William P. Alford

Vice Dean for the Graduate Program and International Legal Studies

Henry L. Stimson Professor of Law

Director, East Asian Legal Studies Program

Chair, Harvard Law School Project on Disability

Biography

William P. Alford is a scholar of Chinese law and legal history. His books include To Steal a Book is an Elegant Offense: Intellectual Property Law in Chinese Civilization (Stanford University Press 1995), Raising the Bar: The Emerging Legal Profession in East Asia (Harvard East Asian Legal Studies 2007), 残疾人法律保障机制研究 (A Study of Legal Mechanisms to Protect Persons with Disabilities) (Huaxia Press 2008, with Wang Liming and Ma Yu’er), and Prospects for the Professions in China (Routledge 2011, with William Kirby and Kenneth Winston).

Professor Alford is the founding Chair of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability which provides pro bono services on issues of disability in China, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Vietnam and several other nations. He served from 2005 to 2014 on the board of directors of Special Olympics International (which serves individuals with intellectual disabilities in more than 180 nations) chairing its Research and Policy Committee and serving on its Executive Committee. In 2008, Special Olympics honored him for his work for persons with intellectual disabilities in China.

Professor Alford was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Geneva in 2010 and has been an honorary professor or fellow at Renmin University of China, Zhejiang University, the National College of Administration, and the Institute of Law of the Chinese Academy of Social Science. In 2008, he was a finalist for the Law School’s Sacks-Freund Teaching Award. Among other honors are the inaugural O’Melveny & Myers Centennial Award, the Kluwer China Prize, the Qatar Pearls of Praise Award, an Abe (Japan) Fellowship, and endowed lectureships at several institutions, including Bryn Mawr College, Cornell Law School, Smith College, Trinity College, the University of Iowa, and the University of London. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Committee on US-China relations, he serves on university advisory boards and the editorial boards of learned journals in several jurisdictions.

At Harvard, Professor Alford has played a central role in formulating and then implementing the most substantial changes in the Law School’s curriculum in over a century, including the (well-received) requirement that all first year JD students take one of a set of specially devised international legal studies courses. During his time as Vice Dean, the Law School concluded its first linkages with foreign universities, made it possible for hundreds of students to study and work abroad, and expanded its graduate programs (especially for international students) while maintaining its policy of need-blind admission and need-based financial aid. He also chairs the nation’s oldest, largest and most comprehensive program concerning law in East Asia.

Professor Alford has served as a consultant to the U.S. government, the World Bank, the Ford Foundation, foreign governments, law firms, nongovernmental organizations, and corporations, and has been a dispute resolution panelist under the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement. He has met with current and previous presidents of China and Taiwan, and is one of a small number of foreign law specialists to have delivered an address at the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party.

