Joint Symposium Issues: "China and the International Legal Order"

July 2021


Yale Journal of International Law Symposium Issue 


From international investment and trade and to human rights and multilateralism, China has become central to debates about the future of the international legal order, particularly one under stress during one of the worst pandemics in modern history.

On October 15, 2020, scholars from a number of countries, including China, the United States, and other jurisdictions convened a virtual symposium entitled “China and the International Legal Order.” The symposium was the result of a first-ever collaboration between the Harvard International Law Journal, the Yale Journal of International Law, and the University of Oxford, specifically, the “China, Law and Development” project and the Commercial Law Centre. The goal of the symposium was to create a platform for discussion between these scholars on the state of the field in China’s relationship with the ILO. The dialogue intentionally worked both horizontally and vertically. As to the former, whereas the U.S.-China relationship remains central to international politics and law, we emphasized the need to learn about mainland China from those outside of this relationship, and so invited scholars from Brazil, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom. The symposium further sought to stimulate vertical conversations by including not just established scholars but also mid-career and junior ones, as well, including current legal students. One shared belief of the organizers of the symposium was that it is vital for the next generation of China law scholars to be able to engage with those from different jurisdictional, disciplinary, cultural, and even ideological backgrounds.

There are eleven articles in total between the joint symposium issues (four published by the Harvard International Law Journal and seven published by the Yale Journal of International Law) that resulted from the virtual meeting. The articles vary in their perspectives, focus, and methodologies. Collectively, the authors share a commitment to nuancing the perception of China and its role in the ILO. Generally, the articles can be categorized in three ways. The first type adopts, broadly, a comparative lens to assess how China’s position on international law issues or norms relates to established practice. The second type analyses the effects of China’s involvement in the ILO on other jurisdictions. The third focuses on the question of lawyers as the stewards of the ILO. In the remainder of this introduction, we briefly gloss these types.