School of Law, Gender and Media

Dr Gaofeng Meng

Key information

School of Law, Gender and Media Lecturer in Law School of Law, Gender and Media Working Paper Series School of Law, Gender and Media SOAS Peer Review
LLM (Kent), Ph.D. (Glasgow), PGCE (Cambridge), FHEA
Paul Webley Wing (Senate House)
Email address
Telephone number
+44 (0)20 7898 4671
Support hours
Term 2: Wednesdays 3:00-pm-5:00pm


I am currently a Lecturer of Law at SOAS University of London. I specialise in property law, contract law, company law and Chinese law. My research explores, from a social science perspective, the relationship between law, property rights and economic development. I contribute regularly to the debate in the fields of law and economics, law and development, and social-legal studies.

I pursued a PhD in contemporary legal and political theory at the University of Glasgow under the supervision of Professor Emilios Christodoulidis. My thesis is entitled ‘China’s Rural Land System’. It analyses the philosophy of property law, with a focus on the ‘household responsibility system’ (HRS) of property title in rural China. It seeks to offer insights into the theory of property and the institutional arrangements of common property holding in China. It also provides a genealogy of this ‘hybrid’ institution, looking at its uneasy emergence and place in the turbulent history of 20th and 21st centuries in China. The analysis navigates the polarised debates about private property, locates them in their complex historical lineages, and provides a justification of the ‘hybrid’ institution of the HRS. It is highly interdisciplinary in nature, drawing insights not only from legal scholarship but also from political economy and social theory.

After completing my PhD in 2018, I took up a research fellowship at the Cambridge Centre for Business Research (CBR), with Professor Simon Deakin on a project exploring the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This later developed into a more extensive project looking at various aspects of the theory and practice of governance. In addition to continuing the work on the BRI, we began to research, from the spring of 2020, the governance of the Covid-19 pandemic. This research explored the different approaches that countries have taken to managing the pandemic, ranging from suppression to mitigation, and the varied means that they have used, including city-wide quarantines and cordons sanitaire, national level lockdowns, test and trace systems, and wage furlough schemes. As part of this research, we reviewed online documentary and archival sources relating to the measures taken in the Chinese city of Wuhan in the first weeks and months of the Covid emergency. The result of this work was a substantial paper, entitled ‘The governance of Covid-19: Anthropogenic risk, evolutionary learning and the future of the social state’, which appeared in the Industrial Law Journal in December 2020.

Together with Professor Deakin, I have also conducted research on property rights theory. According to mainstream political science and economic theory, mixed and overlapping forms of state and private ownership associated with the HRS simply should not work; hybrid systems of this kind are supposedly unstable, compared to the binary alternatives of collective ownership through the state, on the one hand, and individual, private ownership, on the other. In fact, however, the HRS has been highly successful, not just in promoting economic development in China’s rural economy, but in restoring dignity and autonomy to peasant households and communities, Part of the research was published in the Journal of Institutional Economics. The paper (co-authored with Simon Deakin) entitled ‘‘Resolving Douglass C. North’s “puzzle” concerning China’s Household Responsibility System’ was jointly awarded The Gavin C. Reid Prize for the Best Paper for a CBR Early Career Researcher, 2023.’ (

As well as my work at SOAS, I am a research associate (affiliate) at the Centre for Business Research in the University of Cambridge, and I am currently participating in a project carrying out contract research for the United Nations on legal assistance to the legal sector, directed by Professor Deakin.


I am interested in supervising research students in the areas of property rights and economic development; system change in China; poverty, famine, inequality and migration; the evolution of China’s political economy; law and economy, comparative study in property theory and property law.


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