Areas of Interest

Prospects for the Professions in China (William P. Alford, Kenneth Winston & William C. Kirby eds., Routledge 2010).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
Type: Book
Abstract
This book focuses on professionals in China and asks whether developing countries have a fateful choice: to embrace Western models of professional organization as they now exist, or to set off on an independent path, adapting elements of ...
William P. Alford & Yuanyuan Shen, Have You Eaten, Have You Divorced? Debating the Meaning of Freedom in Marriage in China, in Realms of Freedom in Modern China 234 (William C. Kirby ed., 2004).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Family Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Domestic Relations
,
East Asian Legal Studies
,
Legal Reform
Type: Book
Abstract
A great deal of discussion about freedom in the People's Republic of China has proceeded on certain assumptions about the role of the state and about law's place in helping define it. At the heart of these assumptions is the idea that the cause of freedom in China will best be advanced through the state's retrenchment and a concomitant ceding of power to non–state actors, particularly with respect to economic and social matters. This notion is perhaps most obvious in calls for the promotion of greater economic freedom via both the "privatization" of state– owned enterprise and an increasing reliance on market forces, but it also informs the view that such measures are or soon will be leading to a marked growth in political freedom. And it undergirds the conviction of most observers that what is termed the rise of civil society will perforce enhance personal freedom in China. As the noted Chinese scholar Liu Junning observed in a recent essay extolling Hayek, "almost all of those who shape public opinion in China are liberals [as] classical liberalism now dominates China's intellectual landscape." Law occupies a prominent position in this vision, being increasingly seen in both academic and policy circles as critical to the attainment for Chinese of fuller economic, political, and social freedoms. In part, the prominence accorded law is attributable to its perceived potential, however imperfectly realized to date in the PRC, to facilitate the above described transfer of power from state to society by limiting the spheres of life over which the former has authority and providing constraints as to the manner in which such authority is to be exercised. No less importantly, law is extolled for the vital role it has to play, once the state has receded, in establishing the proverbial "level playing field" on which a new society is to be grounded. In contrast to the avowedly political and highly particularistic manner in which the Chinese state historically reached into citizens' lives, law is commended for being facilitative, rather than determinative, providing a neutral framework through which citizens, each endowed with the same rights and each entitled to invoke the uniform procedural protection that formal adjudication is intended to provide, may work things out for themselves.
William P. Alford, To Steal a Book Is an Elegant Offense: Intellectual Property Law in Chinese Civilization (Stanford Univ. Press 1995).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Technology & Law
,
Property Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
,
Foreign Law
,
Intellectual Property - Copyright
,
Intellectual Property - Patent & Trademark
,
Intellectual Property Law
Type: Book
Abstract
" This ambitious, pioneering work makes available a wealth of new material.
William P. Alford, Foreword, in Ideological Conflict and the Rule of Law in Contemporary China (Samuli Seppänen, Cambridge Univ. Press 2016).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
Type: Book
Abstract
"This book studies ideological divisions within Chinese legal academia and their relationship to arguments about the rule of law. The book describes argumentative strategies used by Chinese legal scholars to legitimize and subvert China's state-sanctioned ideology. It also examines Chinese efforts to invent new, alternative rule of law conceptions. In addition to this descriptive project, the book advances a more general argument about the rule of law phenomenon, insisting that many arguments about the rule of law are better understood in terms of their intended and actual effects rather than as analytic propositions or descriptive statements. To illustrate this argument, the book demonstrates that various paradoxical, contradictory and otherwise implausible arguments about the rule of law play an important role in Chinese debates about the rule of law. Paradoxical statements about the rule of law, in particular, can be useful for an ideological project"--Page [4] of cover.
William P. Alford, Editor’s Note, FOCUS: Disability Rights in China and in the World, 11 Frontiers of Law in China 1 (2016).
Categories:
Health Care
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Disability Law
,
East Asian Legal Studies
,
International Law
Type: Article
Michael Waibel & William Alford, Technology Transfer, in 9 The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law 801 (Rüdiger Wolfrum ed., 2012).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Technology & Law
