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Weekly Roundup: April 28, 2023


At the Blog

This week, we added three new entries to our symposium on China and the Political Economy of the International Legal Order.

On Monday, Wanshu Cong reflected on China’s recent efforts to pursue “foreign-related rule of law.” As she notes, the value of the rule of law, and of international law, in particular, have never been taken as a given in the Chinese context. Why, then, has China recently shifted its focus to the use of legal means, including the extraterritorial application of Chinese laws, to defend China’s sovereignty and national interests? And what kind of LPE-inspired approach is best suited to address this question? In answering these questions, Cong proposes that Marxism offers the most plausible version of LPE for approaching China, and sketches what such an approach could offer. As she writes, “China’s resort to law and the juridification of foreign-related affairs should be seen against the growing unease between the long-held commitment to sovereign equality and non-interference and the actual power asymmetry between China and states receiving Chinese investment… developing ‘foreign-related rule of law’ would at least have the effect of enabling and disciplining at the same time Chinese foreign investment and trade and containing disputes and conflicts arising from business to a specific ‘rule of law,’ so that the formal equality between states and non-interference can be maintained in spite of the actual asymmetries of power and wealth.”

On Tuesday, Eli Friedman traced the evolution of US policy on labor rights in China over the past thirty years, arguing that US efforts to combat labor exploitation will only succeed if they transcend the narrow political vision engendered by the hostile U.S.-China rivalry. As he writes, “By the late 2010s, the U.S. had more than $500 billion in annual imports from China. Yet this shift in production, which sought to reap the gains of the exploitation of Chinese workers, always depended on the ability of foreign corporations to claim plausible deniability in the face of systematic non-implementation of China’s labor law and their own voluntary ‘codes of conduct.’ Perhaps unsurprisingly, the political kneecapping of Chinese labor and endemic lawlessness in the workplace proved a shaky foundation for U.S.-China bonhomie—a foundation that has since been torn asunder by intensifying imperial rivalry.”

And on Thursday, Xiaoqian Hu argued for a vision of comparative US-China legal analysis that avoids stigmatization without being captured by disabling relativism. After contrasting two approaches to the study of Chinese law, what she calls the “metaphysical approach” and the “postmetaphysical approach,” Hu argues that in a world of intensifying value clashes and U.S.-China othering, researchers must accept that legal scholarship as a field of knowledge production is inherently an exercise of using the discursive power, and make a genuine effort to see and hear the other. As she writes, “If we are to develop a critical legal left internationalism, the LPE movement must realize that we are all parochial actors constructing truth and justice about other societies, peoples, and governments.”

In LPE Land

Over at Volts, our own Sabeel Rahman (as well as the former acting administrator of OIRA) discusses the “wonky but incredibly important changes Biden just made to regulatory policy.”

Next month, join the Sustainable Global Economic Law research project for an online talk by Clara E. Matte about her recent book, The Capital Order: How Economists invented Austerity and paved the way to Fascism.

You’ve seen her in concert, now relive the magic: Sanjukta Paul’s presentation on corporate mergers from a labor perspective at the Stigler Center’s Antitrust and Competition Conference is now available on youtube. (Her portion starts at 2:44:00).