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Law School rekindles China ties

As the University expands its relationship with China, the Duke School of Law has launched its own bid for improved Chinese relations.

Last month, Duke Law announced a new scholarship program designed to attract top applicants from China. The Global Leader Scholarship will cover full tuition and will initially be offered to a single candidate.

The scholarship—funded by the Law School’s central budget—is expected to renew the Duke Law-China relationship developed as a result of foreign policy advancements made by Richard Nixon, Law ’37, said Paul Haagen, professor of law and senior associate dean for academic affairs.

“When I was first going to China a decade ago, Nixon was a name that resonated strongly, but I’m not finding it now,” Haagen said. “The relationship to the U.S. now seems far more natural to them.... We think [this scholarship] is a useful way to raise our profile and engage our Chinese alumni.”

Haagen noted that Duke was the first law school to attract Chinese students after the Cultural Revolution, which took place from 1966 to 1976, largely due to the improvements in Sino-American relations during Nixon’s presidency. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Richard M. Nixon Scholarship program brought many distinguished Chinese scholars to study at Duke Law—including Board of Trustees member Gao Xiqing, Law ’86 and vice chairman, president and chief investment officer of the China Investment Corporation, China’s sovereign investment fund. The scholarship dwindled in the mid-1990s, however, because of a complicated financial arrangement, Haagen said.

Although Law School administrators decided that this is an opportune time to engage with China, the fact that the University as a whole is making the country a priority added extra encouragement for the Law School to pursue the scholarship, Haagen noted.

Haagen was appointed Aug. 25 to serve as the chair on a recently-developed University-wide faculty committee on China. The committee is expected to hold its first official meeting later this month, Haagen said. The group is charged with overseeing Duke’s ongoing and potential initiatives in China as well as addressing academic concerns.

“Our very strong interest in China pre-dates the University’s,” wrote Judy Horowitz, associate dean for international studies at the Law School, in an email Thursday. “We are very glad to help the University in its efforts to seek a strong relationship with China.”

Xiqing will serve on the scholarship selection committee, alongside two other Richard M. Nixon Scholarship recipients—Li Xiaoming, Law ’90, and Yan Xuan, Law ’87. Haagen said they—among others—started a trend of Chinese nationals coming to the U.S. to study law, then returning to China interested in building business, political and educational relationships between the two countries.

Duke Law attracts more Chinese applicants than its peer institutions, Horowitz added. The school received 191 applications from China this year, and it currently has 17 Chinese students out of approximately 640 students total.

And though historically some Chinese students were attracted to Duke because of Nixon, Horowitz believes many applicants are now interested in the school because of notable alumni who are powerful in China—including those on the scholarship selection committee. She noted that some applicants attend Duke Law’s Asia-America Institute in Transnational Law—a summer program at the University of Hong Kong—before applying.

Haagen said he believes China is well-represented in the Duke Law community but added that it is time to take advantage of a strong alumni base in a way that could be more effective than the Richard M. Nixon Scholarship program at its height.

“We want these [students] to come here and enrich our culture and provide us with effective connections and the ability to engage with China,” he said. “This is actually a chance to do something that could be substantially better. Given how successful [the Nixon scholarships] were, it’s hard to imagine how much better we could do it.”

In the future, Haagen said he hopes that this scholarship will open up to students from around the Pacific Rim, including South Korea and Japan. It could also potentially serve as a model for other parts of the University seeking to foster global bonds.

Provost Peter Lange said the Global Leader Scholarship program is an effective way for Duke Law to connect its past relationship with China with the current goals of the University. He noted that as more of the University chooses to partner with China on various projects, other schools and institutes within Duke will recognize the potential benefits.

“It’s all part of [Duke Law’s] way of contributing to the University’s strategy in a way that benefits them as well,” Lange said. “Other departments, they’ll see the opportunities and pursue them, if it’s in the interest of the faculty.”

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