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Economic Warlords: How De Facto Federalism Inhibits China's Compliance with International Trade Law and Jeopardizes Global Environmental Initiatives

Gregory H. Fuller

Moore, Ingram, Johnson & Steele

June 25, 2008

Tennessee Law Review, Vol. 75, p. 545, 2008

This article examines the global consequences flowing from contemporary China's distinctive blend of ancient traditions and modern ambitions. Beginning with Deng Xiaoping's revolutionary reforms, this discussion on the evolution of de facto federalism in China focuses on the dynamic interactions between the country's central, provincial and local governments. At each level, enterprising and often corrupt administrators blur the lines between business and government in search of political fame. These "economic warlords" consistently place local interests above central government mandates and advance their careers only through the relentless, unchecked growth which now drives the world economy. This article focuses on the international legal implications of Chinese localism, and how de facto federalism enables a regulatory culture where low-level officials methodically circumvent intellectual property rights, ignore product safety standards, and inflict widespread environmental degradation. After centuries of isolation, an intense desire to open China up to the rest of the world caused the central government to trade substantial control over its provinces for rapid industrialization. Accordingly, Beijing now finds itself increasingly powerless to enforce its own treaties, laws and regulations. The end result, however, is no longer confined to the Mainland as counterfeit and defective goods make their way into foreign markets. This article seeks to provide background into how the unique political, economic and cultural aspects of China's long history continue to guide its enigmatic interaction with the outside world, and how the localized interests of zealous bureaucrats increasingly impact international legal arrangements.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 31

Keywords: De facto federalism, China, Chinese economy, Chinese law, Chinese government, Chinese pollution, defective products, economic warlords, international law, intellectual property, environmental degradation

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Date posted: June 30, 2008 ; Last revised: August 14, 2008

Suggested Citation

Fuller, Gregory H., Economic Warlords: How De Facto Federalism Inhibits China's Compliance with International Trade Law and Jeopardizes Global Environmental Initiatives (June 25, 2008). Tennessee Law Review, Vol. 75, p. 545, 2008. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1151187

Contact Information

Gregory H. Fuller (Contact Author)
Moore, Ingram, Johnson & Steele ( email )
Cedar Ridge Office Park
Suite 500 N. Cedar Bluff Road
Knoxville, TN 37923
United States
615-294-0967 (Phone)
Feedback to SSRN

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