Sunday, March 31, 2024

Enrique Dussel Peters, James A. Cook, Joseph S. Alter (eds), Connecting China, Latin America, and the Caribbean: Infrastructure and Everyday Life (U. Pitt. Press, 2024)


Happy to pass along information about a recently published book that may be of interest, Enrique Dussel Peters, James A. Cook, Joseph S. Alter (eds), Connecting China, Latin America, and the Caribbean: Infrastructure and Everyday Life (U. Pitt. Press, 2024). The publisher materials describe the work this way: 

A long history of migration, trade, and shared interests links China to Latin America and the Caribbean. Over the past twenty years, China has increased direct investment and restructured trade relations in the region. In addition, Chinese public sector enterprises, private companies, and various branches of the central government have planned, developed, and built a large number of infrastructure projects in Latin America and the Caribbean, such as dams, roads, railways, energy grids, security systems, telecommunication networks, hospitals, and schools. These projects have had a profound impact on local environments and economies and help shape the lived experiences of individuals. Each chapter in this volume examines how the impact of these infrastructure projects varies in different countries, focusing on how they produce new forms of global connectivity between various sectors of the economy and the resulting economic and cultural links that permeate everyday life.

时刻保持解决大党独有难题的清醒和坚定 把党的伟大自我革命进行到底 [Always maintain the sobriety and determination required to solve the unique problems of the leading party and to undertake its great self-revolution to the end] 学思导图 [Study Guides]: 中共中央纪律检查委员会 中华人民共和国国家监察委员会 [Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Chinese Communist Party and the National Supervisory Commission of the PRC]


The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China (中国共产党中央纪律检查委员会) "is the inspection and supervision agency of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China . It is responsible for safeguarding the Party's charter and other intra-party laws and regulations, and inspecting the Party's line, principles, policies and resolutions. implementation, assist the party committee in strengthening the party's work style and organizing and coordinating the main tasks of anti-corruption work, and implement the secretary responsibility system."  [中国共产党中央委员会的检查监督机关,担负维护党的章程和其他党内法规,检查党的路线、方针、政策和决议的执行情况,协助党的委员会加强党风建设和组织协调反腐败工作的主要任务,实行书记负责制。] (HERE; working regulations discussed here). It is co-located with its administrative analog, the National Supervisory Commission of the People's Republic of China (国家监察委员会) which, since 2018, has had the same constitutional status of the Chinese State Council and the Supreme People's Procuratorate.  

The scope of CCDI's work is complicated by the challenges of translating sometimes complicated theory into practical expectations; and then of translating those practical expectations into something like a framework of self-referencing systems against which lower level cadres and the masses might be better about to adjust behaviors and outlooks to align with higher level interpretations of theory "applied." Recently, and in the tradition of early post-revolutionary CPC poster work, CCDI has attempted an elaborate multi-part set of visual 学思导图 (Study Guides).

Over the course of much of March 2024, CCDI/NSC developed a set of 学思导图 (Study Guides) focusing on the alignment of the principles of self-revolution and the anti-corruption mission of CCDI/NSC. That alignment, and its framing through the evolving expectations of self-revolution, were announced in January 2024 as a further elaboration of New Era theory: 《深入学习贯彻习近平总书记关于党的自我革命的重要思想,纵深推进新征程纪检监察工作高质量发展》[“In-depth study and implementation of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important thoughts on the Party’s self-revolution, and in-depth advancement of high-quality development of discipline inspection and supervision work in the new journey”]. "The third plenary session of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the twentieth party congress took place on January 8, emphasizing “courage in [performing] self-revolution” as a distinctive character and advantage of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). . . The substance of the thought is contained in 'grasping nine issues.'" (‘Self-Revolution’ Suggests Stronger CCDI Mandate). The People's Daily summarized these in an article published 9 January 2024:

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在深入推进党的自我革命实践中需要把握好九个问题,即:以坚持党中央集中统一领导为根本保证,以引领伟大社会革命为根本目的,以新时代中国特色社会主义思想为根本遵循,以跳出历史周期率为战略目标,以解决大党独有难题为主攻方向,以健全全面从严治党体系为有效途径,以锻造坚强组织、建设过硬队伍为重要着力点,以正风肃纪反腐为重要抓手,以自我监督和人民监督相结合为强大动力。要坚持解放思想、实事求是、与时俱进、守正创新,不断进行实践探索和理论创新,不断深化对党的自我革命的规律性认识,把党的自我革命的思路举措搞得更加严密,把每条战线、每个环节的自我革命抓具体、抓深入 [Nine issues need to be grasped in deepening the party's self-revolutionary practice, namely: [1] adhering to the centralized and unified leadership of the Party Central Committee as the fundamental guarantee, [2] leading the great social revolution as the fundamental purpose, [3] and taking the Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as the fundamental guideline, [4] taking the strategic goal of jumping out of the historical cycle, [5] taking solving the unique problems of the big party as the main direction, [6] taking improving the comprehensive and strict party governance system as the effective way, [7] taking forging strong organizations and building excellent teams as the important focus, and [8] taking the correct style to correct the Discipline and anti-corruption are an important starting point, and [9] the combination of self-supervision and people's supervision is a powerful driving force. We must persist in emancipating the mind, seeking truth from facts, advancing with the times, being upright and innovating, constantly carrying out practical exploration and theoretical innovation, constantly deepening the understanding of the laws of the party's self-revolution, making the party's self-revolutionary ideas and measures more rigorous, and making every move more rigorous. Self-revolution on all fronts and in every link should be specific and in-depth.].

