taking their business so it seemed like the best place to get experience. China is also a great place to experience new culture and really good food.

What has surprised you most about China: We were told over and over again in our Chinese law course that the laws in China were vague and overbroad, it isn’t until you start reading and interpreting the Chinese laws for clients that you really realize how vague they really are. It makes practicing law here a lot more complex. I’m also surprised how many weird bathrooms there are and how delicious lizard wine is.

Would you recommend a summer associate position in China to an American law student? I would recommend a summer associate position in China 10 times out of 10. The work is engaging and very different from anything you will get to do in the US. Very few other summer associate positions will offer you challenging legal work while also immersing you in a whole new culture. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have something really interesting to talk about during an interview!

Jessica Peterson
Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Rising 2L
Legal Interest Area: antitrust, corporate, international

Why did you come to China: I studied Chinese language at Michigan, and since studying abroad in China in college, I’ve wanted to work for a global law firm in a different country. When I got the opportunity to work at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, LLP in Beijing, China, I immediately took it, as it allowed me to do exactly what I’ve wanted to do. This job has not let me down! Working and living in Beijing, meeting expats, attending AmCham China events and hanging out with my co-workers has been so fun and such a great experience!

What has surprised you most about China: How crunchy the scorpions at Wangfujing Snack Street were. But on a more serious note, I was surprised by how accepting the Chinese people are of foreigners. Any time I’ve talked with a Chinese person, in English or in broken Chinese, they’ve always been very kind, willing to help. Another thing I was surprised about was how I’ve never felt unsafe in Beijing, even walking around at night. My apartment is pretty far outside of the city center (between the 5th and 6th rings), and no one speaks any English where I live, but I’ve never felt as though I were in any danger, and most people want me to help them learn English and they’ll help me with a few words in Chinese.

Would you recommend a summer associate position in China to an American law student? YES! Absolutely! We not only do very interesting work, but we are treated like attorneys rather than associates. I have been given work that is given to the client. It is satisfying knowing that I’m doing something that could have an impact. Additionally, working in an American firm in China is such a unique experience, as we are both using what we’ve learned about US law, and learning different areas of Chinese law. It is very interesting to compare and contrast the two legal systems and analyze them side by side.

Keith Kelly
University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law
Rising 2L
Legal Interest Area: Intellectual Property, Entertainment

Why did you come to China: I am intrigued by China and its evolving legal system. I took the opportunity to study comparative law at Peking University this summer and was fortunate to secure a position as a Summer Associate at Sheppard Mullin. There may not be a more exciting place in the world for entertainment law than China right now. Their film industry is set to surpass Hollywood by 2017 while facing unprecedented levels of IP issues. Also, the food.

What has surprised you most about China: The amount of people in Beijing. They are everywhere. I have lived in New York City for most of my adult life and am generally accustomed to big cities. Beijing is on a completely different level. Subway rides during my morning commute are both exciting and absurd. Also, the people here are extremely nice. All 1.3 billion of them!

Would you recommend a summer associate position in China to an American law student? Yes, without a doubt. Regardless of what kind of law you plan to practice, you will deal with China at some point. It is an extremely fast growing economy that is vastly different from the United States politically and legally. I can’t imagine a better place to learn from some of the best attorneys in the world while also being immersed in a wholly foreign culture. If you want to be challenged and truly learn, China is the place you need to be.

Chinese Law Clerks

Jianzhong Huang
Hometown: Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
Law School of Tsinghua
Recently graduated with Master’s Degree.

Why did you decide to become an attorney: When I was considering what major to choose after I graduated from high school, someone (I can’t remember who he is) told me that being a lawyer will bring me endless money.

What do you like most about law in China: we don’t need to follow precedent cases.

What do you like most about US law: It is practical.

What is it like working at an American law firm in Beijing: Respected

Zhihua Zhou
Hometown: Henan Province
China University of Political Science and Law
Year In School: From 2014 to 2017

Why did you decide to become an attorney: I think it’s exciting to see different cases everyday, and you can give a resolution from the legal perspective.

What do you like most about law in China: It’s changing fast, and heading to the right direction.

What do you like most (and least) about US law: It’s precise. I think, it’s like the judge will create a formula to decide a case.

