Seeing the Forest and the Trees: Reconceptualizing State and Government Succession

14 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2006 Last revised: 13 Nov 2015

See all articles by Gregory W. Bowman

Gregory W. Bowman

West Virginia University College of Law


With the stunning growth of international trade in the last half century, the distinction between public international law and private international law has become increasingly blurred. The effect of this definitional blurring is of particular importance in the area of state and government succession. Yet post-Cold War succession events clearly illustrate that international law doctrine on state and government succession does not reflect state practice.

With this in mind, Professor Tai-Heng Cheng's book, STATE SUCCESSION AND COMMERCIAL OBLIGATIONS, proposes a reconceptualization of state and government succession doctrine. The book manages to address this complex subject from a variety of detail-specific angles without losing sight of the larger, complex picture of globalization. It also recommends a new legal approach to state and government succession that is more consistent with actual state practice, and it meshes this approach, to the extent possible, with existing doctrine.

This book review first summarizes and discusses the book's key principles and observations, and then analyzes Professor Cheng's reconceptualization of state and government succession from two perspectives not explored in the text - namely, economic theory concerning the identification and allocation of rights, and virtual state theory - that might be useful avenues for further inquiry. The review closes with comments regarding how Professor Cheng's reconceptualization might be applied to the 2003 invasion and subsequent reconstruction of Iraq, and future succession events as well.

Keywords: succession, state succession, government succession, international law, debt, odious debt, commercial obligation, globalization, vienna convention, iraq

Suggested Citation

Bowman, Gregory W., Seeing the Forest and the Trees: Reconceptualizing State and Government Succession. New York Law School Law Review, Vol. 51, 2007; Mississippi College School of Law Research Paper No. 2008-04. Available at SSRN:

Gregory W. Bowman (Contact Author)

West Virginia University College of Law ( email )

101 Law School Drive
Morgantown, WV West Virginia 26506
United States
304-293-3199 (Phone)


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