Associate Fellow, International Law Programme
Through dialogue between Chinese public international lawyers and their non-Chinese counterparts, our project on China and the Future of the International Legal Order explores Chinese thinking on the content and direction of international law and considers the implications for global governance.
Harriet Moynihan captured the key insights on China's approach to new and emerging areas of international lawfrom our most recent roundtable in Beijing, co-hosted by Chatham House and the China University of Political Science and Law.
Drawing on these insights, Harriet has commented on China's ambitions in the Arctic and on opportunities for engaging with China on human rights issues through the Belt and Road Initiative.
Since 2014, when China’s Communist Party announced its intention to strengthen China’s discourse power in international law, the International Law and Asia-Pacific Programmes at Chatham House have been exploring the implications of China’s ambitions in this area.
The need for a more welcoming investment regime for Chinese businesses at home and abroad has been a key driver of China's acceptance of greater environmental protection provisions in recent free trade treaties, but China continues to maintain a cautious approach on labour rights.
The disparate nature of projects within the Belt and Road initiative, and the fact that many will take place in states with weak governance structures, raises conceptual and practical challenges when it comes to assessing the options for suitable dispute settlement mechanisms. China is playing an active role in reforms of investor-state dispute settlement, including eyeing the possibility of an Asian version of the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes.
Cyberspace is a domain in which international law is being applied to novel scenarios and in which China sees an interest in exerting influence on norm-setting at a formative stage.
The Arctic is another major area of interest for China, as reflected in the Chinese government’s publication of its first white paper on China's Arctic Policy in January 2018. The white paper sets out an analysis of the exiting legal framework, making reference to China as 'a champion for the development of a community with a shared future for mankind'. It also refers to using international law to the 'mutual benefit' of states. We are increasingly seeing these terms in Chinese discourse, including with reference to international human rights law.