Chart I for “My Predecessor’s Debts? The Jackson v. PRC Trial and Carl Marks & Co. v. USSR Case, 1979-1988,” forthcoming article in Journal of Cold War Studies.
Source: the author’s calculation based on 44 issues of The Maturity and Sectoral Distribution of International Bank Lending (Basle: Bank for International Settlements, Monetary an Economic Department), semi-annual report, June 1979 to June 2001.
In November 1979, Alabama engineer Russel Jackson gathered 243 plaintiffs in a class action to sue Beijing for non-payment of the defaulted 1911 Hukuang bonds. In March 1982, Carl Marks & Co., a Wall Street firm, also rode the momentum to sue Moscow for old Czarist bonds. For the next eight years, these two cases would meander through the American judicial system from district court, appeal court, to the Supreme Court. Behind the courtroom dramas there lay a financial milepost of the last phase of the Cold War, as the two socialist giants were repositioning themselves with regards to Western capital markets. This article seeks to illuminate this unique moment by situating the two court cases in the intersection of American law, international finance, non-state individual agency, and Cold War contingency. It argues that the timeline of sovereign borrowing provides another piece to the puzzle of China and the Soviet Union’s eventually divergent economic paths in the ending years of the Cold War. Furthermore, through the window of the lingering effects of the Jackson and Carl Marks cases, the reader may view Russia’s and China’s paths toward solidifying their status as credible sovereign borrowers in the immediate post-Cold War decades.