China’s Approach to the Belt and Road Initiative
Journal of International Economic Law, Volume 22, 2019 (Forthcoming)
33 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2018
Date Written: May 20, 2018
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is China’s most significant strategic move for engagement with its partners following its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). As a new form of regional multilateralism, the BRI is a hub-and-spoke network with China as the hub. This paper analyses China’s approach to the BRI from a legal perspective, focusing on two questions: first, is there an identifiable approach that China adopts in the BRI context; and second, what is the essence that underlies this project? The article argues that China’s approach to the BRI has three primary qualities: it is (i) less-institutionally focused; (ii) non-treaty-based; and (iii) proactive rather than reactive. However, the stability of these characteristics across different contexts should not be exaggerated, since China chiefly employs a “middle-of-the-road” strategy in engaging with the BRI. Flexibility is arguably the essence of China’s approach, and reflects the government’s adaptive attitude. Such a path not only diverges from China’s engagement with the WTO, but also could constitute a kind of Chinese counter-model to deep trade agreements pursued by developed economies.
Keywords: The Belt and Road Initiative, approach, flexibility, regional multilateralism
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