China's First Annual Socio-Legal Conference, Shanghai, 2016

[Published]:2016-8-15 10:40:16

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On July 29-30th 2016, about 200 scholars working in the disciplines of law and sociology (many of whom well-known experts) and more than 60 graduate school students from all over China (some Chinese scholars coming from Hong Kong, Taiwan as well as Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Singapore, and United States) gathered together at the beautiful Xuhui campus of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, to attend the nationwide First Annual Conference of Socio-Legal Studies in China.  With the theme “New Visions of Law and Society”, the Conference was strongly supported by the China Law Society and its Shanghai counterpart, co-hosted by the Shanghai Association of Law and Society (established in July 2014 and chaired by Professor Ji Weidong) and the editorial board of the authoritative academic journal China Social Science, and organized by the KoGuan Law School of Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

At the opening session of the Conference, Professor Zhang Jie, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the President of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Mr. Li Hongyan, the Deputy Chief Editor of China Social Science, Mr. Lin Guoping, the Deputy President of the Shanghai Law Society, and Mr. Zhang Mingqi, the Deputy President of this Society, gave speeches.  The internationally well-known scholar of Law and Society, Professor Lawrence Friedman of Stanford Law School expressed his congratulations via videolink.  After that, Professor Zhu Jingwen of Renmin University Law School and Professor Ji Weidong of KoGuan Law School, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, made keynote speeches, titled respectively “Standards and Data Analysis in the Assessment of the Rule of Law in China” and “Decision Procedure and Legal Communication in a Risk Society”.  In the following roundtable discussion, eight scholars in related fields, Professors Cheng Jinhua, Qi Haibin, Ge Hongyi, Zuo Weimin, Zheng Yongliu, Wang Yaxin, Hou Meng and Liu Sida gave an overview of  the history of the law and society movement in China, analyzed  current studies, and predicted developments and tendencies in the future.

The Conference received more than 200 papers  from scholars in many diverse colleges and research institutions including  Peking University, Tsinghua University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Zhejiang University, Fudan University, Renmin University, Wuhan University, Xiamen University, Jilin University, Zhongshan University, Sichuan University, China University of Political Science and Law, East China University of Political Science and Law, Southwest University of Political Science and Law, Zhongnan University and Economics and Law. More than 80 authors were selected to present papers.  The Conference was divided into twelve specific sessions, including “Disciplinary Construction and Methodological Issues of Law and Society”, “Dialogues between Legal Dogmatism and Legal Sociology around the Draft Civil Code”, “State Governance in a Risk Society and Innovation of the Legal Paradigms”, “Public Law, Theory and Sociology of Law”, “Legal Profession, Judicial Institution and its Reform”, “Empirical Studies in Legal Institutions”, “Social Transformation, Disputes and their Resolution”, “Legal Behavioral Study and Cognitive Neuroscience”, etc.  Two “Young Scholar Panels” were also held as separate sessions.  Every session featured vigorous discussions, and even fierce debates, while the whole Conference manifested the friendly, healthy atmosphere of an academic community.  Especially worth noting was the fact that many legal practitioners including judges, attorneys and other specialists in legal interpretation who were either interested in or well-versed in legal-social methodology came from various cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, and Ningbo to participate in the discussions, which definitely expanded the cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral influence of the research paradigm of Law and Society.

After dinner on the 29th, Professor Ji Weidong presided over an academic salon on cross-border coordination between law and social studies participated by around 70 scholars of all age groups.  The salon focused on the discussion of methods to organize China’s socio-legal studies, international communication and cooperation, as well as mobilization for the 2017 International Meeting on Law and Society (a joint meeting with LSA and RCSL) to be held in Mexico City.  The salon decided to publish a collection of the papers of this Conference, to organize special issues in several academic periodicals, and, based on the minutes of the discussion , to formulate three policy proposals relating to Civil Codification, judicial reform, and grassroots ordering, which were to be submitted to relevant state authorities.

Another tenet of the First Annual Conference of Socio-legal Studies in China was to establish a large-scale platform of cross-disciplinary communication and cooperation, to integrate the gradually accumulated resources of China’s socio-legal studies over the past thirty years, to form a nationwide research network, and even to set up a Chinese Law and Society Association within the Law Society of China.  For these purposes, the conference was deliberatively opened up to public media.  A dozen mainstream newspapers like the Xinhua News Agency, Guangming Daily, Legal Daily, Wenhui News, China Social Science News and Xinmin Evening News, as well as two TV stations made news reports, which publicized the Conference to a considerable extent on a national scale.  Many participants in the Conference commented that conferences of comparable scale and quality, abundant content, attractive topics and vigorous debates, had been relatively rare in the legal discipline or even in all the social science disciplines as a whole during the past ten years.  As an epoch-making move, the Conference had no precedent and would make significant sense: the "law and society" movement would blaze a new trail on China’s academic map, built up efficient organizations and institutions, and presumably establish an independent disciplinary status.