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Sample Personal Statement for Political Science

In my dreamscape, I used to be haunted by a magic mirror that reflected the past, the present and the future of human society. I asked the mirror what this represented and the mirror answered by showing me the celebrated Oracle of Delphi of ancient Greece—Know Thyself. I could never forget such a dream, nor could I interpret it. It was only after I studied law and political science that I seemed to have found the answer. As a matter of fact, the magic mirror that kept obsessing me is jurisprudence and political science, which expunge us of the dust on our mind’s eye, enabling us to examine ourselves as human beings from the perspective of reason and to develop an increasingly clear understanding of the world in which we live. In my constant reflections on the conditions of human existence and on the forces that have helped to determine the social order and social structure of which I am a part, I have decided to pursue the study of political science as my lifelong career objective. I will endeavor to develop myself into a political thinker devoted to social programs, who can turn my visions and conceptions into realities.

The formation of such an ideal and objective of life can be attributed to my commitment to political science as a discipline. As is claimed by Cicero that law is the supreme form of reason, I yearn to experience the power of reason through the study of law and through legal trainings. Motivated by my intense interest in the legal and political systems of the United States and Britain, I chose to major in International Law as I embarked on my undergraduate program at the Law School of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE). The Law School has been designed this year by the Ministry of Education of China as one of the two state-level key research centers in international law. At this prestigious institution, the most important thing I did was to acquaint myself with major classics in law and in political thought by political and philosophical thinkers in western history, which provided me with important materials for contemplation and speculation.

My voluminous reading of Western classics includes The Republic by Plato, Politics and Athenian Constitution by Aristotle, de Re Publica and de Legibus by Cicero, The City of God by St. Augustine, On Law, Morality and Politics by Thomas Aquina, Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, L’ homme machine by La Mettrie, Ethics Geometrically Demonstrated by Spinoza, Essay concerning Human Understanding and Civil Government by John Locke, On Liberty and Representative Government by J. S. Mill, The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli, Treatise on Human Nature and Of Civil Liberty by David Hume, Metaphysical Elements of Justice by Immanuel Kant, On the Law of War and Peace by Hugo Grotius, Economy and Society by Max Webber, and A Theory of Justice by John Rawls. Reading those great masters makes me feel approaching the essence of political science.

Learning the course History of the Western Legal System made it possible for me to examine how law evolved through the history of human civilization. I came to discover that, as the cornerstone of the society, law not only incorporates the political considerations of a nation but also is informed by profound economic backgrounds. I began to perceive the interpenetration and the reciprocity among law, politics, and economics despite their distinct paths of individual development throughout history. Whenever I study the technical literature, I always have a strong feeling that I am tracing the forces, amidst diverse and disparate phenomena, that have governed the development of human society. My educational backgrounds in Common Law, Comparative Law, Comparative Constitution, International Law, and Western Jurisprudence not only exposed me to the basic research methodologies in Anglo-American politics and law but also created a sound foundation for my more advanced studies in the future. My devoted efforts to coursework rewarded me with concrete scholastic achievements, with particularly outstanding performance in all the specialty-related courses. My GPA is >3.7, ranking top third in the entire Law School. My tangible rewards also include many first-class and second-class scholarships from the School.

My immersion in western classics in the fields of politics and law, ranging from ancient Greece and Rome to the contemporary period, has enabled me to develop some distinctive understanding concerning the evolution of Chinese and Western political and legal systems within different cultural frameworks. In the historical development of human civilization, the West was much ahead of the Oriental China in breaking away from the Medieval Period and its aftermath to achieve the emancipation in personal value and identity. Individualism and emphasis on the legitimacy of human rights became the prevailing value orientation in the civic society. The essence of “rule by law” in the contemporary West, founded on the philosophical conception of human nature as evil, actually lies in imposing legal checks on public rights. By contrast, China is a country predominated by the ancient tradition of “rule by man”, stressing human and moral factors in societal administration based on the notion of human nature as “good”. Unfortunately, such a notion resulted in law becoming the subsidiary of autocracy in Chinese society, a handy instrument for the execution of state will and state power. China’s cultural tradition and institutional mechanism lack the idea of power control in Western thought. In Chinese legal culture, there has never been any attempt to equate law with justice, individual rights and social contract. Again, in Chinese legal culture, there is hardly any extant legal legacy that is accords with the modern spirit of “rule by law”. In a word, China lacks the kind of legal basis that has characterized the Western tradition. Over the past two decades, China has made encouraging achievements in perfecting its legal system and obviously this process requires Western input.

