Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module LAW46115: China and the International Legal Order

Department: Law

LAW46115: China and the International Legal Order

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The aim of this module is to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the key legal and policy issues, as well as contemporary developments, in the complex relationship between the rule-based liberal international order and China, an emering superpower that advocates a distinct set of idealogical, social, political and cultural narratives and practices. The module will interrogate how the rise of China may challenge the current international legal order (with special emphasis on international economic order) and how international norms and institutions may evolve in reponse to China’s rapid rise as a major global power. Topics covered include China’s historical and contemprorary approaches to international law, China’s integration into the global trade, investment and financial systems, China’s ambitious Belt & Road Initative, China’s trade war with the United States, etc. It will also look at some country responses, in particular the UK, the European Union and the United States, to China’s international legal behaviour. Specific topics may change slightly from year to year to accommodate students’ interests and new developments.
  • The module will give students the opportunity to engage in current policy debates about how to respond to a rapidly rising China and equip them with the ability to analyse international treaties, domestic legislation and case law to solve problems in practice.
  • The module will enhance study in other areas of commercial law and international law and prepare students for a career in a wide range of global employment destinations, including but not limited to legal practice in law firms and companies, government agencies and international organizations.


  • The module will feature key legal and policy issues in China and international law, in particular international economic law. The syllabus will cover the following topics:
  • China’s Approach to international law: Historical and Contemporary perspective
  • China’s State Capitalism and the Liberal International Economic Order
  • China – US Trade War and the Future of Global Trade Governance
  • China’s New Foreign Invesment law, China’s Outbound FDI and the Chaning Landscape of International Investment Law
  • China’s Belt & Road Initiative: Globalisation with Chinese Characteristics
  • China’s Banking System, Internationalisation of Renminbi and International Financial Law
  • China and the International Human Rights System
  • The Rule of law in China and the International Rule of Law

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students should be able to:
  • Demonstrate detailed knowledge of core legal and policy issues and the complex body of rules and case law in the field of China and the international legal order
  • Understand the international dimension of China’s domestic policies as well as how international norms impact China’s domestic economic and political development
  • Understand the key challenges that the rise of China has brought to the design of international and national rules and policy in a globalised economy
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • Critically comment or critique on currently debated issues and related arguments in the academic literature drawn from both law and related muldisciplines
  • Identify and critically evaluate the different approaches that international actors have taken in response to the challenges and opportunities brought by China’s rapid rise
  • Demonstrate ability to critically evaluate how effectively legislation and government policy have achieved the policy intention of the government
Key Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • Demonstrate sophisticated research, analytical and writing skills and ability to think critically
  • Manage time efficiently and work independently within a limited time frame to complete a specified task

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The teaching will be based on interactive seminars, supported by independent study of reading materials. The seminars will provide a forum for students to gain basic knowledge of the impact of a rising China on the rule-based international order. Students’ understanding of the topics will be further enhanced through assigned reading for each seminar.
  • The assessment will be in the form of a 3,000-word essay. The essay will test students’ understanding of the issues and ability to conduct independent research and apply the materials to develop coherent arguments.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 8 weekly 2 hours 16
Preparation and Reading 134

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative Essay 3000 words 100% Essay, 3000 words, different title

Formative Assessment:

Essay (1,500 words – individual feedback will be provided)

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University