That effort suggests correction of the CPC's approach to the embedding of ideological baselines among lower level cadres, and more generally, the masses.  

在肯定成绩的同时,实事求是分析了纪检监察工作和干部队伍建设存在的问题,要求高度重视、切实加以解决。[While affirming the achievements to date, we also analyzed the problems existing in the discipline inspection and supervision work and the construction of the cadre team based on facts, and called for high attention and practical solutions.] (《深入学习贯彻习近平总书记关于党的自我革命的重要思想,纵深推进新征程纪检监察工作高质量发展》)

The challenge is to transpose high level theory, already years in development during the leadership of Xi Jinping, and make is accessible to those who are expected to adhere. High ranking officials, certainly, but common folk especially. And thus the turn  to textually rich flow charts in the form of  学思导图 (Study Guides).  It makes for an interesting contrast to the development of anti-corruption strategies developed in the US. One might consider the connections between the 2021 U.S. Strategy on Countering Corruption, elements of which were implemented and transposed to economic activity through the 2024 US National Action Plan for Responsible Business Conduct.

Fourteen were produced through the end of March; an additional 3 were posted thereafter. They are designed to take the reader through the restated theory of self-revolution aligned with the normative goal of anti-corruption ideals. Links to all fourteen Study Guides follow below.  

In future posts I will work through them as a way both of understanding their meaning in this quite specific context, and then more broadly within New Era theory (for the larger context see Mapping New Era Theory: 习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想科学体系 [Xi Jinping’s Scientific System of Socialist Thought with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era]).


Friday, March 29, 2024

Brief Reflections on the 2024 U.S Government National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct

In 2016 the United States Government published its first National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct.  It was viewed positively by many.  But not by me.  My assessment was short and not entirely positive:

 The U.S.-NAP exhibits all of the weaknesses and missed opportunities that has marked the NAP process for many developed states: it focuses on outward conduct and pays little attention to the human rights effects of economic activity within the United States; it is grounded in the prerogatives of executive command; it provides little assessment of the legal and remedial framework of the United States and its relationship to managing business conduct; and most regrettably, so focused on the present it fails to present a coherent vision, grounded in law and policy, for moving forward. And yet there is a basis for moving forward revealed in the U.S.-NAP, one that might appeal to the incoming American administration--by focusing on disclosure, transparency and information sharing. The U.S.-NAP is at its most powerful and potentially useful not as a direct manifestation of state power through law, but by embracing methods of regulatory governance that enhance the use of market levers to manage preferred behaviors. (On the U.S. National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct--Business and Human Rights: Public Leadership and Private Governance (2016))

That assessment, in turn, reflected a substantial concern that the NAP process itself  provided States with the opportunity  to avoid confronting the deficiencies of their engagement with the State duty to protect by encouraging the crafting of aspirational pamphlets of encouragement for the extraterritorial application of international human rights law/norms which in important ways would have no internal effects (discussion over the course of years here, here, here, here, here

On June 16, 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on behalf of the Biden-Harris Administration that the Department would soon begin updating and revitalizing the United States’ National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct (NAP RBC) for U.S. businesses operating and investing abroad (discussed here). At the time, Secretary of State Anthony Blink was quoted as saying: 

Businesses can provide crucial support for democratic principles, including respect for human and labor rights. They have the capacity to help shape society and the environment – raising local wages, improving working conditions, building trust with communities, and operating sustainably. As a result, businesses have a key role in addressing human rights abuses, including throughout their value chains. (here)

In 2024, after extensive consultations among selected stakeholders, the U.S. Government has issued its revised 2024 National Action Plan on Responsible Βusiness Conduct. Its Press Release framed that effort this way:

Businesses adhering to strong responsible business conduct (RBC) practices throughout their value chains can lift standards around the world and help level the playing field, including for U.S.-based businesses and workers. The U.S. government uses a range of tools to promote and incentivize RBC, including prohibitions against federal contractors and sub-contractors engaging in trafficking in persons or using forced labor or indentured child labor; technical assistance and programming to prevent child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking in global supply chains; preferential purchasing for contractors engaged in sustainable environmental practices; import and export controls; trade-related regulations; sanctions; and visa restrictions.

The Biden-Harris Administration’s release of the United States’ second National Action Plan (NAP) on Responsible Business Conduct reflects a whole-of-government commitment to strengthen RBC. Agencies across the U.S. government have pursued policies, initiatives, and programming focused on RBC to promote respect for human and labor rights, expand use of green energy, further a just transition, counter corruption, protect human rights defenders, advance gender equity and equality, and promote rights-respecting use of technology.

