Performative Uses of Sovereignty in the Belt and Road Initiative
Forthcoming in Zhao Yun (Ed.), International Governance and the Rule of Law in China under the One Belt One Road Initiative, Cambridge University Press
26 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2017
Date Written: June 26, 2017
This chapter argues that the received narrative on the Chinese conception of sovereignty on the whole overemphasises the distinction between the absolutist and relativist models in a way that is both untenable and unfair to Chinese uses of the concept. Rather than viewing sovereignty exclusively through the absolutist-relativist dichotomy, Chinese uses of sovereignty should also be examined through what can be called a ‘post-relativist’ (or simply ‘postist’) conception. This conception of sovereignty rejects the absolutist-relativist dichotomy of mainstream international law, and instead views arguments about sovereignty (whether seemingly absolutist or relativist) as attempts to achieve specific political aims. More generally, proclamations on sovereignty are better seen as speech acts that change things in the world rather than as propositions about the actual nature of sovereignty. This perspective change casts doubt on the assumption that sovereignty exists beyond its performative uses.
Keywords: China, Public International Law, Sovereignty
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