What is it like working at an American law firm in Beijing: I don’t have to worry about trying to impress my boss or colleagues all the time. I only need to do my job well.

Notes From Peking University Exchange Students

UMKC_ChinaPhoto: Kara BAI

As I wrap up writing about the school portion of UMKC’s China Summer Program at Peking University, I would like to take a moment to thank a few people whose dedication and hard work make this program possible.  Professor Tim Lynch leads the program for UMKC and knows Beijing and the intricacies of Peking University very well.  His relationships with PKU have been a tremendous asset.  Nancy Kunkel is the UMKC program coordinator and serves as the go-to person for nearly everything.  Her commitment to the program is truly remarkable.  The staff at Peking University’s Overseas Exchange Center far exceeded any expectations, particularly Kara BAI.  Her guidance during cultural trips and with general questions made the experience go very smoothly.  I can’t thank each enough for their help this summer.

I thought it would be nice to highlight some stories from fellow classmates. We had a diverse group of students from law schools in Oregon, Georgia, Canada, and Kansas. The program is open to JD and LLM students as well as practicing attorneys for CLE credit (we had one from Texas). To learn more about the program, click here.  I highly recommend it for any law student

Here is a little from a few students:

Courtney Ruby
University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law

Why did you decided to participate in this program and come to China?
I decided to participate in this program and go to China because it seemed like the most efficient and interesting way to broaden my horizons. I have never been out of the country. I don’t speak any Mandarin, haven’t lived in a huge city, and am generally very picky about my food. I love the architecture from what I’d seen online, in books, and at theme parks, but I couldn’t even use chopsticks! So China was either going to force me to realize I can do a lot more than I thought, or I was prepared to spend six weeks curled in a corner.

What has surprised you most about China, thus far?
China has been the most surprising in the fact that it doesn’t feel “weird”. Things are different – like the language, manners, and food – but after a few days here it was like a new home. I feel safer walking around in Beijing than I do in Kansas City. The subway is easy to use. The people go outside to dance and play in ways that no one does back home. Adults play on the playgrounds almost more than the kids seem to. It’s not the China I pictured. I know I’ve barely scratched the surface, but it is far different – and better – than I expected.

Have your horizons been broadened?
I’m happy to report there’s no huddling in corners. I went through a few days of feeling like I was just wandering a huge theme park, but that faded in time. Now I know how to use chopsticks, the subway, and squatty potties. Horizons have definitely been broadened!

Joshua Honn
University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law

Why did you decided to participate in this program and come to China?
Lawyers entering the workplace today will have to deal with China’s emerging significance and even dominance in the world economy. Seeing China first hand will provide invaluable context and appreciation for this unique and interesting place in the world.

What has surprised you most about China, thus far?
Before coming over here, I read horror stories about the disastrous levels of pollution and smog that sit over Beijing. There were images online of horrible, thick clouds of pollutants. Such images depict smog clouds that hang over everything, limiting vision to a few meters and people scuttling along with masks on. The actual view in Beijing for the time I have been here has been rather beautiful. This is not to say that some days do not appear with a slight haze, but those days have been far outnumbered by those with clear skies and cool breezes.

Christin Tolle
University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law

Why did you decide to participate in this program and come to China?
I’ve studied abroad in Europe before, but I try to push myself to do things that scare me a little, and China seemed so foreign and different.  I’m interested in International Law, and I’ve always wanted to travel as much as possible, but China seemed like a very intimidating destination.  So, I decided that if I was ever going to have the courage to go, now was the time.  Plus, I got five law school credit hours from three weeks of coursework…and I got to do it in China!

What has surprised you most about China, thus far?
At least in Beijing, it’s not nearly as different as I thought it would be.  It basically feels like every other big city I’ve ever been to, except instead of signs in English there are Chinese characters everywhere.  People are friendly, and communicating with hand gestures and a handful of Mandarin vocabulary words is surprisingly easy.