2024 United States Government National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct 
FACT SHEET: U.S Government’s National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct

And, indeed, much has changed since 2016--and particularly the principles and objectives driving U.S. efforts to develop some sort of policy chapeau over business conduct that the state can give the "responsible" imprimatur. The difference is quite notable when one compares the way each was framed at the time of their distribution. In the opening page of the 2016 US NAP, then Secretary of State John Kerry wrote:

 The United States is committed to promoting human rights and leading the global fight against corruption. . . U.S. companies are among the most sought-after partners across the globe because they take seriously their responsibility to follow the rule of law, uphold human and labor rights, and strengthen the communities in which they operate. . . We undertook this process to enhance coordination within our government, push for higher standards and a more level playing field globally, and strengthen public-private coordination to help U.S. companies attain their responsible conduct goals in a variety of environments around the world. (US NAP, p. 1)).

In 2024, the Introduction to the 2024 US NAP took a slightly different tone: 

To mark the 10th anniversary of the UNGPs on June 16, 2021, Secretary Antony Blinken announced the USG’s intent to revitalize and update the NAP. While this NAP addresses the full range of RBC issues for U.S. businesses operating and investing abroad, it focuses principally on the business responsibility to respect human rights, including through effective due diligence in a rapidly changing risk environment. . . Under the Biden Administration, agencies across the USG have pursued policies, initiatives, and programming to promote respect for human and labor rights, expand the use of green energy, further a just transition, counter corruption, protect human rights defenders (HRDs), advance gender equity and
equality, and promote rights-respecting technology. (2024 US NAP p. 3, 4)

One moves here from collaboration and incentive to compliance based regimes overseen by a blended techno-bureaucracy of public and private functionaries constituted to align economic productivity with public policy, and public policy around human rights (consider a European perspective here)--but only in their outbound activities (longer discussion here). The alignment of the spheres of politics, law, and economic activity--subsumed within the overarching principles of international human rights--requires a refocus of the enterprise of business and human rights as a legal-policy matter from the State duty to protect human rights to the corporate responsibility to respect human rights.  That is, that in the context of business and human rights, States are far better equipped to transpose public regulatory structures onto private activity than they are, for the moment at least, to actually bind themselves and their domestic legal orders to the very international human rights regime they are more than eager to foist down supply chains beyond the borders of the State.  

Fair enough.

But one is still very much within the sphere's of incentive systems and incentives based compliance regimes. There is still a great distance between this approach and those privileging legalization or direct state direction (these find more fertile ground in Europe and in Marxist-Leninist states). Here one encounters a re-affirmation of the fundamental approach and sensibilities (which themselves have been evolving since the 1970s) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the group that tends to include many "home" states in goal economic production networks.  That makes a lot of sense, especially given the strength (still) of markets driven development and the protection of the autonomy of natural and legal persons  in what is still understood as a private sphere of activity (a close look at the Business Roundtable  (re)statement on corporate purpose makes that clear enough). That does not suggest laissez faire in the style of Milton Friedman--it does suggest that public policy creates guard rails and expectations but does not drive micro-decision making. That is, public policy does not drive economic production (its character and choices); rather public policy creates the "playing field" within those choices can be made in conformity to collective expectations, duties, and obligations (some of which are written into law especially in the guise of compliance measures and "hardened" private law; see also here).

The fundamental operative structure of the UNGP State duty to protect was grounded on the premise of international legality embedded within the principles of the state system.  And that, in turn, is still, more or less, grounded n the nation of the contractual nature of international law, and the aspirational nature of international norms.  True enough, the transformation of international law from contract to constituting instrument (that is from treaties memorializing norms and a duty to transpose them into domestic legal orders to treaties that constitute an institutional apparatus onto which certain authority is delegated; the classic version of which might be José Alvarez's International Organizations as Law Makers (OUP, 2006)  proceeds apace.  And the trajectory and implications of that transformation are substantially irresistible at this point--absent crisis. Still, State's remain protective of their authority (undisturbed in the UNGP) that (with the customary exceptional cases) to embrace or reject what may be proffered for their consideration either in the form of treaty obligation or the product of treaty bodies. 

The United States, like the People's Republic of China, are no exceptions to this sensibility, and in a sense siblings in their shared view of the prerogatives of (powerful) states within the state system and its institutional apparatus. 

And thus, it ought not surprise that the emphasis on a quasi-legalization, or exhortation toward that goal (even in hybrid form), of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, based on international law, and applied only beyond the territorial borders of the home state becomes the centerpiece of State strategies for compliance with its duty to protect human rights. The irony is inescapable, as is the resulting transformation of the State duty from one that might have been centered on the alignment of a State's domestic legal order with its international human rights duty, to one  grounded in exteriorization of the State duty beyond its territories and governmentalization of economic actors as agents for implementation of extraterritorial human rights regimes. 