Sub-Categories:
International Law
,
International Trade
,
Science & Technology
Type: Book
Abstract
Technology transfer concerns the efficient and equitable allocation of existing technology in the world. Such a transfer differs from the creation of new technology, even though it may enable further technological developments. The term technology transfer entered international law in the 1960s, though its precise definition remains contentious. Technology transfer has two dimensions. The first is technology as a catalyst for economic development. Technology transfer is widely believed to lead to higher economic growth. In the 1970s and 1980s, dependence theory — the view that integration into the world economy on capitalist terms would gradually worsen the balance of trade for developing countries — had many followers. This model of development emphasized political and economic independence through control of trade, capital, and technology flows. The second dimension concerns the policing of technology licenses by competition authorities, and the co-ordination of national competition policies relating to technology.
William P. Alford, "Second Lawyers, First Principles": Lawyers, Rice-Roots Legal Workers, and the Battle Over Legal Professionalism in China, in Prospects for the Professions in China 48 (William P. Alford, Kenneth Winston & William C. Kirby eds., 2010).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Foreign Law
,
East Asian Legal Studies
Type: Book
William P. Alford, Offenses Against the State in Chinese Law: Overview, in 4 The Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History 249 (Stanley N. Katz ed., 2009).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
,
Foreign Law
Type: Book
Falu Baozhang Jizhi Yanjiu [A Study of Legal Mechanisms for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities] (Liming Wang, Yu'e Ma & William P. Alford eds., Huaxia Pub. House 2008).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Health Care
Sub-Categories:
Disability Law
,
East Asian Legal Studies
Type: Book
William P. Alford, Of Lawyers Lost and Found: Searching for Legal Professionalism in the People's Republic of China, in Raising the Bar: The Emerging Legal Profession in East Asia 287 (William P. Alford ed., 2007).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
Type: Book
Abstract
Raising the Bar is the first book-length study in English of this phenomenon.
Raising the Bar: The Emerging Legal Profession in East Asia (William P. Alford ed., Harvard Univ. Press 2007).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
Type: Book
Abstract
Raising the Bar is the first book-length study in English of this phenomenon.
Lionel Astor Sheridan, William P. Alford & Mary Ann Glendon, Legal Education, in Encyclopedia Britannica (2004).
Categories:
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Legal Education
Type: Book
Maynard E. Pirsig, Mary Ann Glendon & William P. Alford, Legal Ethics, in Encyclopedia Britannica (2004).
Categories:
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Legal Ethics
Type: Book
William P. Alford, The Legal Profession, in Encyclopedia Britannica (2004).
Categories:
Legal Profession
Type: Book
William P. Alford, The More Law, The More...? Measuring Legal Reform in the People's Republic of China, in How Far Across the River? Chinese Policy Reform at the Millennium (Nicholas C. Hope, Dennis Tao Yang & Mu Yang Li eds., 2003).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
,
Legal Reform
Type: Book
Abstract
This book takes its defining theme from Deng Xiaopeng's famous metaphor for gradual reform: “feeling the stones to cross the river.” How far has China progressed in fording the river?
Historical Studies of Chinese Law: A Bibliography of Materials in Chinese and Japanese Published Between 1988 and 1994 (William P. Alford & Nongji Zhang eds., Harv. L. Sch. 2003).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
Type: Book
William P. Alford & Chien-chang Wu, Qing China and the Legal Treatment of Mental Infirmity: A Preliminary Sketch in Tribute to Professor William C. Jones, 2 Wash. U. Global Stud. L. Rev. 187 (2003).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Health Care
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Disability Law
,
East Asian Legal Studies
,
Biography & Tribute
Type: Article
William P. Alford et al., The Human Dimensions of Pollution Policy Implementation: Air Quality in Rural China, 11 J. Contemp. China 495 (2002).
Categories:
Environmental Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
Type: Article
William P. Alford, Tribute to Professor Abram Chayes, A Man Without Boundaries, 42 Harv. Int'l L. J. 3 (2001).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
International Law
,
Legal Education
,
Biography & Tribute
Type: Article
William P. Alford & Benjamin L. Liebman, Clean Air, Clean Processes? The Struggle over Air Pollution Law in the People's Republic of China, 52 Hastings L. J. 703 (2001).
Categories:
Environmental Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
,
International Law
Type: Article
William P. Alford, Area and International Studies: Law, in 2 International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences 711 (Neil J. Smelser & Paul B. Baltes eds., 2001).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Comparative Law
