July 15, 2011 — Paul G. Mahoney, dean of the University of Virginia School of Law, recently attended an unprecedented summit in Beijing between deans from leading law schools in the United States and China.
Mahoney, who last month joined eight other U.S. deans and 10 Chinese law school leaders at the summit, said China already has more than 500 law schools, compared to 200 in the United States.
"As with everything in China, the scale is simply overwhelming," he said. "China has become an important source of students in our LL.M. program and is becoming an important destination for our J.D. graduates." The LL.M. is the Law School's master of laws degree, and the juris doctor is the degree that the vast majority of law students receive.
Following the summit, the deans issued a joint statement outlining their shared principles, including recognition of and support for the rule of law and the objective of establishing ongoing two-way collaboration between top U.S. and Chinese law schools.
"The Chinese deans and policymakers, no less than the Americans, had a clear sense of connection between legal education and the kind of society China will become – one governed by administrative fiat or by law," Mahoney said.
The U.S. deans were organized by Michael Fitts, dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. In addition to the summit sessions, participants met for over an hour with State Councilor Liu Yandong, the senior Chinese government official responsible for education and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's partner in creating and advancing the Sino-U.S. people-to-people exchange.
Mahoney said he expects to return to China frequently in the coming years because his own research involves the impact of law on economic performance.
"China will be an important test case for the relative importance of economic and political reforms to prosperity," he said.
Fitts convened the two-day summit at the suggestion of then-U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who saw it as an important forum for Chinese and American leaders in law and higher education to come together on the basis of shared values and interests.
The joint statement issued by the American and Chinese law deans noted that they:
• "recognize and support the rule of law,"
• "agree on the importance of promoting the integrity of the legal profession," in the U.S. and China, and
• "agree to discuss mechanisms for future cooperation by establishing a joint committee to discuss and develop ways to move forward."
The U.S. law deans also met with U.S. embassy staff, as well as Tung Chee Hwa, the former chief executive of Hong Kong, and Gao Xiqing, the head of the China Investment Corporation, the sovereign wealth fund of the People's Republic of China.
List of China deans:
• Fu Zitang, president, Southwest University of Political Science and Law
• Ji Weidong, Shanghai Jiaotong University KoGuan Law School
• Han Dayuan, Renmin University of China Law School
• Liu Ningyuan, East China University of Political Science and Law
• Wang Zhenmin, Tsinghua Law School
• Xiao Yongping, Wuhan University Law School
• Xu Chongli, Xiamen University Law School
• Xue Gangling, Dean of Law School of Chinese University of Political Science and Law
• Yao Jianzong, Jilin University Law School
• Zhang Shouwen, Peking University Law School
List of U.S. deans:
• Evan Caminker, University of Michigan Law School
• Chris Edley, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law
• JoAnne Epps, Temple University Law School
• Michael Fitts, University of Pennsylvania Law School
• Larry Kramer, Stanford University Law School
• Paul Mahoney, University of Virginia Law School
• Robert Post, Yale Law School
• Michael Schill, University of Chicago Law School
• William Treanor, Georgetown University Law Center