To that end an apparatus is necessary; in this case a Federal Advisory Committee on Responsible Business Conduct, that might serve as a platform in which public and private consumers of responsible business conduct (RBC) might "come to market." (2024 US NAP, p. 11). But the driving force is still exteriorization of rights based  compliance, however broadly it is dressed up in the COED-inspired language of RBC. It also requires the cultivation, long resisted in the US, of a greater openness toward non-judicial state based remedies created (through the OECD National Contact Point organs),

The OECD’s work on RBC is delivered through the OECD Centre for Responsible Business Conduct. The RBC Centre, which is part of the OECD Directorate for Financial and Enterprise Affairs, works with governments, business, workers and civil society to promote the implementation of the OECD Guidelines. The RBC Centre provides the Secretariat to the Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct, composed of representatives of all governments adhering to the Guidelines. The Working Party’s mandate includes supporting governments in designing policies for responsible business conduct, developing guidance to business of how to implement due diligence and promoting its implementation, and strengthening access to remedy through National Contact Points for RBC. (HERE)

The OECD principles and mechanisms also come with their own guiding apparatus--the OECD Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct established in 2012 and serving as a sort of capacity building and guidance mechanism around RBC. Lastly, the 2024 US NAP approach is one that permits the strategic aligning of favored elements of international human rights law/norms that align with current USG policy priorities with US procurement policies, and the USG's increasingly important sanctions mechanisms (now converging with human rights priorities).  This aligns with the explanation of RBG offered in the 2024 US NAP--"based on the growing evidence that businesses can perform well while doing good and that governments should create and facilitate the conditions for this to take place." (2024 US NAP, p. 3, n. 1).

At the center of RBC, and operationalization mechanisms are the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, "an international legal instrument, adopted by all OECD members and open for adherence to interested non-OECD members. To date, around 50 countries have adhered to the Guidelines or are in the process of adhering. These countries represent some of the largest markets in the world and a large majority of global trade and investment activity" (HERE).  This multi-lateral apparatus has been acquiring  some quasi-jurisprudential and regulatory heft over the last twenty or so years (see my early discussion in “Rights And Accountability In Development (Raid) V Das Air (21
July 2008) And Global Witness V Afrimex (28 August 2008); Small Steps Toward an Autonomous Transnational Legal System for the Regulation of Multinational Corporations,” (2009) 10(1) Melbourne Journal Of International Law 258-307). Thus a necessary element of exteriorization involves alignments with supra-national blocs of like minded states--in this case the OECD-- through which their values can be crammed down supply chains (the US variation of what is sometimes referred to as the European "Brussels Effect"). And, like the Norwegian Pension Fund Global, that institutional apparatus is meant to privilege national priorities in international spaces  (2024 US NAP pp. 15-39; the operational guts of the 2024 US NAP) (e.g. here). 

The 2024 US NAP, on balance represents a step toward an evolution of US engagement with the issues of business and human rights in economic activity, as it intersects with critical developments in tastes and expectations for governance, their modalities, and the balance between individual autonomy to drive choices and public policy that shapes them (overseen by techno-bureaucracies seeded within the apparatus of public and private institutions).  It provides a strong statement of an approach that is quite distinct from that of the Europeans and that of Marxist-Leninist States (for a comparison of first principles driving structures that might be applied to business and human rights see here, here, and here).

The bottom line: The 2024 US NAP shows promise and is exceptionally useful as a memorial of current US policy under the current political administration. First the positives:

1. The strong alignment with the structures and sensibilities of the OECD--including its normative formulations (the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises), and its "soft" remedial mechanisms (through the National Contact Points). But more important than that is the convergence with the underlying first principles of OECD approaches to governance--markets driven, state regulatory, soft law  frameworks, and incentives based nudging that reflects a dialectic between public policy and private expectation (consider eg here, and here). 

2. The deepening of U.S. policy commitment from traditional corporate social responsibility sensibilities to RBC--understood to embrace both human rights and sustainability, as well as "good governance" issues (eg here, and here; in this case built around the concept of corruption).  Yet lost in the shift is the relationship between the normative values of RBC and the modalities of its realization.  In particular, the now generations long marginalization of philanthropy is to be lamented both in its own right and as an important expression of RBC in some cultures. 

3.The detailed and comprehensive mapping of the role of the State and its administrative organs in facilitating RBC (that is in constructing the structural elements and guidance through which RBC can be identified, measured, assessed, and guided as context changes).

4. The transparent development of prioritization in governmental nudging efforts in furtherance of policy objectives. 

5.The 2024 US NAP approach falls plausibly within a certain way of interpreting the spirit of the UNGP as well as its approach to state obligation to facilitate the 2nd pillar corporate responsibility to respect human rights.

And then the negatives: 

1. The characterization of the RBC project--and its due diligence methodologies--as something to be projected out from the US, rather than applied  both within the (home) state and elsewhere. The dangers are well known. The first touches on the construction of dual law/compliance/norm/expectation systems--one to be applied to the home state activities of enterprises and the other applicable elsewhere.  The second is the continuing treatment of international law as something alien though useful to home state. The third is that it tends to cabin RBC and its human rights elements within the foreign policy  and US external relations circles, further inhibiting the naturalization of its principles within the US  domestic order (legal and otherwise).
2. The 2024 US NAP leaves unresolved the core issues exposed by both the OECD Guidelines and the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights: is economic activity an instrument for the realization of public policy objectives (macro and micro) or is public policy an instrument for the realization of economic activity reflective of social expectations?  Within this issue are comfortably lodged the usual questions that most people like to avoid (because consensus among elites, for example, is very difficult to come by at this moment): the morality of profit and the further morality of profit distribution to holders of interest in capital; the morality of leaving to autonomous choice (not directed by or for the benefit of the State)choices in economic activity; the valuation of inputs and outputs of production; ad the like. On the other hand, the lack of resolution may be understood as a positive--at least within the context of the US political-economic model.