I would like to cite several important facts from my experience that point to my potential in undertaking your Ph. D. program. For the first three years of my undergraduate program, I did internships during each summer vacation at Beijing Municipal Procuratorate and Beijing Municipal Anti-Corruption Bureau, an experience which has helped me gain some insights into the existing conditions of China’s political system and judicial system. Secondly, I want to call your attention to my English proficiency. Prior to entering university, I won second prize in National Olympics English Contest and won the first prize in National English Speaking and Listening Contest for High School Students, not to mention numerous other awards at provincial and municipal levels. In university, English is widely used in a lot of courses, especially in case studies in which all the cases and reference books are in English. I am the only student in my School to have achieved straight A’s in all English courses. As a sophomore, I worked part-time as senior translator for Beijing Zhehui Translation Agency and I was the correspondent and broadcaster of the English program of our university’s broadcasting station. Since August 2001, I have also been working part-time at Beijing New Impression Times & Culture Co., Ltd where, as project assistant, I have been responsible for public relations and for arranging a number of cultural events including Piano Recital by Israeli pianist Einat Fabrikant, Israeli Duo Piano Concert by Siwen and Silver, musical play Madam Swing by Russian Stroisky Jazz and Modern Dance Troupe, etc. On those occasions, I demonstrated my English proficiency and my skillful communication.

My four-year education in jurisprudence has sharpened my vision and honed my analytical skills. However, realizing that a mere undergraduate education can by no means endow me with the requisite knowledge and scholarly qualities for an accomplished political scientist, I would like to pursue a Ph.D. program that only your esteemed university can offer. In China, genuine scholarship in political science has been done only over the past two decades (since 1979) and this fledgling nature necessarily makes the scholarship very immature. It is true that Chinese history does boast a number of prominent political thinkers, but the concept of politics as evolved over the two thousand years of Chinese feudal society differs from that of the West in many fundamental aspects. Politics is the most direct and powerful lever affecting a society and constitutional government is the cornerstone of the civilized society. In the West, the idea of constitutional government has become an unshakable and universal value which has shaped a distinctive political culture of constitutional government. In comparison, the politics that we have in China is what might be designated as a political culture of party constitutional government in which the authority of the ruling party and the regime must be implicitly obeyed. This perverse concept has caused the constitution to be prostituted to the will of the ruling party and the public rights are allowed to impinge upon individual rights willfully under various pretexts. A popular theory concerning the relative supremacy between the party and the law is that in legislation the party is supreme whereas in jurisdiction and in law enforcement the law is supreme. With this logical absurdity, how can the supreme authority of law be guaranteed? How can individual liberty and human rights be protected and realized? An essential point is that a nation deprived of its constitutional government is like a person who has lost his soul.

It is encouraging to notice that major reforms are being undertaken in China’s political and legal spheres. But such reforms are most fruitful when guided by sound theories in political science. For this challenging objective, the existing theories of political science in China are apparently inadequate and those circumstances allow me to realize that this is the right time for me to develop myself into a leading specialist in political science. In my prospective Ph.D. program at UC Berkley, I would like to focus on Political Theory, Comparative Politics, Legal Philosophy, Jurisprudence and possibly Public Law, areas that I am most interested in and in which I believe I can accomplish the most substantial research achievements. With its undisputable position in political science and its research-intensive program, UC Berkley will permit me to receive the kind of education necessary for realizing my academic objectives.

For me, political science is an academic discipline that can also serve as my personal belief. If an academic subject can be studied and researched both as a discipline and as a belief, it will be the greatest joy of my life and it is all too natural for me to pursue it as my lifelong career. My ideal is to emulate Cicero who is both a great scholar and a great political practitioner. It will indeed be a worthy cause if I can exert a discernible impact on the Chinese society with the political ideas that I can develop with the help of an advanced education in your program.

 


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