The 13th International Youth Legal Forum has hosted a discussion "Russia and Asia: A New Pathway for Developing International Relations". The meeting brought together experts in the field of law and Chinses studies. It discussed the role of law in ensuring cooperation between Russia and Asian countries, its importance in international business, and the future of the legal profession.

The discussion moderator was Aleksandr Alekseenko, Associate Professor in the Department of Commercial Law and Academic Supervisor of the programme "Laws (with advanced study of the Chinese language and the law of the PRC)" at St Petersburg University. Today, Asia is one of the priority areas for Russia, including in the field of law, said Aleksandr Alekseenko.

‘The Asia-Pacific region is home to more than half of the world’s population. This region accounts for more than half of the world gross domestic product (GDP). I think even these two parameters are convincing evidence of the importance of this region,’ Andrey Kozinets, Associate Professor at Far Eastern Federal University, said at the very beginning of his speech. He added that Asia is also quickly catching up with the West in the field of research. According to him, Asian countries are becoming not just a concentration zone for factories and industrial units, but also a knowledge and innovation space. It is also important for Russia that in the face of restrictions from the West, most of the Eastern countries remain open and interested in developing cooperation with Russia.

Vu Thu Cha Mi, Head of the International Development Department of the Apparatus at the Association of Lawyers of Russia, said that the Association of Lawyers of Russia closely cooperates with the BRICS countries, in particular with China and India. Additionally, Vu Thu Cha Mi spoke about joint projects with other Asian countries and about professional and student exchanges.

We are far from having understanding problems with our colleagues from Asian countries. Yet, it is important to note that in Russia there are few lawyers who are also experts in Asian studies. I know that St Petersburg University prepares specialists in the field of law with knowledge of Chinese law. This is a very good practice. Unfortunately, there are incredibly few specialists, for example, in Vietnamese or Indian law.

Vu Thu Cha Mi, Head of the International Development Department of the Apparatus at the Association of Lawyers of Russia

Knowledge of legal foundations, understanding of the mentality, cultural and historical features, and language skills are among what a good international lawyer should have, concluded Vu Thu Cha Mi.

In the People’s Republic of China, a lawyer monopoly is enshrined legislatively and in China (except for Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan) foreigners cannot therefore obtain the status of a lawyer, cannot be representatives in court (with the exception of commercial arbitration), or engage in other activities in the field of law, said Alexander Zainigabdinov, Head of the Beijing Office of China Window Consulting Group, Arbitrator of the Shanghai International Arbitration Centre, who took an active part in the translation of the Civil Code of the People’s Republic of China into the Russian language. Thus, only the market of China’s interaction with other countries is left for foreign lawyers, added Alexander Zainigabdinov. He also focused on the need to have more lawyers with knowledge of Chinese law. Today, it is obvious that it is impossible to use international experience in cooperating with China. Alexander Zainigabdinov concluded his speech by raising the question of what competencies are among the most important for an international lawyer today: professional competencies (for example, in the field of law) or cultural competences that are related to knowledge of the language, history and characteristics of the region. ‘In a sense, it is an interesting and even creative task for universities, because the decision needs to be made now to ensure that specialists can apply knowledge in a few years,’ he concluded.

This is what was the focus of the report by Pavel Troshchinsky, Leading Researcher, Institute of China and Modern Asia at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Executive Editor of the Russian translation of the Civil Code of the People’s Republic of China. He proposed an approach to teach a foreign language as a tool for a lawyer in legal programmes from the first year of study. In his opinion, it is more difficult to prepare a lawyer from an expert in Chinese studies.

In Russia, Chinese studies has existed for about 400 years. We have excellent expertise in China, and, importantly, the West knows that we are at the forefront in the world in studying China. The legal area of the Chinese studies in Russia has also existed for centuries.

Pavel Troshchinsky, Leading Researcher, Institute of China and Modern Asia at the Russian Academy of Sciences

In the recent decades, Russian education has been Eurocentric: in particular, our academic programmes to prepare lawyers did not feature disciplines that would focus on the fundamentals of Chinese law, while, for example, in European countries, law students had similar disciplines, said Pavel Troshchinsky. The reorientation of Russian education to the East is an arduous and challenging task. What we should rely on is our long-standing traditions of Chinese studies in Russia, said the expert.

This topic was also discussed by Elena Emelchenkova, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Theory and Methodology of Teaching Languages and Cultures of Asian and African Countries at St Petersburg University. According to Elena Emelchenkova, the dilemma for a school graduate who wants to become an international lawyer is to choose from two paths. The first path is the ‘long’ one. They first should get a degree in Asian studies and then in law. The second path is the ‘difficult’ one. It means that they should simultaneously pursue a programme in law and take a language course. In Russia, there is a discipline in the Chinese language at schools, and in the Far East, Chinese language takes the lead as the first foreign language. According to her, there is a great demand for specialists with knowledge of other oriental languages. Yet, it is often a problem due to teacher shortages.

Before, when I started my studies, we had two specialisations: philology and history. Those who studied history could pursue their studies in law. Today, the University offers more than a hundred programmes with a Chinese component in the widest range of areas: not only in law, but also in economics, international relations, and tourism to name just a few.

Elena Emelchenkova, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Theory and Methodology of Teaching Languages and Cultures of Asian and African Countries at St Petersburg University

Natalia Shupeiko, General Director of Sinofay Legal, and Alexander Bykov, Head of East Asia Project Support Practice at the Capital Legal Services, shared their experience of legal practice in China. Olga Bazina, Associate Professor at MGIMO University of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, spoke about how difficult it is for a lawyer to delve into the language and culture of Eastern countries.

Students at the Vladimir Kikot Moscow University of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia shared the results of their research projects. Cadet Aleksey Bastrykin spoke about the problems of international cooperation in the field of criminal law. Western countries, more often than not, do not implement international treaties, sometimes without even officially notifying Russia of their decisions, said Aleksey Bastrykin. ‘As the West refuses to provide legal assistance in Russian criminal requests and the International Criminal Court adopts insane decisions against senior officials of the Russian Federation, we are strengthening our interaction with our closest allies. We are strengthening the potential of the BRICS Interstate Group; the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO); the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS); the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU); the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO); and the Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral. We are building up cooperation with the ASEAN Member States and other interstate associations and international organisations with Russian participation,’ he commented.

Cadet Polina Shcherbakova spoke about the protection of human rights in Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union. She drew attention to the strengthening of contacts within the Eurasian Economic Union. She also said that in future it would be possible to talk about some positive effect from Western restrictions, since it is expected that in the absence of external pressure, integration can gain momentum.