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The formative international law studies of Judge Shi Jiuyong

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 October 2022

Li Chen*
Fudan University Law School, No. 2005 Songhu Road, Shanghai200234, China


Shi Jiuyong was an eminent Chinese international lawyer who became the first Chinese national to helm the International Court of Justice. This tribute examines Shi’s underexplored university education years, illuminating how these early experiences proved formative in his subsequent years as an international law practitioner, scholar and judge. In doing so, this tribute explores the factors that animated Shi’s choices and focuses, giving context to his slew of admirable achievements later in life.

© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Foundation of the Leiden Journal of International Law in association with the Grotius Centre for International Law, Leiden University

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The author wishes to thank the following: Barnaby Bryan, Victoria Hildreth, Jonathan M. Holmes, Lee Kay Han, Wang Wei, Jocelyn K. Wilk, Robert Winckworth, and the handling editors and reviewers of the LJIL. This research is funded by the Program for Professors of Special Appointment (Eastern Scholar) at Shanghai Institutions of Higher Learning.


1 Shi Jiuyong’s father, Shi Youfang, was an employee of the Swiss company Chemische Industrie Basel in Shanghai.

2 See J. Shi, ‘Autonomy of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’, (1997) 10 Leiden Journal of International Law 491; J. Shi, ‘Maritime Delimitation in the Jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice’, (2010) 9 Chinese Journal of International Law 271; J. Shi, ‘Prohibition of Use of Force in International Law’, (2018) 17 Chinese Journal of International Law 1. As a legal adviser to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, he was instrumental in providing legal advice to the Office of the Chinese Senior Representative, Sino-British Joint Liaison Group. T. Cheng, ‘Peking Names Team Members’, South China Morning Post, 22 June 1984, at 1; T. Cheng, ‘Joint Group Holds “Extra” Sessions’, South China Morning Post, 29 November 1985, at 12; ‘Chinese Liaison Members Arrive’, South China Morning Post, 20 May 1986, at 16.

3 International Court of Justice Press Release, ‘Judge Shi Jiuyong, former President and former Vice-President of the Court, will resign as a Member of the Court with effect from 28 May 2010’, available at

4 See Y. Zhang, China in the International System, 1918-20: The Middle Kingdom at the Periphery (1991).

5 M. Lamberton, St. John’s University, 1879–1951 (1955), at 208.

6 Ibid., at 216.

7 C. Tsao, ‘Kill for Fun’, China Weekly, 5 October 1946, at 125; ‘Situation Tense at St. John’s University’, North-China Daily News, 5 June 1948, at 3; T. C. Chao, ‘Letters to the Editors: Anti-Americanism’, China Press, 5 June 1948, at 7; ‘Anti-American Demonstrations’, Chinese Weekly Review, 5 June 1948, at 9; ‘Campus Paper Hits Anti-US Students’, North-China Daily News, 5 June 1948, at 3; ‘Student Agitation’, China Weekly Review, 5 June 1948, at 26. There was a nationwide student movement protesting against the US policy of 'building up Japan' at the cost of China. Students took to the streets and held meetings to discuss their views. In late May 1948, students of St John’s conducted a poll on the controversial American aid policy to Japan.

8 ‘Partial Strike at St. John’s Held Quietly’, China Press, 12 November 1947, at 5; ‘St, John’s U. Asks Pledges of Discipline’, China Press, 17 February 1948, at 1; ‘St. John’s Receives Discipline Pledge from Vast Majority’, China Press, 25 February 1948, at 1; ‘All Classes Suspended at St. John’s’, China Press, 3 June 1948, at 1; ‘Letter to the Editors, The St. John’s Affair’, China Press, 5 June 1948, at 5.

9 C. Y. Shin[sic], ‘“Sapiens”? The Readers Forum’, Shanghai Evening Post & Mercury, 5 August 1946, at 8.

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid.

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid.

14 Shanghai Municipal Archives, Shi Jiuyong’s St. John’s University Application Form, dated 30 May 1944 (unpublished manuscript on file with the author). The form revealed that he had attended Sunan Middle School from 1936 to 1942, when the school ceased operation. He indicated on the form that he was an atheist and intended to pursue a career in the chemical industry after graduation.

15 Ibid.

16 Curriculum for the Bachelor of Arts & Bachelor of Science Degrees, St. John’s University (1944–45) (unpublished document, on file with author). He was enrolled in Chinese prose, Chinese composition, general biology, invertebrate zoology, vertebrate zoology, general chemistry, qualitative analysis of chemistry, general physics, physical measurements, the life of Christ, social application of Christianity, history of classical philosophy, and others.

