Visiting Chinese professors share insights
Professors from China’s medical and legal professions are among those who recently wrapped up a semester at Northampton Community College. Yan “Maggie” Zhang, who teaches medicine and Ying “Sunny” Shan, a lawyer who teaches law, are from China’s prestigious Jinhua Polytechnic, one of the nation’s leading vocational colleges.
Maggie and Sunny took some time to offer their perspectives on the differences between the China and the United States.
The Legal System
Maggie and Sunny spent some time in Northampton County Court, watching the trial of Gregory Graf, a man who was accused of killing his stepdaughter so he could have sex with her corpse. For Maggie, it was her first time in an American courtroom. Escorted by Northampton Community College’s Jack Spirk, who teaches criminal justice, they both had a bird’s eye view of what goes on in an American trial.
Sunny noted that in China, there is more frequent use of the death penalty. But she explained that China also has a “death sentence with two-year suspension of execution.” If the immediate execution of a criminal punishable by death is not deemed necessary, a two-year suspension of execution may be pronounced simultaneously with the imposition of the death sentence. And if a sentenced defendant shows sufficient rehabilitation over that time, the sentence is reduced.
The American legal system is premised on what is known as the common law, in which prior case law is very relevant. But China has adopted the civil law tradition, although Sunny explained that the courts in China are beginning to follow the precedent on cases published by the Supreme People’s Court. She said combining both systems is “more fair to everyone.”
One big difference noted by both professors is that in China, a licensed physician or attorney can practice anywhere. But here in the United States, a license is only good in the state in which it is obtained unless there is a reciprocal agreement with a sister jurisdiction.
That carries over to laws as well. In China, something permitted in one province is permitted in all. But in America, some practices that are completely legal in one state could be criminal in another. “If the law is not clearly known by the people, how can I ask them to follow it?” asked Sunny.
Maggie explained that, though all hospitals provide access to Chinese medicine and techniques, they also offer Western medicine as well. For acute problems, she indicated that most rely on the Western medicine. But for more chronic problems, Chinese medicine and practices are considered a better way to be used.
Maggie likes the use of specialized nurses in America, and will be recommending that option in China.
“The sky is very blue,” Maggie said when asked about the United States. “It’s very quiet. China is more crowded.” But that’s fine with both of them. “In China, people are closer and friendly, we like to help each other,” Maggie explained. Sunny added, for instance, students in her country think nothing of calling a professor over the weekend to ask for help.
They noted that in China, the income of a doctor or lawyer is much lower than in America, making legal and medical services more affordable.
They believe there is good and bad in both the American and Chinese way of doing things.
“We are here to learn from each other,” explained Sunny. “Combine the best of both worlds.”