Thirty Years of Legal Exchange with China: The Columbia Law School Role

How to Cite

Edwards, R. R. (2009). Thirty Years of Legal Exchange with China: The Columbia Law School Role. Columbia Journal of Asian Law, 23(1).


The successive deans and faculty members of Columbia Law School have been consistently supportive of the idea that study of Chinese law and exchanges with Chinese law schools warranted a special commitment of faculty time and Law School funds. I first became aware of the Co- lumbia Law Faculty’s strong interest in Chinese law when in the spring of 1973 I was invited to meet every member of the faculty as part of the process of interviewing me for a faculty appointment. The meetings be- gan at nine in the morning and lasted until five in the afternoon, with a new shift of four or five professors every half hour. I soon realized that each group was likely to ask me what plans I had for Chinese law at Co- lumbia in the event I received a job offer. What could I do?

In desperation, I decided to tell each group the unlikely truth-ever since I began the study of the Chinese language in the spring of 1958, 1 had dreamed of having a law teaching job where I could initiate a broad range of legal education exchanges with China. At that time, doing such a thing seemed not only virtually impossible but also almost treasonous. After all, Chinese troops had fought against American troops in the Korean War, and the U.S. 7th Fleet was patrolling the Taiwan Strait to protect the Nationalist regime in Taiwan from invasion by the Communist troops on the mainland. Moreover, the U.S. was the leader of an Allied embargo on trade with China that had imposed great hardship on the Chi- nese people. This official economic embargo had also led inexorably to a de facto cultural embargo. Only two or three U.S. law schools had even a single survey course on Chinese law in 1973. As for Chinese law facul- ties, they were all closed during the Cultural Revolution, from 1966 to the late 1970s.