3. The 2024 US NAP is grounded on capacity building.  That raises three potential issues of implementation: First, much of the structures of internal capacity have already been developed or are in the process of development to some extent.  But capacity dissemination in the US administrative apparatus is thin--at best, and in this case effectively confined to the US foreign relations apparatus. Second, it is not clear how effectively knowledge and norm capacity can be imparted into the objects of all this effort. The traditional approaches, now well practiced, for example, by IFIs, have had mixed results. Third, it is not clear that, beyond funding the crafting of the 2024 US NAP the state is willing to appropriate sufficient funds to effectively implement the NAP. This challenge is heightened given the timing of the announcement of the 2024 US NAP: at the start of what is likely to be a particularly brutal US Presidential election cycle.  The temptation to view the drafting as the object, rather than its implementation, may be great, even if inadvertent circumstances may produce that result.

4. The human rights prioritization appears to cut both ways.  On the positive side it tends to simplify implementation. And it makes the "public policy case" for governmental investment of resources in the project (the way that the business case for RBC considers the benefit of enterprise investment in human rights). At the same time it might raise the concern that is never far from the core of the civil society critique: that human rights are indivisible etc.  Yet, the pragmatic turn here would institutionalize a tolerance in the State for a regime of picking and choosing priority human rights. That would align, interestingly enough, with the way that enterprises prioritize  among the Sustainability Development Goals to align with their business or enterprise objectives. 

The text of the 2024 US NAP and the published "Fact Sheet" (summary) follow below.

Call for Papers: 2024 Annual Conference of the European China Law Studies Association (ECLS) Taking Place in Hong Kong 19-21 September 2024


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The 18th Annual Conference of the European China Law Studies Association will take place from 19 to 21 September 2024 and is organized by the Faculty of Law of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. This will mark the first time in a decade since ECLS held its annual meeting in Hong Kong. I am delighted to pass along the Conference Call for Papers:

Call for Papers: 2024 Annual Conference of the ECLS in Hong Kong

The 18th Annual Conference of the European China Law Studies Association (ECLS/ will be held in Hong Kong from 19 to 21 September 2024. The conference will be hosted and organized by the Faculty of Law of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK LAW).  

ECLS is dedicated to advancing comparative and interdisciplinary research in Chinese law. Its Annual Conference is recognized as a premier forum for scholars, legal practitioners, and policymakers from around the globe to meet and debate the latest developments in Chinese law. The Annual Conference also serves as a platform for initiating research collaborations.


The Annual Conference Organizing Committee is now inviting the submission of paper and panel proposals for the 2024 ECLS Annual Conference. We welcome contributions addressing legal matters related to any China law topic such as – but expressly not limited – to the following:

– Legal Issues concerning EU-China Relations
– China and the International Legal Order
– Legal Culture, Legal Traditions and Rule of Law Development
– Chinese Jurisprudence and Legal History
– Legal Aspects of the Belt and Road Initiative
– Law in the Greater Bay Area
– Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure
– Gender Equality
– Human Rights Protection
– Chinese Law Emergency/Pandemic Preparedness
– Sustainable Development and the Role of Regulation in China
– Legal and Economic Issues of International Investment
– Developments in Chinese Corporate and Commercial Law
– Cyber Security and Data Protection
– Legal Technologies, Big Data and Smart Courts
– Cryptocurrencies and China’s Banking and Finance Law
– Intellectual Property and Chinese Law
– Social Credit and the Law in China
– Labour Law Developments, Decent Work and Fundamental Labour Rights
– Administrative Law and Administrative Procedure
– Environment, Climate Change and Energy Law and Policies

Keynote Speakers

Professor Björn Ahl from the University of Cologne and Professor Li Guo from Peking University have kindly agreed to present the keynote speeches.

Guidelines for Submission

The Organizing Committee invites the submission of paper abstracts and panel proposals by 30 April 2024. All submissions will undergo a peer-review process. Submissions should be entered via this LINK

Individual papers abstracts should be confined to 300 words, while panel proposals should not exceed 1,000 words. Submissions must include: (1) the title of the paper or panel, (2) the name, institutional affiliation, and email address of the author(s), and (3) up to five relevant keywords

The Organizing Committee welcomes abstracts and proposals from emerging researchers, including PhD candidates and MA students. Special sessions for emerging researchers will be organized in the form of roundtables, moderated by seasoned scholars to facilitate enriching discussions.

Important Dates

30 April 2024 – submission of abstracts/panel proposals
27 May 2024 – notification of acceptance
15 July 2024 – submission of full papers (which should not exceed 8,000 words).


The Conference will take place at the CUHK Graduate Law Centre, 2/F, Bank of America Tower, 12 Harcourt Road, Central, Hong Kong SAR, China.

Practical Information

Conference participants will be responsible for their own travel and accommodation costs. Additional information concerning logistics and other practical aspects will be provided in due time.

