Connectivity and Decoupling: Belt and Road Dispute Resolution in a Fractured Trade Environment

15 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2019

See all articles by Mark Feldman

Mark Feldman

Peking University School of Transnational Law

Date Written: September 10, 2019


A core theme of the Belt and Road Initiative (‘BRI’) is connectivity, which extends to BRI-related dispute resolution. But BRI-related advances in connectivity will be occurring in an international trade environment that is becoming increasingly fractured; the extent to which a fractured trade environment might impede BRI-related opportunities for connectivity merits close consideration.

A range of initiatives in Asia lower the risk of major economies ‘detaching’ themselves from China. Particularly with respect to dispute resolution, China has participated in the ongoing development of a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (‘RCEP’) agreement, the launch of the China International Commercial Court (‘CICC’), and the development of a number of instruments that improve the enforceability of outcomes in a range of settings, including a few dozen bilateral treaties on judicial assistance as well as a set of multilateral instruments covering mediated settlement agreements (the Singapore Convention on Mediation), choice of court agreements (the Hague Choice of Court Convention), and court judgments (the Hague Judgments Convention).

China’s active role in the development of the above initiatives does not mean that other actors will not disagree with China, even strongly, on certain matters. Malaysia’s recent suspension, and subsequent resumption, of a few major BRI projects provides one clear example; in the particular context of dispute resolution, many responses to the launch of the CICC by China’s Supreme People’s Court have been critical or, at a minimum, skeptical.

But criticism need not lead to detachment; criticism instead can be a form of engagement. International engagement with BRI and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (‘AIIB’) has been strong notwithstanding significant criticism of both initiatives. An increasingly fractured trade environment likely will not impede China’s ability to advance connectivity, including in a dispute resolution context, particularly given the active rulemaking and institution building occurring on China’s side of the divide.


JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Feldman, Mark, Connectivity and Decoupling: Belt and Road Dispute Resolution in a Fractured Trade Environment (September 10, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Mark Feldman (Contact Author)

Peking University School of Transnational Law ( email )


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