17 Ibid. Major and Minor Requirements. ‘Candidates for the degree of BA … must fulfil 36 to 42 credits in upper class courses in their junior and senior years, 18–30 of which must be in a major department and 6 to 12 in a minor department.’

18 The third professor was Tsen Deh Chang, also known as Cen Dezhang. After receiving his BA degree from St. John’s in 1920, he studied at Columbia and received his MA degree in 1921. Tsen was the first Chinese translator of Oppenheim’s International Law.

19 Phen received his BA degree from St John’s in 1933, before leaving for the University of Cambridge and the Middle Temple in London for his legal education. At Cambridge, he studied international law under Hersch Lauterpacht. Middle Temple Archives, Phen S-Tsu’s admission file; Queens College Archives of Cambridge University, Phen S-Tsu’s entry in the matriculation book (unpublished manuscript on file with the author).

20 After completing his preparatory education at St John’s, Tyau pursued his legal education at University College London, University of London. He studied international law under Sir John Macdonell, and received his Bachelor of Laws degree and Doctor of Laws degree in 1914 and 1916, respectively. His doctoral dissertation focused on ‘The Legal Obligations Arising out of Treaty Relations Between China and Other States’. While a law student, he had won the Quain Prize in International Law at the UCL, and he was one of the first two Chinese students to receive a doctorate in law in Great Britain.

21 Before joining St. John’s in 1942, he had taught at Tsinghua, Yenching Universities and completed several stints as a diplomat and newspaper editor.

22 For example, M. T. Z. Tyau, China’s New Constitution and International Problems (1918); China’s Diplomatic Relations, 1931–1932 (1933).

23 M. T. Z. Tyau, ‘Exterritoriality in China and the Question of Its Abolition’, (1921–1922) 2 British Year Book of International Law 133.

24 Shanghai Municipal Archives, Shi Jiuyong’s Academic Record Card of St. John’s University (unpublished manuscript on file with the author). Shi took several courses related to philosophy and history, namely Introduction to Philosophy, Aristotle’s Philosophy, Christian Philosophy, Logic, History of Modern Philosophy, History of Classical Philosophy, and Evidence of God.

25 Hsu had studied theology at St John’s and subsequently completed his master of theological studies in 1939 and doctor of theology in 1940, both at Harvard.

26 Shanghai Municipal Archives, supra note 24. Shi also studied Economic Principles, Introduction to Sociology, Modern History, and Abnormal Psychology.

27 ‘Post Scripts’, Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury, 6 March 1946, at 2; ‘International Court of Justice to be Inaugurated Apr. 16’, China Press, 6 April 1946, at 2.

28 ‘Press Comments: Here’s to the International Court of Justice’, China Critic, 2 May 1946, at 77.

29 Shanghai Municipal Archives, supra note 24.

30 Ibid. These included Columbia, Michigan, Yale, and Harvard. In June 1946, he had briefly considered transferring to the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate student, but dropped the idea later.

31 National Archives at Washington, DC., Passenger Manifest, China National Aviation Corporation, Flight 912, 26 January 1949 (unpublished manuscript on file with the author).

32 Columbia University, Announcement of the Faculty of Political Science for the Winter and Spring Sessions 1948–1949 (1949), at 73–84.

33 P. C. Jessup, ‘The Teaching of International Law in Law Schools’, (1947) 41 American Society of International Law Proceedings 67.

34 Ibid., at 68.

35 Columbia University, supra note 32, at 74.

36 Ibid., at 73. In addition to English proficiency, his Master’s thesis would reveal that his French reading proficiency was good, credit to the French courses he took at St John’s.

37 Ibid., at 74.

38 Columbia University, Announcement of the Faculty of Political Science for the Winter and Spring Sessions 1949–1950 (1950), at 83.

39 It is worth noting that the related courses on international organization and others were offered by Franz L. Neumann, Professor of Government, Leland M Goodrich, Professor of International Organization and Administration, Lawrence Henry Chamberlain. While Jessup was back on campus for public lectures and discussions, Shi did get opportunities to attend these lectures.

40 For both Master’s and subsequent advanced research studies in international law.

41 Columbia University, supra note 32, at 74.

42 See ‘Resolution of the Faculty’, (1981) 19 Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 173; J. N. Hyde, ‘Oliver J. Lissitzyn (1912–1994)’, (1995) 89 American Journal of International Law 88.

43 Hyde, ibid.

44 Ibid.

45 Ibid.

46 O. J. Lissitzyn, The International Court of Justice; Its Role in the Maintenance of International Peace and Security (1951).

