Ancient supply routes, modern technologies – review of the Inaugural Chinese Journal of Comparative Law Conference “Comparative Law and Transitional Systems: The Past, Present and Future” in Xi’an, China

Our engagement with developments in Chinese law and society for the 3DPIP Futures project continues, with my attendance and presentation at the Inaugural OUP Chinese Journal of Comparative Law conference, which was hosted by Xi’an Jiaotong University School of Law, in China’s ancient capital city, and terminus of the Silk Road, Xi’an.


Leading academics from the United Kingdom, China, Singapore, Australia, continental Europe and the United States of America presented papers exploring various aspects of comparative law. Studies of Eastern and Western legal traditions’ positions on particular legal topics were well-represented among the presentations, and there was lively discussion following each paper.


I felt the omens were good for my presentation the day before the conference, when I got on the plane to Xi’an at Hangzhou airport, and saw a 3D printer for sale in one of the airport shops. Once at the conference, I presented the doctrinal aspects of the 3DPIP Futures research which investigates the academic literature on 3D printing and copyright in the US, UK (as an example of an EU Member State – for the time being) and China. There is very little literature on 3D printing and intellectual property in China available in the English language, and part of the 3DPIP Futures research has involved finding and analysing the Chinese language literature on this topic. I acknowledge the crucially important contribution of Dr Jiajie Lu and Ms Rebecca Morrison in conducting this research with me, both of whom are fluent Mandarin speakers.

terracotta warriors


I can reveal that we found consistencies among the 3 jurisdictions on matters relating to 3D printing and copyright, which principally stem from the ambiguities around copyright’s application to this new technology and its possible uses. In particular, copyright subsistence, exceptions to infringement and intermediary liability were topics of considerable ambiguity and uncertainty in all jurisdictions. However, interestingly, there appears to be some more proximity between China and the US in how their copyright laws deal with these issues, compared to the UK/EU.


The trip to Xi’an however wasn’t all work and no play, even though the conference took place over both days of the weekend and involved sessions running from 8.30am till 6pm each day. Our hosts provided us with delicious banquets each evening, showcasing the local (and spicy) Shaanxi cuisine. Some conference participants including myself also managed to see some of Xi’an’s famous sights, including the impressive old city walls, and the Terracotta Army outside of the city. These sights demonstrate Xi’an’s importance in the past as an economic, cultural and technological centre at the end of the transnational Silk Road. With Xi’an poised to be the starting point of China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ initiative and to be the location of an OBOR court, it may well emerge again as a key economic, cultural, technological – and legal – centre. The role of new technologies including 3D printing for these revived global supply routes remains to be seen, but all of these developments ought to be closely studied with the rise of OBOR initiatives in the coming years.

I would like to thank the conference organisers from the Oxford University Press Chinese Journal of Comparative Law , in particular for funding my travel to, and accommodation in, Xi’an for this conference. In particular I would like to thank Professor Qiao Liu (University of Queensland/Xi’an Jiaotong University) and Ms Cheyenne Ren (XJTU) for their respective organisation of academic and administrative aspects of the conference.


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