Chinese Law and Development

67 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2020 Last revised: 28 May 2020

See all articles by Matthew S. Erie

Matthew S. Erie

University of Oxford; University of Oxford - Centre for Socio-Legal Studies

Date Written: March 10, 2020


The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has cast doubt on taken-for-granted economic and governance models. Against the backdrop of increasing tension between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC or China), China is presenting itself as an alternative center for governance. Pursuant to these seismic shifts, the analysis must attune to how China creates cross-border order. Whereas scholars have examined China’s use of trade and investment law, inadequate attention has been paid to how the PRC grapples with the domestic law of host states. As the PRC seeks to protect its investments abroad, it is confronted with questions of law and development, yet there is little understanding of China’s approach or what it means for host states, developed economies, and global governance.

This Article seeks to fill that gap. “Chinese law and development” (CLD) consists of transnational law, some of which builds on legal infrastructures from the U.S. and some of which is Chinese, along with extralegal and nonlegal norms. These normative orders mitigate risk as a precondition to promoting China’s interests overseas. Drawing on three years of fieldwork and nearly 150 interviews in China and in host states, this Article presents the first empirical study of CLD to articulate an analytical theory to understand this phenomenon. In assessing CLD, I query whether CLD is good for developing states, and identify a research agenda for the study of the legal and regulatory dimensions of Chinese economic globalization.

Keywords: Law and Development, International Investment Law, International Economic Law, Risk, Order, Compliance, State Capitalism, Empirical Research, China

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Erie, Matthew Steven, Chinese Law and Development (March 10, 2020). Harvard International Law Journal, Vol. 62, No. 1, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Matthew Steven Erie (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

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University of Oxford - Centre for Socio-Legal Studies ( email )

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