As China's economy continues to grow and globalize, the legal community has
come to realize that the country's body of laws needs updating and globalizing,
as well. In some situations, China didn't have a law; in others, it wasn't
So, the country began sending judges and prosecutors overseas for legal
training along with lawmakers to bring legislation and law enforcement up to
Shen Xiaojie, a district-level prosecutor in his 20s from Shenyang, Liaoning
Province in Northeast China, was one of them.
After studying for 15 months in a programme offered jointly by Temple and
Tsinghua universities, he received a Master of Law (LL.M.) degree from Temple in
Shen and his classmates studied on Temple's main campus, located in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for two months. During the 13 remaining months, they
went to Tsinghua in Beijing, where teachers from Temple's Beasley School of Law
"A scholar once said that in the legal field, globalization is
Americanization to a large extent, so we have to learn from the United States,"
Shen said, referring to both knowledge and the way of thinking.
For example, courts in some regions in China began to experiment with plea
bargaining between the prosecutor and criminal defendant a procedure learnt from
the Anglo-American legal system, Shen said.
"Through systematic study, I know how plea bargaining is conducted in the
United States and how the system balances the interests of various parties," he
What he learnt in the United States and from his American teachers will help
him deal with some future reform measures, Shen said, but principles related to
China's legal code will not be changed solely through judicial reform.
"Learning from overseas will help China grow stronger," Shen said.
Shen and the other judges and prosecutors, who accounted for half of the
student total, did not pay the US$18,000 tuition. That was paid through
donations, according to Adelaide Ferguson, Temple's assistant vice-president for
Yuan Duoran, a civil and commercial judge from the Supreme People's Court who
participated in Temple's programme in 2000, said he learnt things from the
programme that he uses in his work now. "China's civil and commercial law system
and practices gained much from the US in the field of Securities Law,
Corporation Law and Trust Law," he said.
In fact, in the continental legal system, which China has traditionally
followed, there is no trust law, Yuan said: "So China's legislation governing
the issue was adapted from Anglo-American countries, mainly Britain and the
Another benefit: Yuan said his spoken and written English, which he used to
search for information, was enhanced considerably.
Wang Chenguang, dean of the Tsinghua University Law School, said sending
judges and prosecutors to receive legal education in the United States was
"With the deepening of China's reform and opening-up, Sino-foreign economic
collaboration is evident, and legal relations should be strengthened, as well,"
he said, as foreign investors and businessmen in China need legal guarantees.
Some of China's practices are not up to international standards, he said.
Judges, prosecutors and lawyers need to know more about foreign legal systems,
especially in the area of economic law, such as trade rules and World Trade
"We must train professionals so that they know both China's law and foreign
systems," Wang said.
But that doesn't mean that China needs to imitate the Western legal system,
"Although it needs to be reformed, China's judicial system basically suits
the country's condition," he said.
Wang stressed that as China's society is quite different from that of Western
countries, the Chinese judicial system cannot be expected to match theirs.
For example, some Chinese judges have adopted mediation more than their
foreign counterparts, instead of merely making judgements.
Even so, Wang stressed the necessity for Sino-foreign co-operation.
"The influence of globalization goes far beyond the economic field," Wang
said, noting that, for example, co-operation between China and other countries
on extraditing Chinese fugitive officials charged with corruption is
"We learnt the principles of presumption of innocence in the criminal code
and human rights guarantees in the Constitution from successful experiences
overseas," he said.
(China Daily 12/22/2006 page1)