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China: Resolving disputes in a rapidly transforming society

About the writer: Kangying Connie Wu

 Connie Wu
Connie Wu
E-mail Connie Wu
When friends ask me why I am so interested in China, I don’t know where to begin. I lived in Shanghai for the first eight years of my life, and I grew up hearing about China’s past through my parents’ stories and anecdotes. By the time I entered Berkeley as a freshman, I knew I wanted to do something related to China. Through my major, Political Economy of Industrial Societies, I decided to concentrate on the political economy of China and its legal development.

Two years ago, I packed my bags and spent a year in Beijing through the University of California’s Education Abroad Program, to explore my ethnic roots and to physically experience the country that has been so deeply ingrained in the memories of my family. As I lived and traveled in China, I felt the pulse of the country's transformation into a modern society, and experienced the constant pressures and stresses as the forces of modernity came up against the lingering power of traditionalism and socialism. Such societal tensions trickle down to the very local level, like the time I saw a traditional grandmother sitting quietly in her stool in a neighborhood alley, enjoying her Chinese opera, while her grandson swooshed around the narrow lanes on his skateboard with headphones blasting hip-hop music.

Many things I saw while studying abroad made little sense, and I struggled to understand what China was going through and where it was heading. By the end of the EAP program, I was more lost and befuddled than when I first arrived in Beijing. However, the more complex China becomes, the more my interest in its changes grows, along with my desire to take part in its exciting development.

My experiences there have pushed me to pursue a much more in-depth study of its metamorphosis. I was particularly interested in China’s legal development and the interaction between the Chinese people and the law at the grassroots level. Therefore, after coming back to Berkeley two semesters ago, I applied to the Haas Scholars Program and received funding for this summer’s research project on Beijing's mediation committees, which ultimately will become my senior honors thesis.

Outside of schoolwork, I enjoy photography and travel. When I'm not working on my project this summer, I hope to spend a few weekends with friends biking around the outskirts of Beijing. I am definitely plotting my way back to the Great Wall of China, to spend a night up there under a mosquito tent and watch shooting stars. For entertainment and cultural enrichment, I will be sure to set aside time for my Korean melodramas, as well as taking a few cha-cha lessons offered by Beijing’s Latin dance clubs.

— Connie