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China and International Law

La Chine et le droit international

Revue « L’Observateur des Nations Unies » – Volume 43 (2017-2)

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Published on Thursday, May 31, 2018 by Céline Guilleux


Le couple « Chine et droit international », auquel l’Observateur des Nations Unies décide de dédier son prochain numéro, influence divers domaines de l’ordre juridique international. Conformément aux orientations données dans le cadre de cet appel, les contributeurs sont ainsi invités à s’interroger sur une thématique spécifique, notamment en vue d’appréhender le double caractère instrumental et contraignant du droit international - le droit international est à la fois un moyen et une limite - pour la Chine et sa nouvelle vision du monde.



Since the ascension of Xi Jinping, first as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, then as President of the People's Republic of China, the foreign policy of this State has changed. The new Chinese leader has decided to put an end to a phase of discretion or "low-profile", initiated by Deng Xiaoping and which has long characterized his State. Xi Jinping’s arrival to power in 2013 marks the beginning of a new era for China and, for sure, for the international order itself. After a period of political and economic affirmation, through the anchoring of the Chinese Communist Party and the establishment of an atypical capitalism, the Chinese leader now dreams of an ambitious China at the international level. China is henceforth conquering. To this attempt, initiatives are multiplying. These can be observed from different perspectives: through the eyes of an economist, a political scientist, but also of a lawyer. The present volume of L’Observatoire des Nations Unies thus proposes to highlight this international assertion of China from the point of view of international law.

As a major player in international relations, China attempts to assert its vision of the world on the international order and to become a new leader in globalization. For that purpose, it constantly uses international law. And because of the spectacular awakening of its foreign policy, it tries to confirm, adjust or overthrow the legal order established at the end of the Second World War. Therefore, international law seems to be an essential tool for the affirmation of it diplomacy as well as a capital instrument, allowing it to acquire a position that it deems important in the international order. From this point of view, its thought about on the content and direction of international law, as well as its implications for global governance, clearly aim at influencing various fields.

Nevertheless, at the same time, China’s ambition clashes inevitably with certain obstacles. International law cannot only be considered as an instrument of its new politics. It is also a constraint for China. International law, as a right of coexistence of sovereignties and interstate cooperation, appears to be at the same time as a restraint of the Chinese ambitions.

Regarding international economic law, since China became a major economic power of the 21st century, several transformations are at work. In illustration of this, it launched the new Silk Roads from Astana in Kazakhstan in 2013 (the slogan "One Belt, One Road"). This co-development program is materialized by investments in transport infrastructure. Indeed, its initial purpose is to connect the Chinese economy to the European and African continents. Through the years, the project becomes more and more prolific: many sectors are involved, and the investment flow is massive. Besides, China is also seeking to expand its influence in the field of international economic institutions, in particular within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO) where it is rising as a potential guarantor of multilateralism. And this, even though China does not hesitate to unscrupulously circumvent existing institutions (e.g. the creation of the Asian Bank for infrastructure investments). In short, China fully

invests the field of international economic law. However, in some respects it sees itself caught up by its own commitments. China is the object of serious disputes within the WTO for example. And its current conflict with the United States turns out to be threatening for the multilateral trading system as a whole. In international human rights law, Chinese particularity is obvious. Besides the reproach which is often addressed to it about systematic human rights violations, China generally has difficulty to refurbishing its image in front of the bodies that control these rights. Incidentally, it would be interesting in this case to try to understand China’s approach to international human rights law as well as the framework of dialogue it maintains with the international mechanisms for the control of those rights.

China is also an essential environmental participant. Insofar as it is one of the most polluting States on the planet, its participation in the formation of the international environmental law is decisive. This was particularly illustrated by the preponderance of its involvement in the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement. Notwithstanding this political will, which aims at putting the environmental issue at the heart of its priorities, its practice however seems to swear with it. And to understand this discrepancy better, it would be interesting to review the marginal position it gives to environmental issues in the context of its different implications, particularly in terms of investment - and this without forgetting the obviously apparent laxity which conducts its domestic policy on this subject, that we might see in the continuous degradation of its environment in particular by the effect of the deserts dust.

Concerning the maintenance of international peace and security, the Chinese power is imposing itself here more and more prominently. The use of the "right of veto" in the United Nations Security Council can be significant. It's the same for its participation, direct or indirect, in the operations of preserving of the peace (OMP). In addition to these issues of international peace and security, its leadership is no longer disputed in some regions – which can be observed through the ineluctable place it occupies in the management of the Korean crisis. However, within the framework of the fight against terrorism, the strategy of China still has difficulty in becoming clearer at the multilateral level. Without a doubt it tries to contain this scourge internally and bilaterally through joint patrols and common actions initiated within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), but it still remains no less that it has a singular conception of terrorism.

Besides the above-mentioned areas, which are by no means exhaustive, the couple "China and International Law", to which L’Observatoire des Nations Unies decides to dedicate its next issue, influences various fields of the international legal order. In accordance to the guidelines given to this vocation, contributors are invited to think about a specific theme, in particularly in order to understand the double instrumental and binding nature of international law - international law is both a means of and a constraint - for China and its new vision of the world.

Submission guidelines

We invite you to submit your projects of contribution

before the 23rd of June 2018

following address: obsnu44@gmail.com. All the documents will have to be sent in doc. format.

We will renew contact with you on the 13rd of July 2018, following the selection of the contributions by the scientific committee instituted for the evaluation and review. We will communicate to you at that moment the outline of the volume. The final papers will have to be submitted on the 10th of November 2018 latest. Some corrections might be requested subsequent to the submission of the contribution, before the page layout and the publication is launched during end of the month of December, 2018.

Heads of publications

Louis Bertier et Saa Jérôme Tolno

Scientific Committee   

  • Jacques Bourrinet,
  • Yves Daudet,
  • Marie-José Domestici-Met,
  • Maurice Flory,
  • Claude Imperiali,
  • Christian Joly,
  • Marie-Pierre Lanfranchi,
  • Ahmed Mahiou,
  • Sandrine Maljean-Dubois,
  • Jean-François Marchi,
  • Rostane Mehdi,
  • Jean-Claude Ricci



  • Saturday, June 23, 2018


  • Chine, droit international


  • Louis Bertier
    courriel : bertierlouis [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Louis Bertier
    courriel : bertierlouis [at] gmail [dot] com

To cite this announcement

« China and International Law », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, May 31, 2018, https://calenda.org/442897

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