Crimea and the South China Sea: Connections and Disconnects Among Chinese, Russian and Western International Lawyers

Author/s (editor/s):

Anthea Roberts

Publication year:


Publication type:

Book chapter

Although we often hear reference to the “invisible college” of international lawyers, it may be better to understand international lawyers as constituting a “divisible college” whose members hail from different states and regions and often form distinct, though sometimes overlapping, communities with their own understandings and approaches, as well as their own influences and spheres of influence. This chapter draws on two recent high-profile controversies—Crimea’s annexation by, or reunification with, Russia in 2014, and the legality and legitimacy of the award in the South China Sea arbitration in 2016—to explore how the divisible college of international lawyers operates with respect to Chinese, Russian, and Western international lawyers. It looks at the extent to which international lawyers in these case studies operated in their own silos or made an effort to communicate across national and geopolitical divides.

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