China’s rise has been analysed by international relations and law scholars alike. Yet we lack a broader understanding of how this rise leads to change in international legal norms. This paper focuses on the role of quasi-judicial processes in this context, in particular WTO dispute settlement. However, WTO litigation is a highly specialized field, which begs the question how China built a legal profession capable of navigating this arena? This issue will be discussed against the backdrop of cases related to WTO subsidies regulation in which China managed to (successfully) challenge the meaning of “public body”, a crucial term in international trade law. This impressive expansion of legal capacity cannot be explained by focusing solely on state processes, therefore this paper systematically analyses institutional and geopolitical changes in parallel to the internal development of a profession through international cooperation in legal practice and scholarly education.