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Speech at 2022 Commencement by Professor Hai Wen

Vice Chairman of Peking University Council and    
Former Vice President of Peking University     HAI Wen  

Distinguished Judge He, Dear students, faculty and friends:

Good afternoon! Today we’re gathered here to celebrate the joyful graduation of 128 students of the graduating class of 2022. On behalf of the university, I would like to say congratulations on the remarkable accomplishments you’ve made and to the new journey you’re about to embark on! I’d like to extend sincere congratulations also to your family and friends who have always supported and been there for you. Last but not least, my heartfelt gratitude also goes to our hard-working and dedicated faculty and staff!

Time flies. It’s been 15 years since my trip New York to invite Dean Jeffery Lehman for the founding of STL. This is the third STL commencement ceremony I’ve attended, if my memories serve me right. In 2013, I attended and spoke at the commencement ceremony for the first time as then Vice President of PKU and Dean of PKUSZ, and did the same two year later as then Acting Dean of PKUSZ. And when I stood here again today, it’s another 7 years from there just in the blink of an eye. Though I didn’t visit STL often and I don’t participate in any affairs of STL, I’ve been paying close attention to the development of both STL and STLers. After all, it is one of the schools I founded and managed for the first few years.

Fifteen years ago, not long after China joined the WTO, economic globalization was developing in depth, and China was increasingly integrated into the world. The country urgently needed a large number of advanced applied legal talents with international legal knowledge who are able and qualified to independently engage in foreign-related work. That is why we founded this unique law school where students can learn both Chinese law and the law of the U.S. and other developed countries. It is our hope that students of STL can serve the enterprises in an international context, which means you should not only protect their legitimate rights and interests, but help them understand international laws and regulations so that unnecessary conflicts and losses can be avoided to the largest extent. It is our earnest hope, and also the purpose and goal of founding STL that our students can contribute to the country’s development of rule of law, as well as the reform and development of international laws and rules.

And now, after making tireless efforts, STL is becoming what we wanted it to be in the first place, which would be impossible without the vision and endeavors of all our students. I know that STL is the most challenging law school in China, flooding you with various legal ststems, enormous reading materials and opaque terms which, just to make it even more challenging, are all in English. Choosing STL is a choice of vision and courage. You chose to come to STL three or four years ago for a journey that is in no way easy to finish when many other of your age were lying flat. Today, your journey at STL has come to an end and you’re about to start your career in different places. And I’d like you to remember the two expectations I have for you before saying goodbye.

First, I expect you to stand firm in your ideal and belief. What’s the ideal and belief of legal professionals? It’s protecting the most fundamental rights and interest of the people. It’s fairness, justice, and equality. Studying law should not be just about getting a better job, but also be taking on the responsibilities of advancing China’s rule of law. The past two decades have witnessed China’s leap to the world’s second largest economy by carrying out market-oriented reform and opening-up. However, the sustainability of reform and opening-up and the healthy economic development cannot be guaranteed without law, or the rule of law. Therefore, no matter what you’re going to be in the future, be it lawyers, judges, prosecutors, civil servants, and policy makers, I want you to always keep in mind two things: keep your legal and moral boundaries, and contribute to the rule of law of our country.

It’s one thing to say but the other to do. To begin with, having just left campus, you’ll face lots of challenges and temptations in life. But none of them can bring you down as long as you live and practice in awe and veneration of the law and your ideals and beliefs as legal professionals. If we always think about the harm of greed and have self-discipline, we can keep the bottom line and live an unregretful life.

Besides, advancing the rule of law per se is not an easy task. Given that China was ruled by man for thousands of years in feudal society, we still have a long way to go in letting the legal system fully play its role in economy, politics, culture and other aspects of the society, and instill the concept into each and every one of the society so that compliance with the law is the conscious act of all. Yet, as legal professionals graduated from PKU, we must firmly believe that we will eventually build up a society of modern civilization governed by law through generations of unremitting efforts. And every single one of us need to make our contributions, big or small, for this ultimate goal.

Second, I expect you to display your talents and expertise. What is the expertise of STL students? It’s the proficiency in Chinese and common law and the ability to handle international legal issues. Our original intention of founding STL is to train such talents for China and the world. And I hope the aim will be always remembered. Because it is the need of our country and your distinctive advantage in the market.

At the national level, economic globalization still remains the ultimate trend. Despite of the sharp changes of the global political and economic dynamics, and the severe problems of the relations between China and the U.S. and other Western countries in recent years, the momentum for win-win cooperation still prevails and international economic exchanges are still taking place. The more such a situation arises, the greater the need for transnational legal talents to emphasize the rules, maintain the rule of law, enhance communication and promote stability. The world economy moves forward in a wavy way. But regardless of where we’re among the waves, law will always be needed as an important tool of settling disputes.

At the individual level, performing your comparative advantage is the most important strategy to survive the fierce competition in the market. China now has over 600 law schools and thousands of universities offer law degrees churning out tens of thousands of Juris Masters every year. But we’re the only one offering Juris Master and Juris Doctor dual degrees! Looking back at when I went back and forth to the Degree Committee Office of the Ministry of Education, it is indeed a very hard-earned outcome that PKU was finally approved to issue English JD certification. You should cherish what will comes along with it and put your talents into full use. In these years, many young people are stressed because of rat race. The best way to get out of it is to be unique, distinctive, exceptional and different. For that, you need to have high standards for yourself at school and strengthen your capabilities at work. In a society where most just flow with the tide, it is important to stick to your own beliefs and solidify your comparative advantages through continued learning and practice. Only in this way can you stand out in the competition and be invincible, and be the talent most needed by the country and society.

Dear students and friends, the Chinese nation is at an unprecedented stage of historical development, and the next one to two decades will be crucial to China’s successful transformation and rejuvenation. The world is yours and also ours, but its future is eventually in your hands. History gives you opportunities, but it also gives you responsibilities. I hope that the education at Peking University will lay a solid foundation for you, and I hope you can make due contributions to the development of China, to the progress of mankind, and to to the peace of the world!

Again, congratulations to the Class of 2022! I wish you lots of opportunities and a great future!

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