Chinese Encounters with Foreign Comparative Law

Talk by Samuli Seppänen, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Thursday, November 19, 2020
5:00 PM - 6:30 PM
Live via Zoom

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Register for Zoom link here.

Do Chinese comparatists experience “radical difference” and its side effects—self-doubt, suspicion of cultural bias, and feelings of inadequacy—when they research American and European law? This talk examines Chinese legal scholars’ encounters with foreign comparative law. Chinese legal scholars’ attitudes to difference (and similarity) can be explained as reflections of these scholars’ ideological projects. Describing American and European legal systems in terms of similarity rather than difference supports Chinese law reformers’ efforts to advance and defend Western-style legal institutions in China. Conversely, conservative socialist and neoconservative Chinese scholars who resist Western-style legal and political reforms seek to emphasize cultural, social, and political differences between China and the West. Comparative law therefore allows legal scholars to relate to foreign law in various, ideologically meaningful ways. This talk, finally, discusses Chinese efforts to export knowledge about the Chinese legal system to China’s development partners.

Samuli Seppänen is an Associate Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Law. He holds an S.J.D. degree from Harvard Law School and an undergraduate law degree from the University of Helsinki, Finland. Samuli’s research focuses on legal and political thought in China and developmental aspects of international law. His book, Ideological Conflict and the Rule of Law in China: Useful Paradoxes (Cambridge University Press, 2016) describes Chinese legal scholars’ attempts to legitimize and subvert China’s state-sanctioned ideology, as well as their efforts to invent new “Chinese” rule of law conceptions.

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies