China Diaries of BLS Law Librarian, Part 6: My First Visitor from Beijing!

Last night, I had the great pleasure of introducing Peking University law student Helen Lee to saucisse de canard at Le Monde bistro.  Helen is my honored first visitor from Beijing! How a law student’s life can change in a few short weeks…

When I was in China, Helen was investigating legal internship opportunities.  She had completed her law school course work and was finalizing a paper about taxation of intercompany income.  Just as I do for BLS law students, I  had highlighted to Helen some articles and blogs about international transfer pricing.

Fast forward to January 2010: Through Peking University, Helen obtained an interview with a Tennessee engineering firm.  This firm is developing business ties in Beijing, and hopes, in future, to hire a Chinese legal “agent.”  Helen noted that her U.S. interviewer asked her a question about international transfer pricing–fortunately, the author of one of the blogs that I recommended had addressed this issue!  So, I had a small part in helping Helen to showcase her skills.  Helen impressed the representatives of this TN firm, and by February, she had begun a two-month internship in the firm’s Knoxville office.  The firm offered her a week’s leave to celebrate the Chinese New Year with some of her friends in other U.S. states.  (The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, is a major holiday.  It is similar to our December holiday season in the U.S.)

Like BLS alum. Brian Barbour in Hong Kong, Helen is basically “flying solo” in Knoxville.  Since she is interning for an engineering company, Helen had to identify for her employer the databases that she needs to perform international tax research.  She noted that legal treatises are much more expensive to purchase in the U.S. Helen recently acquired a copy of the OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and was shocked by the $80+ price tag.  Too true…in my BLSL “collection development” role, I often feel the pain of the high prices charged for international tax sources.

A ninth-grade teacher in Knoxville recently invited Helen to address her students.  Some of the students’ questions made me laugh: “Are there streets on which you can drive cars in Beijing?  Do people in Beijing drive BMWs?”  [Let me tell you–there are six lane highways in Beijing, and the residents drive a wide range of cars.]  The questions that Helen fielded from these ninth-graders required more poise and resilience than any assignment she will receive during her internship! I think, however, that the Knoxville teacher needs to license Cisco’s educational videoconferencing software. (We’ve all seen the commercial featuring Ellen Page and the U.S./Chinese tots “Ni haoing” each other…I don’t know how kids that young are communicating in real time with a 13.5 hr. time difference in their school days, but that’s another story.) When a speaker mentions the name of China’s president [Hu Jintao] and a U.S. high school student replies, “Is that some type of animal?” IT IS TIME FOR AN EDUCATIONAL INTERVENTION.

Unfortunately, Helen is currently based in a section of Knoxville that does not have bus or subway service.  (The firm provided Helen with a studio apartment near her office.) Her 20-minute walk to Knoxville’s WalMart is fun, but the 20-minute return trip with grocery bags is less fun…  She did emphasize, though, that people at her firm have offered many invitations, including visits to stores on the weekends.  NYC reminds Helen of Beijing, and she has quickly adapted to our subway system. She spent a great day at the Met, and presented me with a beautiful impressionist calendar from the museum.  I am sorry that my friend’s stay here will not be longer, but I have a strong sense that this is only the first of many visits that Helen will make to the U.S.