The Dao of Mao: Sinocentric Socialism and the Politics of International Legal Theory
International Law and the Cold War (Matthew Craven, Sundhya Pahuja & Gerry Simpson eds., Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming)
22 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2019 Last revised: 11 Jun 2020
Date Written: 2019
This chapter examines socialist China’s changing self-understanding of its global status through the lens of international law. Part II first analyses theoretical debates influenced by the Soviet Union in the 1950s. How could Chinese socialism be reconciled with the continued existence of state power and legal institutions? In terms of interstate relations, was there a distinctive body of international law regulating relations among socialist states, including China? Part III turns to Mao Zedong’s rejection of Soviet ‘revisionism’ and his reconceptualisation of the Cold-War model of Three Worlds in the tumultuous 1960s, giving rise to a new, Sinocentric conception of socialist internationalism. Instead of viewing the Cold War in binary terms as a contest between capitalism and socialism, Mao reconceived it as more fundamentally a struggle between imperialism and anti-imperialism. This allowed him to posit the two superpowers as de facto allies in world domination, seeking to divide the planet between them and standing in opposition to all the oppressed peoples of the world led by China. This remarkable reworking of socialist theory was grounded in a hybrid political ontology that was not only Marxian but also Daoist in inspiration. In place of a teleological understanding of the dialectic unfolding of history, it envisioned a world of endless, forever-fluctuating contradictions. The chapter concludes by analysing the continuing theoretical challenges posed by China’s re-engagement with international law after the beginning of its so-called ‘opening up’ after 1978.
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