Qinmin Shen ’17 LL.M.
Before coming to Columbia Law School from Beijing to earn an LL.M. degree, Qinmin Shen ’17 traveled the globe in various positions with the Chinese government, including posts at the Chinese Embassy in Suriname and the Chinese Mission to the United Nations in Vienna. He also visited New York several times for meetings and conferences at the United Nations.
Shen moved to Morningside Heights ready to focus his academic training on international law, a subject he had written about extensively since graduating from Peking University Law School in 2005. Over the past year, he served as a board member of the Columbia Society of International Law and became fascinated by the history of civil rights while studying U.S. constitutional law. He also found time to research Supreme Court cases that touched on the woeful mistreatment of early Chinese immigrants to the U.S.
During winter break, Shen took a road trip with his wife and son through the American South and was shocked by what he discovered. “I saw in Charleston the racial tension on the streets,” he says. “I saw the still-prevalent separation and segregation, at least psychologically.”
But Shen also saw heartening acts where humanity shined, and the trip reinforced his understanding of the universality of the struggle for “dignity, equality, and liberty,” as well as what law can do to ease this perpetual struggle. “The human nature of every nation and people of the whole world is just the same,” he says.
In his law study and trip, Shen was also awed to discover the ubiquitous and positive role of law in a Tocquevillian sense. “This is a legal empire,” he observes. “Almost all political, economic, and social issues can be and have been transformed into a legal question for lawyers to argue and decide. It is exhilarating, isn’t it?”
After graduation, Shen will work in the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s legal department, focusing on public international law with the goal of promoting peace and development. He will bring his expanded world view with him to his job, and his belief that all countries “are xenophobic to various extents or in some aspects, and they all think they are unique in their culture and exceptional on certain accounts. Only humanity humbles them. ”
Nevertheless, Shen is an optimist and believes that legal systems are the bedrock of civil society and good governance. “A government of law rather than a government of man is an ultimate security for liberty and prosperity,” he says.