This article has been updated to reflect the version in print on March 28.
Yale Law School announced on March 21 a $30 million gift to its China Center, which be will be renamed the Paul Tsai China Center in recognition of the donation.
The gift came from Joseph Tsai ’86 LAW ’90, executive vice chairman of Alibaba Group, the largest e-commerce company in China. Tsai made the donation in honor of his father, Paul Tsai, LAW ’54 LAW ’57, who was the first student from Taiwan to earn a J.S.D. degree from the Law School. Founded in 1999, the center supports research dedicated to boosting understandings of China in the U.S., as well as projects aimed at furthering China’s legal reforms.
“Today, as I think about giving back to an institution that represents the confluence of experiences that shaped who I am, I can’t think of a better initiative than the China Center at Yale Law School under the leadership of Professor [Paul Gewirtz LAW ’70],” Joseph Tsai said in a Law School news release on March 21. “This is the most meaningful way for me to remember my father and to recognize the development of China, its increasing role on the world stage and the importance of U.S.-China relations.” Tsai could not be reached for further comment.
Gewirtz, founder and director of the center, said in the release that the gift gives the school a chance to contribute to the future of U.S.-China relations. During President Bill Clinton’s LAW ’73 administration, Gewirtz led the U.S.-China legal cooperation initiative that Clinton and then-president of China Jiang Zemin launched at their October 1997 summit. Last year, Foreign Policy magazine named Gewirtz one of the top 50 people shaping the future of U.S.-China relations.
Gewirtz told the News that since the center launched 17 years ago, it has relied on on gifts from alumni, various grants and support from the Law School for funding. This $30 million gift will provide the “solid footing” and “ongoing support” that the center needs to continue its almost two decades of work.
In the same statement, Law School Dean Robert Post called the gift a “source of great pride,” adding that it signifies the “special place” of the Tsai family in the Law School’s history.
“Under Professor Paul Gewirtz’s inspiring leadership, the Paul Tsai China Center will continue its important work at the forefront of the United States’ engagement with China,” Post said.
Paul Tsai received Taiwan’s President’s Award for Outstanding Performance in Government Services in 1963. He has previously endowed the Myres S. McDougal Professorship at the Law School, in honor of his mentor during his time at Yale, as well as the Paul C. Tsai Professorial Lectureship.
Joseph Tsai followed in his father’s footsteps by studying at Yale. After graduating from the Law School and working as a tax attorney in New York for five years, Tsai moved to Hong Kong and later joined Alibaba as one of its founding members. The Chinese online sales giant went public with the largest initial public offering in history in September 2014. In the statement, Tsai said he is fortunate to have participated in the tremendous growth of China’s economy and technology development. He was ranked the 12th among Hong Kong’s 50 richest people in 2016 by Forbes.
William Alford GRD ’74 GRD ’75, Harvard law professor and director of the East Asian Legal Studies program at Harvard Law School, congratulated Yale Law School and its China Center on the donation, adding that the gift is a recognition of Yale’s “very fine work” regarding China.
“The study of Chinese law in the U.S. is robust,” Alford told the News. For example, there are over 90 students enrolled in his comparative law class concerning China, he said.
The gift came amid strong interest in Chinese legal studies across the nation. For example, both Columbia Law School and the University of Michigan Law School have centers or programs dedicated exclusively to the study of Chinese law. At the University of Chicago Law School and Stanford Law School, there are student societies and projects aimed at promoting the understanding of Chinese legal issues.
Gewirtz said that at the Law School’s newly renamed center, both Yale and visiting faculty and scholars collaborate with experts in China and the U.S., and work on projects pertaining to different aspects of legal reform in China, including administrative law, criminal law and judicial reform. In the past, the center’s faculty have taught courses on U.S. foreign policy and Chinese law and policy issues, Gewirtz said, adding that the center is holding a research seminar on contemporary China this spring. The center has also helped facilitate dialogues and other exchanges between senior figures in China and the U.S.