,
International Law
Type: Book
William P. Alford, At a Crossroad: The Challenge of Implementing Chinese Environmental Law, 3 Harv. China Rev. 10 (2001).
Categories:
Environmental Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
Type: Article
William P. Alford, Book Review, 1 J. Korean L. 173 (2001) (reviewing Recent Transformations in Korean Law and Society (Kyu Yoon ed., 2000)).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
Type: Article
Abstract
Review of Recent Transformations in Korean Law and Society (Kyu Yoon ed., 2000).
William P. Alford, Exporting "The Pursuit of Happiness", 113 Harv. L. Rev. 1677 (2000) (reviewing Thomas Carothers, Aiding Democracy Abroad: The Learning Curve (1999)).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Foreign Relations
,
International Law
,
East Asian Legal Studies
Type: Article
A Bibliographical Survey of Malaysian Legal Materials (William P. Alford, ed., Harvard Research Guides to the Legal Systems of East and Southeast Asia, 2000).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
Type: Book
William P. Alford, A Second Great Wall? China's Post-Cultural Revolution Project of Legal Construction, 11 Cultural Dynamics 193 (1999).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Government & Politics
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Courts
,
Judges & Jurisprudence
,
East Asian Legal Studies
,
Legal Reform
Type: Article
William P. Alford, Law? Law? What Law? Why Western Scholars of Chinese History and Society Have Not Had More to Say about Its Law, 23 Mod. China 398 (1997).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
,
International Law
Type: Article
Alford, William P. & Yuanyuan Shen, Limits of the Law in Addressing China's Environmental Dilemma, 16 Stan. Envtl. L. J. 125 (1997).
Categories:
Environmental Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
Type: Article
William P. Alford, Making the World Safe for What? Intellectual Property Rights, Human Rights and Foreign Economic Policy in the Post-European Cold War World, 29 N.Y.U. J. Int'l L. & Pol. 135 (1997).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Technology & Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
,
Human Rights Law
,
International Trade
,
Foreign Relations
,
Intellectual Property Law
Type: Article
William P. Alford, Of Jeffersonian Visions: A Critique of Gary Jefferson's "China's Economic Future", 8 J. Asian Econ. 597 (1997).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
,
Legal Reform
Type: Article
William P. Alford, Keeping up with the Jones (Standards): A Tribute to Professor William C. Jones, 74 Wash. U. L. Q. 541 (1996).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
Type: Article
William P. Alford, Comment, Looking Beyond: Placing Area Studies Front and Center in Policy, Academia, and Beyond, Harv. Asia Pac. Rev., Winter 1996-97, at 7, 1996.
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Comparative Law
,
Legal Education
Type: Article
William P. Alford, Tasselled Loafers for Barefoot Lawyers: Transformation and Tension in the World of Chinese Legal Workers, 1995 China Q. 22.
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
,
International Law
Type: Article
Abstract
A prevalent image of China, both historically and in recent times, has been that of a civilization spared the malady of too many lawyers that is said to beset the United States and growing numbers of other nations. For better or worse, so such thinking goes, China has sought to address its problems primarily through reliance upon morality, custom, kinship or politics, rather than formal legality, with the result that there has been relatively little need for individuals whose work lies in the law. No wonder that it was Shakespeare, rather than a Chinese author, who gave voice to the much-cited, if arguably misunderstood, call to “kill all the lawyers first.”
William P. Alford & Yuanyuan Shen, "Law is My Idol": John C.H. Wu and the Role of Legality and Spirituality in the Effort to Modernize China, in Essays in Honour of Wang Tieya 43 (Ronald St. John Macdonald ed., 1994).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
,
Legal History
Type: Book
William P. Alford, How Theory Does—And Does Not—Matter: American Approaches to Intellectual Property Law in East Asia 13 UCLA Pac. Basin L. J. 8 (1994-1995).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Technology & Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
,
Intellectual Property Law
Type: Article
William P. Alford, Double-Edged Swords Cut Both Ways: Law and Legitimacy in the People's Republic of China, 122 Daedalus, Spring 1993, at 45.
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
,
International Law
Type: Article
William P. Alford, Introduction: The North American Free Trade Agreement and the Need for Candor, 34 Harv. Int'l L. J. 293 (1993).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
International Law
,
International Trade
,
Trade Regulation
Type: Article
Alford, William P., Don't Stop Thinking about . . . Yesterday: Why There was No Indigenous Counterpart to Intellectual Property Law in Imperial China, 7 J. Chinese L. 3 (1993).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
,
Technology & Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
,
Comparative Law
,
Legal History
,
Intellectual Property Law
