Belt, Road and (Legal) Suspenders: Entangled Legalities on the 'New Silk Road'
Forthcoming, Nico Krisch (ed.), Entangled Legalities
18 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2019 Last revised: 29 Jan 2020
Date Written: November 17, 2019
The Belt and Road Initiative, formerly known as the "New Silk Road" is a central part of the People's Republic of China (PRC)'s 13th 5-year plan, an ambitious program of infrastructure project finance in 65 countries, to the tune of 1 Trillion USD invested over 20 years. Geo-politically, this might be the most important global governance initiative since the end of the first cold war. But what does it mean for law? Surely it is an exemplar of entangled legalities. It means very different things to the investment protection lawyer at MOFCOM in Beijing, the public procurement regulator in Greece, the (insert big-law firm name) Associate or Partner in Kazakhstan, or insurgents in Balochistan (Pakistan), and Judges in constitutional courts and indeed the European Court of Human Rights. This paper argues that structures of practice as well as cognitive limitations and sociological factors keep law's engagement with complexity enmeshed but separate, along the lines of (most obviously) national law, but more so along the lines of policy-issues and the object-oriented nature of distinct legal fields. This short paper will narrate – hypothetically, though firmly based in reality – different views of actors engaging with the Belt and Road Initiative, to demonstrate the parallel phenomena of separateness and entangledness, and also demonstrate the inevitable interdependence of entangled legal strands, looking at the case of the Belgrade-Budapest rail modernization project. In addition, it will emphasize the close connection between legal entanglement and empire.
Keywords: International Law, fragmentation, China, Belt and Road, infrastructure
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