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Natalie G Lichtenstein

China Studies Affiliated Scholar


Natalie Lichtenstein is a US lawyer who has specialized in legal issues at international financial institutions and legal development in China since the 1970s. She was the Inaugural General Counsel at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and Chief Counsel for AIIB’s establishment, in 2014-16, following a 30- year legal career at the World Bank.

Early on in her career, she was involved in legal aspects of US participation in international financial institutions as a lawyer at the US Treasury Department. She also worked on normalization of relations between the US and the People’s Republic of China.

Joining the World Bank legal department in 1980, she advised on lending operations in China and other countries for most of the next 20 years. She served as Chief Counsel, East Asia in the 1990s, when she was an early leader in legal technical assistance activities. From 1999-2010, she served in senior positions, specializing in the Bank’s institutional governance issues and reforms, legal opinions and Board governance. In her last assignment, she led the work on reforms to enhance voice and participation of developing countries in the World Bank Group. She retired from the World Bank in 2010.

She taught Chinese law, at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) over a decade, and at various law schools. She is currently a Visiting Scholar at SAIS and a member of the Advisory Board of Duke Kunshan University in Kunshan, China. She continues to consult and lecture on legal and governance issues for international financial institutions.

Her publications include a book, A Comparative Guide to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (Oxford University Press, March 2018), and numerous articles in professional journals. Recent articles include: “Governance of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in Comparative Context” (AIIB Yearbook of International Law, 2018); and “AIIB at Three” (Global Policy, 2019).

Ms. Lichtenstein was educated at Harvard University, receiving her A.B. (summa cum laude in East Asian Studies) in 1975 and J.D. in 1978.
  • “AIIB at Three,” Global Policy (2019)
  • A Comparative Guide to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (Oxford, 2018) (Chinese edition, 2019)
  • “Governance of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in Comparative Context” in AIIB Yearbook of International Law (June 2018)
  • "Governance for Equitable Development Project: Evaluation of Progress on Objectives and Indicators," with Xinxin Yang (UNDP-China 2012)
  • Asian Development Bank, "Technical Assistance for Legal Development in the People's Republic of China: A Review," (ADB 2012)
  • "Thoughts on Rule of Law and China," Stanford Center for International Development Working Paper No. 440, February 2011
  • “Law in China's Economic Development: An Essay from Afar,” at 17 ICSID Review-Foreign Investment Law Journal 1 (2002), also in Understanding China’s Legal System, Essays in honor of Jerome A. Cohen, 2003
  • Comments, at Conference on Policy Reform in China, Stanford University Center for Research on Economic Development and Policy Reform, 1999
  • Panel, Business and Law after July 1 (conference on Hong Kong), at 12 American University Journal of International Law and Policy 490 (1997)
  • “Current Developments in the Legal System of China,” Comment at 4 Current Legal Issues Affecting Central Banks (IMF Seminar) 299 (1997)
  • “China and the World Bank,” in Proceedings of the 90th Annual Meeting, The American Society of International Law, at 397 (1996)
  • “A Survey of Viet Nam's Legal Framework in Transition,” Policy Research Working Paper 1291 (1994)
  • “Enterprise Reform in China: The Evolving Legal Framework,” Policy Research Working Paper WPS 1198 (1993)
  • “China's Entry into the International Economic System,” in Proceedings of the 82d Annual Meeting, The American Society of International Law, at 175 (1988)
  • “Law and the Enterprise,” The China Business Review, March-April 1987, at 38
  • “Legal Implications of China's Economic Reforms,” 1 ICSID Review-Foreign Investment Law Journal 289 (1986)
  • “Unfrozen Assets: The 1979 Claims Settlement Between the United States and China,” (U.S. Congress, Joint Economic Committee publication)
  • “The Claims Settlement Agreement Between the United States and the People's Republic of China,” 1 China Law Reporter 25 (1980)
  • “China's Participation in International Organizations,” The China Business Review, May-June 1979, at 27
  • Book Review: China, the United Nations and World Order, by Samuel S. Kim, 20 Harvard International Law Journal 457 (1979)
  • “The People's Republic of China and Revision of the United Nations Charter,” 18 Harvard International Law Journal 629 (1977)