For any queries related to submissions, please reach out to Professor Chao Xi at For all other inquiries, particularly those related to visa procedures or logistics, please direct your questions to


Wednesday, March 27, 2024

A Luciferian Reflection on Fragility and the Collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore


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It was with great sadness that one woke on 27 March 2024 to the news of the collapse of the  Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. Maryland. The collapse took the lives of at least six workers, and threatens the well being of thousands of workers and the economy of the region (here).  

The operators of the Dali cargo ship issued a mayday call that the vessel had lost power moments before the crash, but the ship still headed toward the span at “a very, very rapid speed,” Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said. The 985-foot-long (300-meter-long) vessel struck one of the 1.6-mile (2.6-kilometer) bridge’s supports, causing the span to break and fall into the water within seconds. Six construction workers who were filling potholes on the bridge are presumed dead. Jeffrey Pritzker, executive vice president of Brawner Builders, said they were working in the middle of the span when it came apart. * * * The ship is owned by Singapore-based Grace Ocean Private Ltd., which said all crew members, including the two pilots, were accounted for and there were no reports of injuries. The ship’s warning enabled authorities to limit vehicle traffic on the span. Plus, the accident occurred at 1:30 a.m., long before the busy morning rush. The bridge carried an estimated 30,800 vehicles a day on average in 2019. . . The collapse will almost surely create a logistical nightmare for months, if not years, in the region, shutting down ship traffic at the Port of Baltimore, a major shipping hub. The accident will also snarl cargo and commuter traffic. The port is a major East Coast hub for shipping. The bridge spans the Patapsco River, which massive cargo ships use to reach the Chesapeake Bay and then the Atlantic Ocean.  The Dali was headed from Baltimore to Colombo, Sri Lanka, and flying under a Singapore flag, according to data from Marine Traffic. (What we know about the Baltimore bridge collapse)

Newsweek reported that the 

The Dali "lost propulsion" as it was leaving port and had warned Maryland officials of a possible collision, according to an unclassified report by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) cited by ABC News. Video footage shared online captured the bridge collapse, with the steel structure falling onto the ship below and flinging cars into the frigid waters, sparking a huge rescue operation. "The vessel notified MD Department of Transportation (MDOT) that they had lost control of the vessel and an allision  [a collision] with the bridge was possible," the CISA said. "The vessel struck the bridge causing a complete collapse." (Dali Container Ship 'Lost Control' Before Baltimore Bridge Collapse)



My purpose here is offer a very preliminary macro-level consideration of things that may be worth thinking about now.

1. Very strong things (bridges, in this case) appear to be quite fragile when stressed in just the right way. And such stress events do not appear to be particularly difficult to activate (at least in this case). But just about anything has a critical stress point. And stress points are not just fixed (e.g., transportation grids) but also dynamic in the sense that any pathway can be stressed under the right conditions (border through strategic migration waves; too much traffic on networks, etc.).

2. Pathways that appear to be robust are also fragile to the extent that they are an aggregation of choke points.  The Key bridge, for example, serves as a simple single structure the collapse of which can close off a port. But that applies to highways (the US interstate highway system is a series a choke points; but so is the electrical grid, train systems, etc.). 

3. The concept of "losing control" has acquired a broader meaning. One can lose control because mechanical systems fail; but one can lose control when computer assisted and programmed control structures fail. . . . or are hijacked. If that is the case, then any object on a pathway (water, highway, air, space, etc.) can become a weapon. Cars, for example, especially those that are capable of ceding control to others, may provide an easy way to clog an arterial pathway at a critical point in space, time, and place.

4. Pathway failure remind one that the premise of reliability, especially in times of stress, may be worth rethinking.  The operating premise might require shifting, from a  premise or goal of (thoughtless) reliability to one risk; that is that risk contingency may require the cultivation of alternatives as a core part of planning.

5. Related to the shift from a premise of reliability to one of risk, is the shift from fixity to nimbleness in responding to changing circumstance. For many, the ability to shift quickly in the face of blockages  may be difficult.  And that difficulty may produce disaster if it is multiplied in key sector or among key elements of a population. Just as it is important to undertake risk analysis so might it be necessary to map out a spectrum of alternatives.

6. One of the most interesting parts of World War Z was the use of the notion that even the most impervious threat can be undermined by understanding that its greatest strengths may also provide a glimpse at its greatest weakness (Nature "loves disguising her weaknesses as strengths." HERE). It may be time to undertake a strength is weakness analysis to better and more dispassionately understand the critical chinks in the national armor. In this case openness has been a great strength (in technology, migration, pathways, etc., but they also appear to be the means through which negative effects may be projected or just happen, as no doubt in this case).

7. The prize of all of this is the cultivation of instability. A collective that has come to expect that things have and will operate without interruption; that pathways are open, and that blockages are either serendipitous or negligible in impact, is likely much less prepared  when these principles are threatened. A less prepared public may respond badly or may be less easy to manage appropriately in the face of disruptions that are either cumulative or painful. And disruption that blocks pathways may also block any effective ability to project or deliver order, respond, mitigation, comfort, or security.  

8. The Luciferian semiotics of the Key Bridge, then, become more easiy visible. Objects that appear strong become their opposite. An inversion of solidity affects the solidity of the premises on which social order and expectation is defined and meaning constructed. The most pernicious effect, though, on meaning, order, stability and the like, may be a function of losing control. It is to the loss of control and its consequences that one might need to develop appropriate countermeasures, including the management of the meaning of things, events, and the like. That sounds like a project for collectives; and indeed it is.  But it is also a project that may be as important to the autonomous individual. This is possible, but only if one recognizes, identifies, thinks and acts.

