Preventing and Responding to Atrocity Crimes: China, Sovereignty and the Responsibility to Protect
(2018) 23:2 Journal of Conflict and Security Law
34 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2018 Last revised: 26 Aug 2020
Date Written: September 4, 2018
With China on the rise, a question that is becoming increasingly important for international lawyers is that of the potential implications of Beijing’s strident defense of State sovereignty for the international legal system. Against this background, a better understanding of Chinese interpretations of sovereignty appears not only useful but also desirable. This article contributes to clarify some of the intricacies of those interpretations by examining China’s approach to the principle of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Through an analysis of both its conceptual and practical engagement with R2P, the article reveals that Beijing’s attitudes towards questions of sovereignty and non-intervention in the context of humanitarian crises are more complex and nuanced than often assumed. After exploring the conditions under which China would accept infringements of sovereignty aimed at protecting basic values of humanity, the article suggests that the real challenge that Beijing will face going forward is not to show more willingness to engage in forcible interventions, but, rather, make credible contributions to peacefully prevent and halt the commission of atrocity crimes.
Keywords: China, R2P, Humanitarian intervention, Chinese foreign policy, Use of Force
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