Chinese Law Courses at Columbia Law School

Columbia Law School offers the widest range of courses on Chinese law of any law school in the United States.

Students enjoy a unique breadth and depth of Chinese law classes covering current topics such as international trade, media, and the environment. Students also work with world-renowned faculty on original research into the Chinese legal system.

An interdisciplinary approach draws on the expertise of faculty in the History and East Asian Languages and Literature departments at Columbia University. In addition to courses offered at the Law School, students may take courses offered at other schools in the university.

Chinese law courses offered at Columbia in recent years have included:

Professor: Benjamin L. Liebman

Offered Spring 2019

A survey of contemporary Chinese legal attitudes and institutions in historical and comparative perspective. The course begins with a brief examination of certain key themes and practices in China’s traditional legal order and an appraisal of its early 20th century effort to import a Western legal model. The major portion of the term is devoted to a study of formal and informal legal institutions and procedures in the criminal and civil processes of the People’s Republic of China’s contemporary legal reform efforts. Topics will include an examination of the roles of the legal profession and the judiciary, the sources of law in contemporary China, efforts to use law to address China’s growing environmental problems, and the development of China’s legal framework governing financial markets. 

Professors: Merit Janow and Petros Mavroidis

Last offered Fall 2017

The emergence of SOEs poses new challenges to the trade-, and the investment regime because of the hybrid nature of these entities (public, private). It further raises antitrust concerns because of their market power. Renown experts will debate these issues, and students will be asked to react to the various presentations made.

Professors: Thomas Kellogg and Benjamin Liebman

Last offered Spring 2017

Over the past 30 years, China has gone from one of the most isolated countries in the world to a major player in international affairs, a leading exporter, and a much more influential voice on regional security matters. Yet even with the rapid economic growth and increased influence that China has achieved over the past several decades, it maintains an ambivalent attitude towards many key aspects of international law and the architecture of global order. This class will explore China’s ambivalent engagement with international law in the context of its increasing prominence as an emerging power, and will in particular look to address the question of how China might adapt to the existing world order, and the ways in which it might look to influence its evolution. The class will cover a range of issues, including China’s membership in the WTO; its engagement with the international human rights regime; China’s approach to international cooperation on issues like global warming and nuclear nonproliferation; and international law aspects of the dispute over the South China Sea; among others.

Professors: Stephanie Balme, Sudhir Krishnaswamy, Benjamin Liebman

Last offered 2014-2015

In the last decade the comparison between the development strategies and political economies of China and India has become a central concern in academic and policy circles. Most studies emphasize the choice of economic, political, social and cultural institutions to be key determinants of development outcomes in these societies. There has, however, been little serious comparative effort to study the legal systems of the world’s two most populous countries. This seminar aims to fill this gap.

Stéphanie Balme is a researcher at the Center for International Studies and Research, a professor at the Paris School of International Affairs, and head of the "Justice, Law and Society in China" research program at Sciences Po Paris. She is also a research associate at the Institute of High Studies on Justice in Paris and an external reviewer for the Hong Kong Research Council.

Sudhir Krishnaswamy is on the faculty of Azim Premji University. Perviously he was a professor of law at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata India, where he taught constitutional law and jurisprudence.

Benjamin Liebman is the Robert L. Lieff Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Chinese Legal Studies at Columbia Law School.

Professors: Matthew Waxman, Benjamin Liebman

Last offered 2014-2015

Seventy percent of the earth's surface is covered by water. States are competing for the valuable resources contained in and below the world's oceans. Tensions are rising between China and its East Asian neighbors over disputed maritime territory. Free navigation of seas is critical to American national security. This one-credit, half-semester seminar explores the way states regulate activities on and under the ocean including energy and mineral development, military uses, and boundary issues. It will examine future flashpoints and the mechanisms for resolving disputes.

Matthew Waxman is an expert in national security law and international law, including issues related to executive power; international human rights and constitutional rights; military force and armed conflict; and terrorism.

Benjamin Liebman is the Robert L. Lieff Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Chinese Legal Studies at Columbia Law School.

Professor: Madeleine H. Zelin

Offered TBD

This is a seminar on the fundamentals of late imperial Chinese law and legal practice and its impact on the social and economic development of early modern China. Most of the readings will be in English but students should be able to read Chinese in order to do the exercises designed to give them a hands on familiarity with legal materials. The course is open to graduate students in GSAS and the professional schools. Students in SIPA and LAW with an interest in Chinese legal history are particularly encouraged to attend. Advanced Chinese language is desirable.