Favorite part of the trip?
Hands down the middle of the night bike ride to Tiananmen Square.  This is something unique to this program, not something that people regularly do in China.  My professor and a few of my classmates rented Chinese bicycles, woke up at 2:30 a.m. and rode from our hotel at Peking University to Tiananmen Square to see the sunrise flag-raising ceremony. (The sun rises at 4:30 a.m. in Beijing)  After spending more than two weeks in a city that is constantly crowded and noisy, seeing it at 2:30 in the morning when it is almost completely quiet and the streets are empty is an indescribable experience.  If you participate in this program, this is a can’t-miss.

Why you should go?
It’s not as scary as you think.  It’s not as different as you think.  It’s ok if you don’t speak a word of Mandarin.  The cultural experience is phenomenal, and the food is amazing.  This trip will change your life!

Queena Zhang
University of Kansas School of Law

Why did you decided to participate in this program and come to China?
I came to China to do my externship simply because I want to learn as much as possible the Chinese legal system and Chinese laws in practice as I do have a strong desire to practice my law degree in China after graduation and to serve the Chinese clients.

What has surprised you most about China, thus far?
During my stay in China, I have been greatly fascinated by the rapid development in all aspects of life. People here are industrious, hardworking, open-minded, easy to approach and peace-loving. With the economic growth, the Chinese people are enjoying a higher standard of life, and are willing to learn and accept new ideas and try new things.

Max Goins
Lewis & Clark Law School

Why did you decided to participate in this program and come to China?
I decided to participate in UMKC’s China Law program on the basis of a mentor’s recommendation.

What has surprised you most about China, thus far?
What’s surprised me most about China in general and Beijing in particular is how much I like it here: I love the food, the parks, hanging out with the robust elderly crowd early in the mornings, how great the subway system is, and how friendly and helpful everyone’s been; also surprising is how much China has accomplished in the past 30+ years since the decided to “open” their country up to the rest of the world. 

Thomas Hedden
Lewis & Clark Law School

Why did you decided to participate in this program and come to China?
I decided to participate because I felt it was a unique opportunity that will not come up again, and the price was quite reasonable.

What has surprised you most about China, thus far?
I can’t say anything in China shocked me too much.  I read the information packets written by previous students, which were very useful and informative.

Demi Jacques
Lewis and Clark Law School

Why did you decided to participate in this program and come to China?
I was interested in going to India for a Human Rights internship (where I am now), and when I talked to Prof. Klonoff about it, he suggested the UMKC China program as well. The timing worked and it was a fantastic opportunity for me to start learning about comparative law, especially with a country as important to the US as China.

What has surprised you most about China, thus far?
It was not my first visit to China, so the trip wasn’t full of too many unexpected surprises. I was surprised with how fast the program went by, I’m already in India! What was unexpected was perhaps that eating and accommodations were nicer than my previous study abroad trip in China, which was both nice and sometimes frustrating when I wanted to reminisce but couldn’t find a dish I ate in little restaurants before or something. Overall though, the trip was wonderful and I learned a ridiculous amount in a few very packed weeks.

Christine D. Herron
Hess Corporation

Why did you decided to participate in this program and come to China?
PANDA BEARS and I have always loved to travel and experience new cultures. One of my biggest achievements in life would be to visit all 7 continents. Additionally, I take the opportunity to network very seriously. I was fortunate enough to meet an amazing IP attorney from Budapest on the Great Wall of China, in town for a conference on IP law, and rising 2Ls from Ohio State Law School while traveling in Chengdu and volunteering at the Panda Reserve. These connections are worth bragging about. This trip opens a lot of doors to Law Students and Attorney’s alike, doors that without the trip would be unknown.

Chinese Law and More From Beijing

Forbidden City

This was our final week of the summer program in Beijing. We were fortunate to have Mr. Wu Zhipan, Vice President of Peking University, lecture for a day on China’s financial law and it’s cultural environment. Mr. Wu is a highly respected scholar and professor; we were very lucky to learn from him. He walked through China’s financial ups and downs (lately, mostly up and up). We discussed the Chinese stock market, how consumers pay for purchases here (almost always mobile), the concept of Intellectual Property law (very new idea for China), and the breakneck speed at which Beijing’s real estate market has grown. It was certainly one of the highlights of the education portion of the program.

Prior to Mr. Wu’s lecture, we moved to a new classroom for a day due to the arrival of India’s Prime Minister, Narenda Modi. Bonus excitement!