47 Ibid., at 2.

48 Ibid.

49 Ibid.

50 Ibid., at 3.

51 Columbia University, supra note 32, at 83.

52 Ibid.

53 Ibid., at 84

54 Ibid.

55 Ibid.

56 O. J. Lissitzyn, Supplementary Cases and Materials on International Law (1948).

57 H. W. Briggs, The Law of Nations: Cases, Documents, and Notes (1938).

58 Lissitzyn, supra note 56, at 1–6; Hooven & Allison Co. v. Evatt, 324 U.S. 652 (1945).

59 Ibid., at 32–41. The Maret, 145 F.2d 431 (3d Cir. 1944).

60 Ibid., at 71–5. Brunell v. United States, 77 F. Supp. 68 (SDNY 1948).

61 Ibid., at 58–62. Ex parte Peru (Ex parte Republic of Peru (The Ucayali)), US, Supreme Court, 318 US 578 (1943); Republic of Mexico v. Hoffman, 324 U.S. 30, 65 S.Ct. 530, 89 L.Ed. 729.

62 Ibid., at 42–8. Anderson v. N.V. Transandine Handelmaatschappij [28 N.Y.S.2d 547 (1942)].

63 Ibid., at 138–41.Teodoro Garcia and MA Garza (United Mexican States) v. United States of America (1926); United States (John H. Williams) v. Venezuela (1890).

64 Ibid., at 146–60. Boundaries in the Island of Timor (Netherlands v. Portugal) (1914).

65 Ibid., at 101–3.

66 Ibid., at 7–14, 190. Students were taught through basic documents relating to the legal status of Germany regarding the allied declaration regarding the defeat of Germany, extracts from the Report to the President on the results of the San Francisco Conference, the Switzerland-UN Arrangement on Privileges and Immunity of the UN, and the US acceptance of the jurisdiction under the optional clause of the ICJ statute.

67 Ibid., at 191–206.

68 Ibid., at 207–9.

69 Columbia University, Announcement of the Faculty of Political Science for the winter and spring sessions 1951–1952 (1952), at 86.

70 C. Y. Shih, Monism in International Law (1951), at 4 (unpublished manuscript on file with the author). An essay submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in the Faculty of Political Science, Columbia University, dated May 1951, at 4.

71 Ibid.

72 Ibid.

73 Ibid., at 3.

74 Ibid.

75 Ibid., at 1.

76 Ibid., at 2.

77 Ibid.

78 Ibid.

79 Ibid., at 3.

80 Ibid.

81 Ibid., at 113.

82 Ibid.

83 Ibid., at 113–14.

84 Ibid., at 116.

85 Ibid., at 116–17.

86 Ibid., at 117.

87 Ibid.

88 ‘7,610 Get Degrees at Columbia Today’, New York Times, 7 June 1951, at 39; A. Brower, ‘M’arthur Inquiry Assailed by Kirk: Commencement Exercises at Columbia University’, New York Times, 8 June 1951, at 20.

89 From February to May 1954, Shi worked for the Board of World Missions of the Methodist Church in New York as a typist to earn money to fund his study and living expenses. He arrived first in Hong Kong in July 1954 before travelling home. See Shi Jiuyong’s Overseas Returning Student Registration Form dated 1954 (unpublished manuscript in Professor Wang Wei’s personal collections).

90 See S. C. McCaffrey, ‘The Forty-Second Session of the International Law Commission’, (1990) 84(4) American Journal of International Law 930; Judge Gilbert Guillaume (France) elected President of the International Court of Justice, Judge Shi Jiuyong (China) elected Vice President, available at; Judge Shi Jiuyong (China) elected President of the International Court of Justice, available at; Wu Zhifei, ‘Shi Jiuyong: Guo ji fa yuan de shou wei zhong guo ji yuan chang’, (2021) 3 Wen Shi Chun Qiu 50; Wai Jiao Bu Ji Guan Dang Wei, ‘Shi Jiuyong: Wai jiao ling yu guo jia li yi de zhong shi han wei zhe’, (2019) 4 Qizhi 83; Zong Daoyi, ‘Shi Jiuyong: Di yi wei zhong guo ji guo ji fa yuan yuan chang’, (2007) 4 China Trial 18.

91 For a detailed comparative study of Judges Vi Kuiyuin, Wellington Koo, and Shi Jiuyong see the forthcoming article, L. Chen, ‘A Tale of Two Cities: The Education and Experiences of Two ICJ Judges in China and America’, (2022) Journal of International Dispute Settlement.

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