Nee Hao (Hello)
After a 12 hour flight from the United States, I arrived at the Beijing airport, a large, bustling, international hub for Asia. It is cold here, Clear, and mid-west cold, but no snow. The 45 minute cab ride to the hotel was uneventful. On the way in I was impressed with the hundreds of high rise residences and other commercial real estate.
My hotel, the Hilton, is located in the downtown Wangfujing area. This is their (Chicago-like) magnificent mile. The fact that it is Christmas time is not lost at all on the Chinese. Decorations and holiday music are everywhere. All of the high fashion, brands can be found within steps of my hotel. Shopping is brisk. Beijing is second to no American or European city in this commercial zone.
After a good night’s rest, I spent the next day, visiting the Ming tombs, the Sacred Way (Shendao) way and the great wall. Fortunately, because of the season and the cold, it was easy to get access.
I visited the Forbidden City, the morning before leaving for Chongqing. It was an overwhelming experience and I really did not have enough time to see it all. I am told it can take three days. Just before heading to the airport I made my pilgrimage to
Tianamen square, touted to be the largest city square anywhere. It is just across the street to the entrance to the pathway to the Forbidden City. Getting across the street with all the traffic was a formidable feat, until I figured out that there is an underground crossway. I am in several photos of strangers there. They just came up to me and wanted me to take photos with them. Not sure why. Perhaps they had never been close to an African-American woman before. They seem to be thrilled for me to pose with them, so I did. Hope I do not have an unknown fate on Youtube.
Then on to Chongqing. Almost 3 hours away from the capital city by plane (by the way, someone was smoking while we flew). A city of 30 million people divided into 14 districts.
Chongqing is a big college town. There are approximately 30 institutions of higher learning here. Our host University, The Southwest University of Political Science and Law (SUPL), has two campuses, 20 miles apart, with over 19,000 students. Five thousand of them are in law graduate programs. The conference site is in the Shapinba district, one of 14 such districts in this large metropolitan area. This is the graduate campus, an older site established in the 1950’s. A newer campus for undergraduates is in the Yubei district which is closer to the airport, and the region of new development.
The weather was a bit warmer than Beijing, but reminded me a lot of Seattle in the winter, damp, cloudy, but very green. Where the two rivers (Yangzi and Jialing) met the area looks like Vancouver or San Francisco. On our city tour, the sun finally came out.
The night of my arrival the Vice-President of the university, Liu Jun, and several members of his staff, including Juliya (the coordinator of our student exchange program) treated us to a lavish welcoming dinner, at a restaurant with multiple floors. They have welcomed Professors Pope, Forzley and me with outstanding hospitality. I can not eat another thing. While I had heard about a lot of exotic food (by American standards) a vegetarian will have plenty to eat.
Vice-President Liu Jun is a well-connected and respected member of the legal community. He also serves as Vice-Chairman of the China Society of Social Laws, Vice-Chairman of the China Society of Rural Economic Law and Legal Counsel for the Chongqing Municipal Government. At the end of the conference, he expressed his appreciation to ‘Widener for participating and told all attending that we were a premier law school in America, particularly because of our work in corporate and business law and health law. Many of the other medical schools present want to have continuing relationships with Widener. SUPL is ranked number 6 out of 600 or more law schools in China. Many of their graduates hold very prestigious appointments on the bench and in government. For example, the last President of SUPL is now a member of China’s Supreme Court.
The participants in this conference were impressive. They were from all over China and represented academia, the medical and legal professions. Students were also involved and they were impressive and a delight to be with. A woman by the name of Yan Zhou has spent some time in the U.S. at American University Law School, as a visiting Fellow. She has just completed her PhD and is hoping to start a health law specialty at Southwest. She was our guide, interpreter and just made sure we were well taken care of. The presentations by Professor Pope on end of life practices and Professor Forzley on right and regulation of medicines were well received. We made the evening news here. We have all had to use translators for our presentations, and they are superb. Professor Pope’s blog will have an update of his remarks. Thanks to our excellent translators, Nairu Liu, Lin Sun and Qinglan Bai. We all could follow the discussions. Yesterday afternoon during the unstructured discussion time, the subject of organ donations and transplants provided a robust exchange among the participants. Many questioned whether the law could properly protect all the interest parties. It was a robust exchange.
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When the conference ended there was much more eating, and toasting. Dining here is a communal experience and a lot of fun.
In this short visit, I have been become overwhelmed with the size of this country, and its rapidly developing status. Tomorrow I take a day off to visit the Terra Cotta Soldiers at Xian, before moving on the Shanghai and East China University School of Political Science and the Law.
Dsai-Jian (Good Bye)