《李鹏文集》出版发行 Publication and Distribution of the "Collected Works of Li Peng" and Brief Reflections on the Dialectics of History for the New Era


Pix credit here: Caption: "From February 19 to 20, 1996, Comrade Li Peng returned to Yan'an after 50 years of absence, visited and expressed condolences to the cadres and masses in Yan'an area, and celebrated the New Year with the people in the old area. This is the first day of the Lunar New Year. Comrade Li Peng and the Zaoyuan Village Yangko Team performed the Northern Shaanxi Yangko Dance together. Photo by Xinhua News Agency reporter Liu Jianguo

It may always be important to remember that both the stages of historical development of a nation and the people who are instrumental in the fulfillment of its promise--a least in accordance with the imperatives of a ruling ideology guided by the leading social forces of a nation organized in collective form--come and go.That is especially true of a Leninist collective true to the ultimate ideal of moving the nation forward toward the establishment of a communist society. Every generation of collective leadership rises--and dies. And with every generation and historical era, a particular approach to the general contradictions of historical development that marks the success or failure of Leninist collective leadership also rises, and ends. Yet every historical era leaves behind its record, and passes along its lessons--sometimes good and sometimes less so--its successes and failures--as both the nation and the collective learn from and move forward along whatever ideological road they have fashioned for themselves. In the case of Marxist-Leninist collectives, it is of course the socialist path; among liberal democratic leadership collectives it is the a path toward social perfection of a different sort.

Either way, the preservation of the past serves as both warning and instruction for those who come after--to build on the successes and learn from the errors of the great stages of historical development put of which the nation has emerged. That requires preservation of the memorialized thinking of the core of leadership of these collectives. Preservation is not enough; it is also necessary to make that thinking available to the masses (in Leninist collectives, to the masses and the cadres of collective organs) so that they might study the foundations of their current stage of historical development as a function of the stage of historical development just past--guided, of course, by the leadership core of the vanguard overseeing  collective efforts to meet the contemporary contradictions of the current era. 

In China, the contemporary New Era stage of historical development, which represents the current stage of Chinese historical development strictly on the socialist path, it is necessary to development both sources and guidance for the great and often remarkable thinking of the past Reform and Opening Up Era. Carefully guided by the current collective core of leadership it is understood that contemporary mass organs can serve as a platform through which individuals might learn much from the recent past to help guide them to better understand the current situation. This is a dialectical process which is a core principle of Leninism and bound up in the ethos of the mass line, democratic centralism, and more fundamentally within the principles of people's democratic dictatorship.

It is with this in mind that one can better situate and evaluate the importance of the publication and distribution of the Collected Works of Li Peng [《李鹏文集》]. "The editing and publication of "Li Peng's Collected Works" will enable the broad masses of cadres and the masses to systematically study the history of the party's leadership in reform and opening up and socialist modernization in the new era, and further use Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era to arm the whole party, educate the people, guide practice, and promote work , is of great significance." [《李鹏文集》的编辑出版,对于广大干部群众系统学习党领导改革开放和社会主义现代化建设新时期的历史,进一步用习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想武装全党、教育人民、指导实践、推动工作,具有重要意义。]. (HERE).

 The choice of publishing  the collected works of 李鹏 (Li Peng), rather than others is as instructive. It is especially instructive as a point of emphasis. This publication signals importance, in the sense that the works are worth reading--guided by the current vanguard. As is well known. Li Peng was both a child of the revolutionary era (closely connected to Zhou Enlai and his wife after the murder of his father, studying in Yan'an and then Moscow from the 19040s through the mid-1950s), and then, during much of the post-revolutionary period through the end of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, working in the power sector.  From the beginning of the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, Li Peng moved up in leadership circles becoming Premier in 1988. He is perhaps best known for two things that have substantial resonance in the New Era.  The first was his skepticism of markets and markets driven governance, preferring tighter controls over market mechanisms in a Leninist state (in the language of the official summary bios see eg here).  The second was his political position with respect to the protests of 1989, in which he played a significant and influential role in decision making and in the development of the theoretical position of the vanguard.  

Pix credit here: Caption--"On November 14, 2012, before the closing of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Comrade Xi Jinping and Comrade Li Peng were together. Photo by Xinhua News Agency reporter Lan Hongguang

In a sense, then, Li Peng, represents a Leninist position in which the state drives markets, or that markets, at best, are instruments of state policy and useful for attaining public policy goals (a position that liberal democratic techno-bureaucracies are increasingly converging around, eg here). He also represents a relatively pure expression of classical Leninist vanguard supremacy and its expression in both the ideals of people's democratic dictatorship and democratic centralism. More importantly, he served as a vocal advocate of the more pure expression of the notion that in a Leninist enterprise, political authority must be exercised by the leading social forces organized as a Communist Party (because they are best suited to guide the nation toward the establishment of a communist society), and that anti-Leninist forces and collectives must be understood as unpatriotic and at the extreme, beyond  the dialectics of the mass line. 