Other Chinese law facts of note:

  • Property owners do not own the actual land in China. Surprise, it is owned and controlled by the government. People are essentially granted fixed-period land use rights that must be renewed periodically.
  • China has a “hukou” system that prohibits persons from moving freely throughout Mainland China. Citizens must apply for permits that allow them to move to certain areas (a Beijing or Shanghai residency permit is very valuable).  The cost of driving in Beijing (the car, driver’s license, license plates, registrations, etc. is extremely expensive).  Nonetheless, traffic is awful!
  • Employment law favors employees much more than the United States. There are fixed-term periods for employment and it is often difficult for an employer to fire an employee.
  • State Owned Enterprises (“SOEs”) are prevalent in many of the key industries in China (banks, telecom, and to a certain extent the film industry). This can be good and bad, but certainly restricts competition in the marketplace (thus, higher prices and lower quality products).

Some of the “cultural trips” of note for this period included: witnessing a trial, a visit to the Supreme People’s Court, the Bird’s Nest, eating Sichuan style crawfish, meeting with local Peking University law students, and visiting the law firms of Zhonglun W&D and Sheppard Mullin.

UMKC China Program

Fellow UMKC classmates Cody Ford, Joshua Honn, and I at the Haidian District Court.

Access to courts is rather rare for foreigners. Luckily for us, PKU is super prestigious and provided us a level of access few will see. The trial we witnessed seemed like a well-orchestrated play. Translation was difficult but essentially the defendant was on trial for extorting money from a woman through WeChat (wildly popular messaging app in China). He did not present much of a defense and was convicted and sentenced accordingly.

Supreme People's Court

With Supreme Court Justice outside the Supreme People’s Court

Once again, affiliation with PKU gave us the very rare opportunity to visit the Supreme People’s Court of China. We were able to speak with a Supreme Court Justice and discuss how the court operates (there are over 700 justices) and the challenges facing China’s legal system. This was a major highlight and something I will never forget.

Beijing National Stadium

Beijing National Stadium

We visited the grounds of Beijing National Stadium (aka The Bird’s Nest). This stadium was constructed for the Beijing Olympic games in 2008. It is a modern structure with mixed reviews by locals. I found it rather nice.

Beijing Sky

Sichuan Style Crayfish + the Amazing Post-Dinner Sky

You would not know from reading this blog, but I am a food enthusiast. I know, we all eat food. But… I love trying new food anywhere I travel. This particular occasion, a few classmates and I walked to a nearby restaurant that had great reviews online. It turned out to be a modern designed restaurant (think Jetsons) that served Sichuan spicy crayfish. It was spicy. It was great.  Also pictured is the (rare) awesome sky after our meal near Peking University.

UMKC Law China Program

Most of the group at our farewell banquet

We had another group feast after taking our final exam (yes, there is an exam). It was a really nice Peking duck restaurant. Lots of great food and really great people. Pictured here is most of the group.  Students came from across the United States and Canada and each person was truly great. Each has a unique story to tell and I will share some of those with you in the following blog.

Stay tuned for more from other students on the UMKC Law China Summer Program and my experiences as a Summer Associate in the Beijing office of Sheppard Mullin.

Tiananmen Square, The Great Wall and Beyond!

The Great Wall of China

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.

Forbidden City

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 Performing Arts

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.

Summer Palace

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.

The Great Wall of China

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!

Welcome to Peking University in Beijing

Peking University

Welcome from Peking University in Beijing, China!  My name is Keith Kelly and I will be your official guide into the life of a law student and summer associate here in Beijing, China.  UMKC Law has an amazing exchange program with Peking University that provides students from around the United States and Canada the opportunity to study for the summer at the most prestigious university in China.  Classes started Monday and will continue through June 5th.  The program gives students the chance to learn various aspects of Chinese law from the most prominent scholars in Asia four hours every morning, followed by a cultural tour of Beijing each afternoon.  Thus far, we have visited the Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace.  Tomorrow, we will learn more about Chinese criminal law and visit Tianamen Square!

Peking UniversityPeking University

Peking University campus

Many more updates on the great food and sights from in and around Beijing on the way.  Stay tuned!