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The future of China, “a country that will have a tremendous influence on the world economy politically,” Temple University Law Dean Robert J. Reinstein says, is inextricably tied to the success of Temple’s master of laws program established four years ago. For this reason, he said, Temple University’s Beasley School of Law has received a $2.5 million endowment to bolster its master of laws program in China. Temple received its gift from the Starr Foundation, American International Group’s charitable-giving organization. The Starr Foundation’s president, Florence Davis, said that the organization disseminates its grants among a number of institutions. By offering its second grant to the law school, on top of the original $2 million it issued at the program’s start, it renewed its support for the goals and accomplishments of the Beijing satellite campus during its four-year life span, she said. The program’s political implications extend these benefits far beyond the university itself. The program is a part of the process toward establishing a solidified rule of law in China. AIG, which was founded in China and is a leading advocate for China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, holds a major stake in a reinforced and credible legal system. The organization decided to start by tackling the root of the problem, in funding Temple’s efforts aimed toward the education of Chinese judges, legal officials, law professors and lawyers on U.S. and international law. The push toward China’s WTO membership rests on the backs of other supporters as well, including the U.S. government. Last year, the law school received the first federal grant ever to be received by an American university supporting a rule of law program in China. According to the dean, the program has amassed more than $10 million. Other Starr Foundation beneficiaries, including Brigham Young and New York universities, have embarked on plans to participate within Temple’s initiative in China. With its faltering legal system and socialist government, China appears to be an unlikely setting for the establishment of a law program. So why did Temple set up camp in China, anyway? The first reason is simple enough. “They invited us,” Reinstein said. The Chinese government has demonstrated a willingness to incorporate aspects of the U.S. legal system. That may come as a surprise considering China’s long history of sparking international outrage over its labor laws and criminal punishment. Nonetheless, the curriculum does not shy away from the rights of employees and criminals. Reinstein said that an additional reason for the program was the generation of a “high-quality educational program” in China. That goal, he said, could be fulfilled within this initiative. The incentives carry over to the professors as well, who will embark on new challenges and gain tremendous experiences in the new teaching environment, he said. Having been exposed to Chinese laws, Temple Law School associate dean Joanne A. Epps, a professor who taught in China, said that the learning process was mutual. Laws that are unquestionably reasonable in the eyes of Chinese would be deemed outrageous if taken before the American legal body, and vice-versa. For instance, driving drunk in China is not against the law unless it results in an accident. Epps said the program caused her to re-evaluate the purposes behind certain U.S. legal rights, including the right to counsel and the presumption of innocence. In approaching native Chinese students who had not been privy to these types of rights, she was forced to analyze the significance of laws that she had once taken for granted. “It made me think differently about some of the fundamental laws within our own legal system,” Epps said. “It made me both value and question them.” Reinstein said that the road to such an established body of law was littered with fewer obstacles than he had expected. “The Chinese government has been completely supportive,” he said. “One of the reasons we’re doing so well is because they invited us.” The open-armed greeting the program received, despite some of its sensitive legal issues, evidences progress, the dean said. The school heaps an even heavier dose of American culture upon the students when they pursue their summer studies in Philadelphia. During their 15-month span of study, the students are required to study on Temple’s main campus for a summer. Reinstein said that this brings an international perspective to the campus, broadening the program’s advantages for the university’s American students as well. But, the program is centralized in China because of basic efficiencies and economic sense. “You can send one professor to China and reach more students,” Epps said. “It’s much easier than trying to move them all here.” Temple’s international campus pursues a similar program in Japan, established well before the China initiative. Unlike the program in China, the two-way exchange enables American students to study abroad in Japan. Reinstein said that implementing a similar addition with its partners in China would widen the program’s influence. His only concern remains the construction of a curriculum from the rather “underdeveloped Chinese legal system.” But, over time these impediments may disintegrate, as many Temple professors say that the program is gradually helping strengthen the system, opening the door to alternatives within the Chinese body of law.

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