1989年春夏之交的政治风波中,在以邓小平同志为代表的老一辈无产阶级革命家坚决支持下,李鹏同志旗帜鲜明,和中央政治局大多数同志一道,采取果断措施制止动乱,平息反革命暴乱,稳定了国内局势,在这场关系党和国家前途命运的重大斗争中发挥了重要作用。[During the political turmoil at the turn of the spring and summer of 1989, with the firm support of the older generation of proletarian revolutionaries represented by Comrade Deng Xiaoping, Comrade Li Peng took a clear stand and, together with most comrades of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee, took decisive measures to stop the unrest and quell the counterrevolutionary riots, stabilized the domestic situation and played an important role in this major struggle related to the future and destiny of the party and the country.] (HERE)
It is around these two core approaches to the Leninist enterprise in China that Li Peng 's voice might find its greatest utility in the New Era. The historical line of development, then, might be understood as unbroken, even as it is dynamic and contextually sensitive in its forward motion along the socialist path.

 The announcement of publication: 新华社北京3月26日电 由中共中央文献编辑委员会编辑的《李鹏文集》已由人民出版社出版,即日起在全国发行。 [Xinhua News Agency, Beijing, March 26th: The "Collected Works of Li Peng" edited by the Document Editing Committee of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China has been published by the People's Publishing House and will be distributed nationwide from now on] with substantial historical-biographical background and points of emphasis appears below in the original Chinese and in a crude English translation.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

March 2024 Academe Newsletter: Reconsidering the AAUP's History Through a Race Lens (with links to articles)


Pix credit here


 Happy to pass this along:

The March Academe newsletter includes four early-release articles from our forthcoming spring issue, which will reconsider the AAUP’s history through a racial-equity lens. This spring issue preview also includes new book reviews, a profile of the University of Pennsylvania AAUP chapter, a selection of recent posts from the Academe Blog, and congressional testimony by a former AAUP president that was originally published in the AAUP Bulletin in 1962. The full issue will be published in May.


Toward the Cooperative University: W. E. B. Du Bois’s Membership in the AAUP
Reflections on a radical vision for higher education.
By Andrew J. Douglas

Membership of Black Professors and the Annual Meeting
The AAUP during segregation.
By Hans-Joerg Tiede

The AAUP and the Black Freedom Struggle, 1955–1965
Academic freedom investigations in the South.
By Joy Ann Williamson-Lott

The AAUP and Academic Freedom at Grambling
Looking back at the AAUP’s work at one historically Black institution.
By Brian M. McGowan and Edward L. Holt


The Association and the Desegregation Controversy
The 1962 congressional testimony of AAUP president Ralph F. Fuchs.


Sunday, March 24, 2024

David Boyd on La Oroya v. Perú (Inter-American Court of Human Rights) and the Human Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment


  David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment has recently summarized and reflected on th quite interesting case recently decided by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Habitantes de La Oroya Vs. Perú, Excepciones Preliminares, Fondo, Reparaciones y Costas. Sentencia de 27 de noviembre de 2023.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights handed down a landmark decision on Friday, March 22, in a case involving allegations that more than a century of catastrophic industrial pollution from La Oroya Metallurgical Complex in Peru violated the right to a healthy environment.

Generations of people in the community were poisoned by lead, arsenic and other toxic substances, resulting in a devastating array of physical and mental illnesses and in some cases, death. The Court concluded there were extensive human rights violations and ordered the State to provide specialized medical assistance to the victims, pay compensation for both material losses and pain and suffering, and publicly acknowledge its wrongdoing.

Each identified victim will receive between US$30,000 and US$65,000, with larger sums going to children, women and older persons due to their particular vulnerabilities. This includes compensation for health costs and lost earnings as well as compensation for pain and suffering. While no amount of money can fully compensate a person for damage to their health or their developmental potential, these damage awards should improve the victims’ quality of life.

More broadly, Peru was ordered to strengthen and strictly enforce environmental standards, rehabilitate damaged ecosystems, monitor air, water and soil quality, ensure that polluters pay for the environmental damage they cause. Finally, the State was ordered to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the extensive environmental damage, as well as those responsible for threats against environmental human rights defenders in La Oroya.

Facing for the first time a contentious case involving toxic pollution, the Inter-American Court built upon its widely cited Advisory Opinion on human rights and the environment from 2017. The Court clarified that the right to a healthy environment is comprised of a bundle of procedural and substantive elements (para. 118). (Landmark Court Decision on Right to a Healthy Environment: La Oroya v Peru)

The decision is a long one, and there is no doubt that its 392 Paragraphs and its conclusions will take soem time to parce.  It is also clear thatthere will be fighting overvirtually every aspect of the court's reasoning and determinaiton. More importantly, the case will be used to help build narratives of legitimacy among those who seek to assign a locus of responsibility for adverse human rights impacts resulting from environemntal degradation. The construction of a legal franework around a right to a healthy environment, and the role of the state as the responsible party, will continue to evolve.Most interesting, at least preliminarily, is the development of standards round the fundamental prevent-mitigate-remedy principle, and the development of standards for the calculation of damages.

The decision may be accessed HERE, and portions follow below in the original Spanish.