How the Chinese view International Law

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With the precarious situation unfolding in the South China Sea and the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands over the past several months, the world’s attention has been drawn to China’s pivotal role of maintaining stability in the Asia-Pacific region. As China’s economic and political influence has grown in the past few decades, scholars have been analyzing and evaluating China’s approach to global politics, particularly international law. In light of these continuing international disputes, it is important to understand contemporary international relations, specifically in relation to China, a significant yet relatively new player in the existing American-led international order.

In the three decades immediately following the establishment of the state’s communist regime (the Peoples’ Republic of China or PRC) in 1949, the Chinese government adopted a policy of “starting anew” (“另起炉灶” and “打扫干净屋子再请客”). This strategy amounted to the elimination of all traces of imperial influence over China with an emphasis on the sovereignty of an independent China, and the concordant development of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which were enacted in 1954.

The Five Principles were based, in large part, upon the core values of the United Nations Charter, which hold state sovereignty in the highest regard. Concurrent to their development, China became cautious about numerous international laws, which the PRC perceived as imperial weapons serving the agendas of Western powers. During the Cold War era, the Western Bloc was wary of the East, as evidenced by its initial reluctance to admit the PRC into the international community. It was not until 1971 that China regained its seat at the United Nations.

How the Chinese view International Law

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