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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.