BioMatthew S. Erie, J.D., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Studies and Associate in the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Oxford. He is a legal scholar whose research focuses on dispute resolution and conflict of law in jurisdictions influenced by non-liberal law. He studied law in the U.S. (University of Pennsylvania Law School) and China (Tsinghua University Law School), and practiced corporate law in Beijing and New York City. He also holds a Ph.D. in socio-cultural anthropology from Cornell University. Before teaching at Oxford, he held academic positions at New York University Law School (in New York City and Shanghai) as well as Princeton University. His first book, China and Islam: The Prophet, the Party, and Law (Cambridge University Press, 2016), the first ethnographic study of conflicts of law between state law and Islamic law in China, was awarded a 2017 Distinguished Book Award Honorable Mention by the Asian Law & Society Association and has been named one of the “Books of the Year 2017” by the Times Literary Supplement and Times Higher Education. His current research project is on “legal hubs,” emerging centers of InterAsian dispute resolution that facilitate international transactions and, in so doing, require new ways of thinking about jurisdiction and choice of law matters. He is a member of the New York bar and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.
China is changing the nature of law and economic development in ways that diverge from—and potentially challenge—orthodoxy about the role of law in development. Conventionally, investor states seek to improve the legal system of host states to ensure contractual security while creating special fora for investor claims against host governments through bilateral investment treaties (BITs). China’s experience shows a modified version of the latter and very little of the former. Yet to sustain a projected $140 billion in overseas development over the next five years, China requires private investors who demand contract enforcement. Further, Chinese investment in infrastructure projects involves multiple parties who are not protected under BITs. This project asks how law matters in China’s cross-border investments and finance projects and, further, what this may tell us about law and development. The hypothesis is that law may matter, but not in the way liberal legalism prescribes. Rather than conceptualizing China’s impacts as one of model imposition, China’s omnipresence in development demonstrates a convergence with protectionism, nativism, and dedemocratization in the U.S., U.K., and the EU, the proponents of law and development in yesteryears. To understand this convergence, this project introduces a novel heuristic: legal hubs, sub-national jurisdictions with concentrations of legal services and a variety of dispute resolution mechanisms that function to facilitate cross-border transactions. The project examines the emergence of interAsian legal hubs, which are orienting their legal services towards (or from within) China, as windows into the evolving landscape of dispute resolution under international commercial law.