Maria Adele Carrai is a sinologist and political scientist with an interest in conceptual history and history of international law. She is a recipient of a three-year Marie Curie Fellowship at the Leuven Centre for Global Governance – KU Leuven, a Fellow at Harvard University Asia Center, and an Associate Research Scholar at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute of Columbia University. Her book Sovereignty in China, A Genealogy of a Concept Since 1840 (Cambridge University Press, 2019) looks at the way Chinese intellectuals, political figures, and diplomats appropriated and articulated the notion of sovereignty in their foreign policy within the new discourse of international law in the period between 1840 to the present. By tracing a genealogy of the notion of sovereignty in China from the earliest introduction of international law until the present, the book provides a historical perspective through which to better understand the path China is taking as a normative actor within the international global order.
Along the line of her research on the history of international law in China, she has published various articles and book chapters. Selected publications include “China’s Unilateral Abrogation of the Sino-Belgian Treaty: A Case Study of a Deviant Transplantation” in Michael Ng and Zhao Yun, Chinese Legal Reform and the Global Legal Order: Adoption and Adaptation (Cambridge University Press, 2017); “Learning Western Techniques of Empire: Republican China and the New Legal Framework for Managing Tibet” in the Leiden Journal of International Law (2017); and “China’s Malleable Sovereignty Along the Belt and Road Initiative: The Case of the 99-year Chinese Lease of Hambantota Port” in the New York University Journal of International Law and Politics (2019). With the support of the Harvard University Asia Center, she organized the conference ‘Legal Pluralism in Asia and Histories of International Law(s),’ and the results will be published in a volume under review by Cambridge University Press.
Her new research project investigates how China’s rise as a global power is shaping norms and redefining the international distribution of power. In light of the development of Belt and Road Initiative, she is looking in particular at the economic, legal, and political repercussions of Chinese investments and economic engagement in Europe and Eastern Africa, where she conducted fieldwork supported by the Orrick Fellowship (East Asian Legal Studies at Harvard Law School). She is currently a Research Associate as part of the China, Law, and Development team at Oxford University. With Jan Wouters and Jean-Christophe DeFraigne, she edited the volume titled The Belt and Road Initiative and Global Governance (Edward Elgar Press, 2020). Her article “It Is Not the End of History: The Financing Institutions of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Bretton Woods System,” was published in Julien Chaisse and Jędrzej Górski’s The Belt and Road Initiative: Law, Economics and Politics (Brill, 2018).
Carrai completed her Ph.D. at the University of Hong Kong where she was Swire Scholar, and a recipient of the Hong Kong Government Ph.D. Fellowship and the Award for Outstanding Research Postgraduate Student for 2015-16. She was a fellow at Columbia University’s Italian Academy, Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program, European University Institute of Florence, and New York University Law School.
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