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University of Iowa News Release


May 16, 2011

Grant to help UI law student study labor law and the booming Chinese economy

Nathan Jackson watched the booming Chinese economy up close while working for four years as a business consultant in Shanghai. Now he's going back to study the law behind that growth, with the help of a prestigious fellowship.

Jackson, a second-year University of Iowa law student, will study Chinese labor law and language this fall at Xiamen University in Xiamen, China, as a National Security Education Program David L. Boren Fellow.

The opportunity comes after he worked in China from 2005 to 2009 for a consulting firm, using his business degree from the UI to help companies with market research, strategy development and acquisitions. The work put him in the middle of China's economic explosion and the experience of working with dozens of clients and visiting more than 200 factories helped him gain insight into how it was happening.

"I saw some plants that were in bad shape and poorly run, but most were well-managed operations," said Jackson, a native of Harlan, Iowa.

The experience also gave him a focus for a law career. While he had always planned to attend law school, Jackson wasn't sure what sort of law he wanted to pursue until his experience in China inspired an interest in the country's labor and employment laws. With that motivation, he returned to Iowa in 2009 to attend the UI College of Law.

His legal courses at Xiamen this fall will focus on the basics of Chinese labor and employment. He said that despite its reputation as a haven for sweatshops, China has labor laws in place that are in many ways more progressive than America's and provide workers with more protections.

"Enforcement of those laws is the issue," Jackson said. "The laws don't have a lot of teeth, and the inspectors are often young and their training is inadequate. That makes it easy for legal violations to occur.

"There's so much misunderstanding of China in the West," said Jackson. "Westerners often view the legal system solely through political lens. That's true to an extent, but there's lots of top notch professionals working to create a professional, independent legal system there."

Although he's proficient in Mandarin, Jackson will also learn about Chinese legal language and terminology, "which is almost another language in itself."

The David L. Boren Fellowship, awarded by the Institute of International Education, was created by the former Oklahoma senator and provides study abroad opportunities for U.S. students to learn the language and culture of countries that will play a crucial role in America's future national security.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

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