Assistant Professor 助理教授





(852) 3943 4425

(852) 2994 2505

Room 532
Faculty of Law
5/F, Lee Shau Kee Building
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Sha Tin, NT, Hong Kong SAR

Ryan Mitchell’s research focuses on international law, legal history and theory, and Chinese law. His scholarship has appeared in leading academic journals including the Harvard International Law Journal, the Harvard Human Rights Journal, the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, and the Asian Journal of Law and Society, and his commentary on legal, political, and cultural topics has also been published in numerous venues. In current research he situates the origins of modern doctrines of sovereignty in the context of late 19th – early 20th century globalization, and examines systemic implications of China’s increasingly active role in public international law.

Professor Mitchell holds a B.A. from the New School, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and a Ph.D. in Law from Yale University, where he was also an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Fellow. While pursuing his doctoral studies at Yale, he taught courses on the history and theory of international law and received the Archaia Qualification in the Study of Ancient and Premodern Cultures and Societies. His dissertation was passed with distinction, and he is currently revising it as the forthcoming book Recentering the World: China’s Reception and Contention of International Law. In his work, he takes a particular interest in exploring the diversity of legal thought as reflected in various cultures, intellectual traditions, and systems of political economy.

His legal practice experience includes Alien Tort Statute litigation in U.S. federal courts, work on immigration and asylum issues, and reports submitted to international human rights bodies. Originally from Los Angeles, he is a member of the State Bar of California.


  • PhD (Yale)
  • Archaia Qualification in the Study of Ancient and Premodern Cultures and Societies (Yale)
  • JD (Harvard)
  • BA (New School)
  • Admitted to Practice in California


  • Public international law
  • Legal history and theory
  • Chinese law
  • Human rights
  • Law and political economy


Academic Publications

  • Recentering the World: China’s Reception and Contention of International Law (Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming 2020)
  • “Hegemony in a Multipolar World Order: Global Constitutionalism and the Großraum,” Jus Cogens (2019)
  • “International Law as a Coercive Order: Hans Kelsen and the Transformations of Sanction,” 29 Indiana International & Comparative Law Review 2 (2019)
  • “Book Review: Is International Law International?,” 81 Modern Law Review 3 (2018)
  • “Sovereignty and Normative Conflict: Reframing International Legal Realism as a Theory of Uncertainty,” 58 Harvard International Law Journal 2 (2018)
  • “Manchukuo’s Contested Sovereignty: Legal Activism, Rights Consciousness, and Civil Resistance in a ‘Puppet State,’” 3 Asian Journal of Law and Society 2 (2016)
  • “An International Commission of Inquiry for the South China Sea?: Defining the Law of Sovereignty to Determine the Chance for Peace,” 49 Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 749 (2016)
  • “Redefining Pragmatic Engagement: The ‘New Model’ of U.S.-China Relations and the Opportunity of Shared Consequences,” 23 International Affairs Review 3 (2015)
  • “Surveillance State 2.0: Beta-Tested in China, Coming Soon to…?,” Yale Journal of Law & Technology Online (2013) (with Can Sun)
  • “Book Review: Bloody Harvest,” 24 Harvard Human Rights Journal 246 (2011)

Academic Blogs and Popular Publications

  • “The Korean War and the Ontology of Intervention: Chen Tiqiang’s Who Is Undermining International Law?,” Legal Form, March 5, 2019
  • “With China on the Moon,” ChinaFile Conversation, January 11, 2019
  • “A Hegelian Logic Underlying Contemporary Conservative Populisms?,” Critical Legal Thinking, January 2, 2019
  • “The Realist Case for a Korean Peace Treaty,” The National Interest, August 8, 2018
  • “Was the UN Human Rights Council Wrong to Back China’s ‘Shared Future’ Resolution?,” EJIL: Talk!, April 10, 2018
  • “China’s Crown Theorist,” Foreign Affairs, December 4, 2017
  • “Why Taiwan and China Agree on South China Sea Sovereignty,” The Diplomat, March 29, 2016
  • “Lessons from the Xi Jinping Book Club,” Los Angeles Review of Books, January 16, 2016
  • “Book Review: The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy,” The Marx & Philosophy Review of Books, November 2015
  • “Is There a China Model?”, ChinaFile Conversation, October 19, 2015
  • “Clearing Up Some Misconceptions About Xi Jinping’s ‘China Dream’”, The Huffington Post, August 20, 2015
  • “Should the U.S. Extradite Chinese Wanted by Beijing?”, ChinaFile Conversation, August 5, 2015


  • Principal Investigator, General Research Fund 2019/20, “The Development and Influence of Chinese Theories of Sovereignty,” 01/01/2020-30/6/2023
  • Principal Investigator, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Law Direct Grant 2019, “Post-Imperial Dialogues: Evaluating Connections Between Early 20th Century German Public Law Theory and Chinese Legal Discourse,” 15/6/2019-14/6/2020


  • Award for “Best Research in Progress on East Asian Law and Society,” American Association of Law Schools, Section on East Asian Law and Society, January 2016
  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Fellowship 2014-2017
  • Harvard Law School Kaufman Public Interest Fellowship 2012-13
  • Cravath International Fellowship 2011


  • “‘Absent Presence’ and Informal Hegemony: The League of Nations as a Project of Spatial Administration.” (July 2019). Paper presented at the conference on the League of Nations Decentred, University of Melbourne.
  • “China’s ‘Community of Common Destiny’: A New World Order?” (May 2019). Paper Presented at the Institute of East Asian Studies, University of Cologne.
  • “The Origins and Influence of China’s Developmentalist Conception of Human Rights.” (January 2019). Paper presented at the conference on Redistributive Human Rights?, University of New South Wales.
  • “De-Universalized Hegemony in Carl Schmitt’s Großraumlehre: The Power to Characterize Spaces and Determine Norms,” (June, 2018). Paper presented at the conference on Hegemony in the International Order, University of Rome, Tor Vergata and the European Society of International Law (ESIL).
  • “Concrete Order Thinking for the Socialist Rechtsstaat: The Role of German Juristic Thought in China’s ‘New Era’ Constitutionalism,” (May, 2018).  Paper presented at the conference on Germany and the World, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
  • “International Criminal Law Categories in China,” (November, 2016). Paper presented at the conference on State Socialism, Legal Experts and the Genesis of International Criminal and Humanitarian Law after 1945, Humboldt University of Berlin.
  • “Sovereignty and Uncertainty in Han Fei, Hobbes, and Schmitt,” (May, 2016). Paper presented at the East-West Philosopher’s Conference, University of Hawaii.
  • “Legal Activism and Rights Consciousness in a ‘Puppet State’: Law in Manchukuo’s Civil Resistance, 1931-1945,” (January, 2016). Paper presented at the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) “Research in Progress on East Asian Law & Society” 2016 Session, New York.
  • “Post-Secular Experimentation in the Chinese Party-State: Political Theology, Popular Religious Culture, and the Resumed Struggle for ‘Law,’” (November, 2015). Paper presented at the conference on Law, Religion, and Politics: Challenges to Traditional Borders in Global and Comparative Perspectives, Yale University.
  • “Singapore’s Constitutional Modernism: Space, Community, and Practice,” (October, 2015). Paper presented at the Singapore Studies from the Outside Conference, National University of Singapore.