Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
China Initiative

Isaac Kardon ─ China's Law of the Sea

Thursday, March 2, 2023

12:00pm – 1:00pm

Leung Conference Room, Stephen Robert '62 Hall, 280 Brook Street

The China Initiative hosts author Isaac Kardon for a discussion of his book, China's Law of the Sea 

About the book:

China’s Law of the Sea is the first comprehensive study of the law and geopolitics of China’s maritime disputes. It provides a rigorous empirical account of whether and how China is changing “the rules” of international order—specifically, the international law of the sea. Conflicts over specific rules lie at the heart of the disputes, which are about much more than sovereignty over islands and rocks in the South and East China Seas. Instead, the main contests concern the strategic maritime space associated with those islands. To consolidate control over this vital maritime space, China’s leaders have begun to implement “China’s law of the sea”: building domestic legal institutions, bureaucratic organizations, and a naval and maritime law enforcement apparatus to establish China’s preferred maritime rules on the water and in the diplomatic arena.

Isaac B. Kardon examines China’s laws and policies to defend, exploit, study, administer, surveil, and patrol disputed waters. He also considers other claimants’ reactions to these Chinese practices, because other states must acquiesce for China’s preferences to become international rules. China’s maritime disputes offer unique insights into the nature and scope of China’s challenge to international order.

China Initiative Distinguished Speakers Series

Isaac B. Kardon is a senior fellow for China studies in the Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He was formerly assistant professor at the U.S. Naval War College, China Maritime Studies Institute, where he researched China’s maritime affairs, and taught naval officers and national security professionals about PRC foreign and security policy. Isaac’s scholarship has centered on China’s development of maritime power, with research on China’s maritime disputes and law of the sea issues, global port development, and PLA overseas basing; China-Pakistan relations are another area of special focus. His writing appears in International Security, Security Studies, Foreign Affairs, the Naval War College Review, and other scholarly and policy publications. Isaac’s book, China’s Law of the Sea: The New Rules of Maritime Order (Yale, 2023), analyzes the extent to which China is “making the rules” in regional and global orders. At Carnegie, Isaac will build on the foundation of his research on China in the maritime commons to explore China’s influence on the wider global commons. Subsea, space, and cyber domains, in particular, are important “frontier issues” prioritized by China’s leadership—and key sites to observe China’s influence on vital global rules, norms, and standards. He will also expand “past the pier,” following an existing stream of research on PRC port development to explore the data networks that accompany China’s robust and growing position in global maritime trade and transport networks. Kardon earned a PhD in government from Cornell University, an MPhil in modern Chinese studies from Oxford University, and a BA in history from Dartmouth College. He was a China & the World postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University, and has held visiting appointments at NYU School of Law, Academia Sinica, and the PRC National Institute for South China Sea Studies. He studied Chinese (Mandarin) at Peking University, Tsinghua University, Hainan University, and National Taiwan Normal University.