Goodbye Lakewood, hello Beijing

CCU students gathered in the school library after a week of final exams- turned off the lights, played music, and carried forward in dance to celebrate the best year in CCU history. I sat and watched, but by no means was I disturbed; it created a lasting memory for me as I leave this wonderful place… I’m sad to leave, but glad that only graduation and a two-month estate planning project stand between me and a year-long law internship in China. I’m moving on.

On August 1, 2010, Neil Armstrong’s historic words, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” will be summoned as I step on Asian soil for the first time in my life: Beijing, the capital and center of the twenty-first century’s prevailing conversation. This will be a small step on my journey, yet, a continued giant leap for Chinese citizens. Deng Xiaoping opened China’s borders in the late 1970’s, and Mao’s communism morphed into what most call “market socialism.” Despite thirty years of economic growth, China is a communist nation, the longest standing in the world, and the government’s authoritative, if not totalitarian, control still limits freedom and possible growth for China’s 1.4 billion people. Stability, economic growth, and maintaining control are the Party’s major concerns, in which rule of law and freedom (concerns America has historically focused on) are essentially left out.

In a conversation with one of Beijing’s leading attorneys, he told me, “In China, it’s not ‘Do you know the law,’ it’s ‘Do you know the judge?’” Corruption, along with a multitude of other problems – lack of ethics, for example – is at the forefront of blockades preventing a healthy rule of law in China. Will the absence of enforcement and the lack of freedom lead to China’s demise, or can market socialism prevail?

Coming next fall, “CHEEK FROM CHINA” will be a series of articles focused on a study concerning the rule of law in China, or lack thereof, the Chinese judicial system, or corruption therein, and their American counterparts. Though moving on, I’ll be staying on board with the key principles and core values CCU has taught me to live by…faith, family, and freedom.

Lawson Cheek, Tennessee’s contribution to the CCU Class of 2010, is the outgoing Student Chief Justice and a member of the Centennial Institute Program Board.

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