408 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 77 PART 3 MAY 2019
And it does so aided by Cui’s insight into taxpayer law and administration.
Cui has three Ph.D. students from UBC’s Vancouver School of Economics
working with him on the project. The students are keenly appreciative
of how knowledge about the local legal context provides a critical tool for
shaping a productive research agenda.
“An economist will write down some mathematical model and think
about tax rates, but they are not thinking about how the laws will eventually
be written and enforced,” explains one of the Ph.D. student researchers, Jeff
Hicks. “Wei knows what’s going on on the ground, so that helps inform
which questions are useful,” says Hicks.
Cui thinks that the findings of the research will strengthen understanding
of tax administration both in China and beyond. The benefits are significant.
Already, Cui’s research is being used by international organizations to
generate ideas for strengthening revenue-raising capacity in developing
countries, which in turn enables greater public spending and the reduction
of wealth inequality.
This type of ambitious research agenda, which connects substantially to
legal realities in Asian countries, is what Cui seeks to foster as the director
of CALS. “We want to be representing the most advanced type of research
in Asian law. That means interdisciplinary research that draws on the social
sciences,” he explains. “We can’t just be talking about what judges have said,
what laws have been made. We can’t just be reading statutes and regulations.
We need to look at how law is actually practised and affects people’s
lives.” CALS boasts the largest number of scholars studying Asian law in
North America, and the research output and policy involvement of its associated
faculty are impressive.
The success of CALS as a research centre is due in no small part to the
strong networks CALS scholars maintain within Asian countries. Cui
believes that this is an important resource for the community.
“We stand ready to help the community with all questions relating to
Asian legal systems—especially laws in China and Japan—because we have
deep connections with the legal professions there,” he says. It’s a lesson he
thinks has other applications as well, suggesting that law students who are
familiar with Asian legal systems and have professional experience in this
area can be a valuable asset to Canadian firms, because of their knowledge
about Asia and Asian business.
Cui’s own trajectory is an example of this. Born and raised in China, he
completed an undergraduate degree at Harvard and, after post-graduate
studies in both law and philosophy, began working in legal practice as a tax
associate at a Wall Street firm. Driven by a desire to engage again with the