Type: Article
Abstract
The notion that copyright arose soon after the advent of printing enjoys wide currency in the scholarly world. Chinese historians date copyright from the rise of printing during the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 617- 906), while Western theorists of economic development contend that the inexpensive dissemination of texts necessitated the formal legal protection that copyright is intended to provide. In short, the accepted wisdom among “intellectual property scholars . . . [is] that copyright emerged with the invention of printing,” as Zheng Chengsi and Michael Pendleton declare in their recent monograph on copyright in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This essay takes issue with the accepted wisdom, at least as concerns imperial China. After first endeavoring to delineate an appropriate scope for inquiring into imperial Chinese legal history, this essay considers whether there was indigenous formal legal protection for intellectual property in China prior to the twentieth century introduction of Western notions of such law. It finds evidence of restrictions on the unauthorized reproduction of certain books, symbols and products but determines that it would be erroneous to see these as constituting what we in the United States now typically understand intellectual property to be, for they were little concerned with the protection of property or other private interests. Their real purpose was the maintenance of imperial legitimacy and power. Accordingly, this essay turns in its final section to a consideration of Chinese political culture and, particularly, its engagement with the past in the effort to illuminate why China did not respond to the introduction of printing and other major technological advances in the manner that both Chinese and Western scholars would have us believe.
William P. Alford, Intellectual Property, Trade and Taiwan: A GATT-Fly's View, 1992 Colum. Bus. L. Rev. 97.
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Technology & Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
,
International Trade
,
Intellectual Property Law
Type: Article
William P. Alford, International Commercial Arbitration: An Idiosyncratic Overview, 1992 Korean Forum on Int'l Trade & Bus. L. 43.
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Civil Practice & Procedure
,
Banking & Finance
Sub-Categories:
Commercial Law
,
Dispute Resolution
,
East Asian Legal Studies
Type: Other
William P. Alford, Making a Goddess of Democracy from Loose Sand: Thoughts on Human Rights in the People's Republic of China, in Human Rights in Cross-Cultural Perspectives 65 (Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im ed., 1992).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
,
Human Rights Law
Type: Book
William P. Alford "Seek Truth from Facts"—Especially When They Are Unpleasant: America's Understanding of China's Efforts at Law Reform, 8 UCLA Pac. Basin L. J. 177 (1990).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
,
Legal Reform
Type: Article
Chinese Living Law: An Interview with Professor William Alford, 7 Ariz. J. Int'l & Comp. L. 135 (1989).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
Type: Article
William P. Alford, When is China Paraguay? An Examination of the Application of the Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Laws of the United States to China and Other "Nonmarket Economy" Nations, 61 S. Cal. L. Rev. 79 (1987).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
International Trade
,
Trade Regulation
Type: Article
William P. Alford, On the Limits of "Grand Theory" in Comparative Law, 61 Wash. L. Rev. 945 (1986).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
,
Comparative Law
,
Legal & Political Theory
Type: Article
William P. Alford, The Inscrutable Occidental? Implications of Roberto Unger's Uses and Abuses of the Chinese Past, 64 Tex. L. Rev. 915 (1986).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Comparative Law
,
East Asian Legal Studies
,
Legal History
,
Legal & Political Theory
Type: Article
William P. Alford, Foreword, 4 UCLA Pac. Basin L. J. vii (1985).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
Type: Article
William P. Alford, Of Arsenic and Old Laws: Looking Anew at Criminal Justice in Late Imperial China, 72 Cal. L. Rev. 1180 (1984).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Criminal Law & Procedure
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
,
Legal History
Type: Article
William P. Alford, Zhu Qiwu and the Development of Criminal Law in the People's Republic of China, 2 UCLA Pac. Basin L. J. 60 (1983).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Criminal Law & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
Type: Article
William P. Alford, Robert Van Gulik and the Judge Dee Mysteries, 12 Orientations, Nov. 1981, at 50.
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
East Asian Legal Studies
Type: Article
William P. Alford, The Prospective Withdrawal of the United States from the International Labor Organization: Rationales and Implications, 17 Harv. Int'l L. J. 623 (1976).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Labor & Employment
Sub-Categories:
International Law
,
Labor Law
Type: Article

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