UIC has a solid reputation for using English as the medium of instruction, and hence why many UIC graduates are accepted to overseas universities. However, having strong bilingual skills is also desired by higher institutions in mainland China. Li Zhaoquan, a 2012 graduate of the Government and International Relations (GIR) programme, entered his third year of a doctoral programme in Law at Beijing Normal University.

His research focuses on economic law, economic crisis, improvement of the rule of law on sovereign debt supervision, and the “Belt and Road” and the rule of law.

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Li Zhaoquan attending a law symposium

During his time at high school, Zhaoquan liked to read books. A book about the ancient legalist is what sparked Zhaoquan's interest in law. After joining GIR at UIC, Zhaoquan gained a better understanding of the emergence and development of ‘Law’ through professional courses and reading legal literature. He wanted to work in this field after recognizing the importance of “Law” in modern times.

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Li Zhaoquan (back row, third from left) with undergraduate classmates

In his freshman year at UIC, a conversation between Zhaoquan and his teacher made him determined to stay in the country and study law. Zhaoquan originally wanted to apply for a law major in an overseas school, but the teacher said, "If you want to study law as well as work in China in the future, you should strive for further studies in China. Only this way can you be more thoughtful and have a better understanding of the characteristics of China's legal system.” This advice became his motivation to embark upon the journey to achieve a PhD in Law.

In the year he graduated from UIC, due to short preparation time, Zhaoquan was not admitted to Beijing Normal University. However, this did not discourage him; instead, he gave up the opportunity to study in Hong Kong and spent a year preparing. Zhaoquan was then admitted to the postgraduate major at Beijing Normal University in 2013 where he graduated in 2016 with a master's degree in Economic Law.

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President of Beijing Normal University Prof Dong Qi presents Li Zhaoquan with a Master's degree in Economic Law

Zhaoquan said that while studying is mainly self-directed learning, the communication between teachers and students in the classroom is more like a discussion. “In the collision and blending of different perspectives, we build our own knowledge system and improve ourselves professionally. This learning atmosphere is similar to UIC,” explains Zhaoquan.

During his master's degree, Zhaoquan published six papers in domestic academic journals. Zhaoquan praises his time at UIC for the way he tackles his academic research, including his innovative thinking, which he says was developed through the small class teaching at UIC. Zhaoquan said that at UIC, teachers would let them express their opinions on current or past events, and the students were encouraged to debate their opinions. In the beginning, Zhaoquan was not used to it, and felt that it was very different compared with the way he had previously studied in high school, but gradually, he found that he had more perspectives on events, and his thinking became more open.

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Li Zhaoquan with Prof Jennifer Stevenson (left) from when he was an exchange student at the College of William & Mary Law School in the US

After graduating with a master's degree, Zhaoquan hoped to continue his studies in the field of law research, so he chose to pursue a PhD. These days, academic research occupies almost all of Zhaoquan's time. He has since published four papers, and also participated in research on a number of provincial and ministerial topics including the Ministry of Justice, which is proof of Zhaoquan's insistence and motivation.

Zhaoquan said that he remembers when he was at UIC, teachers put a lot of emphasis on the originality of the thesis. This prepared him well for further studies and the strict academic ethical requirements at UIC have played a significant role in Zhaoquan's academic research.

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Li Zhaoquan (front row, third from left) attends a UIC alumni gathering in November 2019

When asked about the difference of studying for a PhD, Zhaoquan explains that it mostly emphasises self-research and that the teachers are more like mentors. “Students need to improve their academic research ability through reading and writing,” says Zhaoquan.

Next year, Zhaoquan is expected to graduate from Beijing Normal University with a PhD in Law. He realised the joy of academic research and hopes to contribute to the development of relevant national disciplines. After graduation, Zhaoquan hopes that he can teach and change from a student to an educator as well as expressing a strong desire to return to UIC to exchange and share experiences with younger students, and make his own contribution to the development of his alma mater.

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Li Zhaoquan having a photo with his wife at UIC's old campus

"If you truly believe in your dream, you will succeed!" This is what Zhaoquan likes to share with younger students. Zhaoquan hopes that UIC students can study hard, clarify their goals, and stick to them.

Reporter: Samuel Burgess
Editors: Deen He, Lauren Richardson
(from MPRO, with thanks to the ELC)