The Institute of International Law has the following main functions: first, to engage in specialized academic legal research; second, to participate in relevant decision-making studies of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese Government; third, to carry out advanced legal education, enroll undergraduate student, Ph.D. candidates and post-doctoral researchers, accept Chinese and foreign scholars and experts for advance studies and research, and provide advanced legal trainings to civil servants, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, legal educators and researchers; and fourth, to promote international academic exchange and cooperation.

The Institute of International Law always focuses its research on major practical issues in China and has produced many high-quality research results. By the end of 2007, the researchers of the Institute had published about 80 monographs, more than 20 translated books, over 600 academic papers and more than 200 translated articles. The Institute has undertaken many national-level research projects or CASS key research projects, such as the projects of "Research on the Dispute Resolution Mechanism of the WTO", "Domestic Application of International Treaties", "Study on Issues relating to the Ratification and Implementation Mechanism of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights", and "Theory and Practice of Bilateral Agreements on Marine Fisheries". Currently the Institute is implementing 21 research projects, including one State Social Science Foundation project, three CASS grade-A projects, three CASS key projects, three projects under Research Project Plan of the Institute, and four projects entrusted by the relevant ministries and commissions under the State Council. The results of these projects have had extensive impacts on the international law circle and on the relevant sectors of the Chinese society.

Meanwhile, the Institute always attaches great importance to the special role of CASS as the think tank of the government and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. It closely follows the new trends of development and new issues in China's foreign affairs and its political and economic relations with the international community, gives full play to the expertise of the its research staff, and actively puts forward proposals and suggestions to the Party and the government. The Institute has undertaken a large number of advisory tasks in legislative and judicial matters and submitted many legislative proposals, research reports and legal opinions to the relevant departments of the Central Government on such issues as the drafting and revision of foreign-related laws and regulations, negotiation and ratification of international treaties and agreements, countermeasures against major international political and diplomatic incidences, and handling of major international economic cases. The Institute has been given high opinions by these departments for the above work.

The Institute, by giving full play to its expertise and international exchange channels, has effectively promoted the exchange between Chinese and foreign scholars and increased the understanding by the international community of the development of international law theory and practice in China, and thereby created conditions for the Institute to maintain its leading position in China and to catch up with advanced world level in the field of international law. The Institute has established extensive cooperation with prestigious academic institutions and scholars in many foreign countries as well as many international organizations, frequently organizes international academic seminars and conferences, and exchanges scholars with various countries through various channels.

The Institutes enrolls postgraduate students, doctoral candidates and post-doctoral researchers in the fields of public international law, private international law, international economic law and international human rights law.

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As a major part of the CASS, the Institute serves as a think tank for the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council in matters of the rule of law and the construction of democratic politics. With its high academic prestige and extensive academic influence, the Institute plays an important role in the political and social life of the country. Since its establishment 50 years ago, the Institute, while stressing the research of basic theory of law, has attached great importance to the construction of rule of law in China. The Institute has made great efforts to promote the research on major theoretical and practical issues of socialist democracy and rule of law practice, actively participated in the research of state decision-making regarding legislation, law enforcement, administration of justice and legal supervision, so to meet the needs of the overall situation of political, economic and social development of the country. In the early period of the reform and opening up, senior members of the Institute were involved in the trials of the "Counter-revolutionary Cliques of Lin Biao and Jiang Qing" and actively participated in the drafting of the 1982 Constitution and all its major amendments, in addition to the drafting, amendment and deliberation of some 400 laws and regulations, such as the Criminal Law, the Criminal Procedure Law, the Civil Procedure Law, the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Basic Law of the Macao Special Administrative Region, the Law on Regional National Autonomy, the Administrative Litigation Law, the General Principles of Civil Law, the Contract Law, and the Real Law. During the 1990s, the Law Institute took the lead in carrying out researches on human rights theories and the relevant policies, actively participated in international human rights activities and dialogue, thereby has made outstanding contributions to the development of human rights in China.