In this edition of the LRCCS Spotlight, I traveled to Beijing to interview Dr. Wang Fuqiang, LRCCS Alum ’09. Dr. Wang discusses working as a judge in Shandong province and some of his experiences as a researcher in the top think tank in China.
Interview conducted / edited by Eric Couillard and transcribed by Erzhan Xu.
Couillard: I’ve heard that you previously worked as a judge in China, could you tell me more about that? You seem very young to be a judge.
Dr. Wang: I was a judge in Shangdong Province, the Rizhao Intermediate People’s Court. The laws here are quite different from the US legal system. After you get your bachelor’s degree, you can apply to be a judge’s assistant, which is the first step to becoming a judge yourself. In 1995, I graduated and passed the examination to become a judge – which is widely regarded as the most difficult test in the country. Then I worked as an assistant judge for two years, and a full judge for one year before I resigned.
This is quite different from the American system, where becoming a judge requires a huge amount of tenure. So I was able to become a judge at a relatively young age.
Couillard: What kinds of case would you judge?
Dr. Wang: At first I worked on civil cases, like divorce. I also spent almost half of year to serve in the criminal department. One thing that might be of interest about my time there - if a criminal was sentenced to death, part of my job was to take a photo of his or her body to verify the death.
Couillard: So you would just have to see the photo? Or you have to take the photo?
Dr. Wang: Take the photo.
Dr. Wang: Yeah. It was pretty terrible.
Couillard: I can understand why you wouldn’t want to stay in that role too long. So what did you do after working as a judge?
Dr. Wang: After that, I went back to school to get my master’s degree and PhD at the University of Chinese Law and Politics. I also worked for a government division called MIIT, the Ministry of Information, Industry and Technology. It was while I was working there that I came to UM as a visiting scholar.
Couillard: What were you doing your research on?
Dr. Wang: My major was civil law and bankruptcy. Bankruptcy law is a new thing in the PRC – the first laws about it weren’t written until 1984. One of my teachers drafted the first bankruptcy law in China - 李永军 (Li Yongjun)
As a visiting scholar, I had two main tasks. One was for my role at MIIT – they wanted me to study the commercial use of personal information. So companies like Baidu or Tencent who collect a lot of data on people – how should they use it? What should the laws be?
The other task was more personal – I just wanted to finish my doctoral thesis.
Couillard: I see. So that was 2009; what are you working on now?
Dr. Wang: I do research for a nonprofit think tank called the China Center for International Economic Exchanges (CCIEE). Right now it’s the top think tank in all of China, since we have many connections with high ranking government officials.
Couillard: What kind of research do you do?
Dr. Wang: Two fields. One is related to my major from school, things like mergers & acquisitions, bankruptcy, and some industrial consulting. But most important for me now is research on special economic zones. For example, I just spent one week in Guangdong province, and I’m trying to find a way to make Hong Kong, Macau, and Guangdong work together more effectively, and also how other areas of China can emulate what they’re doing, such as more underdeveloped areas like the Huai River.
We submit our research to top government leaders, who take it into consideration when they’re creating new policy. One of the projects I worked on got the attention of Xi Jinping, who even wrote some remarks about my work.
Couillard: Wow, for you personally?
Dr. Wang: Yeah, it was very humbling.
Couillard: That’s incredible! Did you ever meet him?
Dr. Wang: I’ve been in meetings with him twice, but never met him personally.
Couillard: So your research is having a direct impact on government policy. What sort of impact do you most want your research to have?
Dr. Wang: For China I think social stability and the people’s wealth are most important. If my research can do a little to contribute in those areas, I’d be very fulfilled.
Couillard: Yeah, it sounds like you’re in a pretty good position to make that happen.
Dr. Wang: Haha. Maybe, I hope so!
Thanks for reading – stay tuned for more interviews with LRCCS Beijing Alum!