China, International Responsibility and Law
in Towards Responsible Global Governance, Eds. Jan Klabbers, Maria Varaki & Guilherme Vasconcelos Vilaça, Helsinki University Press, 2018, pp. 53-73
21 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2018 Last revised: 25 Nov 2018
Date Written: October 1, 2018
Throughout this article, I submit that China is articulating a conception of global governance premised on the idea of strong sovereign states while at the same time proposing a much different conception of relationality and the role of law that is characteristic of the Western state system. First, China combines an endorsement of state relations based, however, on a liquid worldview in which politics and contingent deals play a more important role than the formalized legal vocabulary (which actually confirms the choice of the term “responsibility”). Second, this only holds for some areas, as there is a great divide between China’s behaviour and strategies on private and public law issues both domestically and internationally; a divide that China is trying to export to the international order. And, third, the concept of politics and contingent deals premised upon relations that are configured according to the specific problem at stake, is a peculiar one that is best understood according to the metaphor of contract.
The article proceeds as follows. In section 2, I examine the uses of the concept of “responsible power” and how China has been judged on such account. This presupposes considering the way in which China has defined itself vis-a-vis the international legal order as well as the content of its normative principles. Section 3 discusses and overcomes the thesis that Chinese traditional thought does not contain resources to ground a cosmopolitan global governance approach. I then (section 4) turn to examine the ways in which China is deploying a pragmatic approach to domestic and international law and relations according to the issue-area at stake which gives a more prominent role to contracts, politics and platforms for regional interstate dialogue than to law and a model of rule-based governance. Section 5 continues this discourse by showing how China’s assumption on human rights and the rule of law openly postulate the priority of the political over the legal. Section 6 concludes.
Keywords: China, Global Governance, International Law, Human Rights, Chinese Thought, International Relations
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