Is China a status quo or revisionist power in respect of international law?

Stream: Panel 14 - International Relations: Non-western States, International Law and the Responsibility to Protect Norm
Date: Monday, 26 September 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm


International Law is integral to the system of world politics and so the question as to whether China is or will be a status quo or a revisionist power needs to take into account the nature of China's engagement with international law. Realists discount the significance of international law, however, and although the liberal institutionalist literature does recognise international law and institutions as an important variable in both understanding China’s rise and its likely future behaviour it tends to do so by simply assuming that the existence of international law and institutions is ineluctably a good thing. This paper argues that that China’s peaceful rise has been facilitated not simply by a liberal international order per se but by specific provisions within specific cornerstone multilateral treaties of the post World War order. A different scenario would likely have unfolded had the substantive provisions of those treaties served to stymie China’s ambitions, or if the operative provisions of those treaties had effectively prevented China’s playing a growing role in major international policy-making. 
The paper concludes by considering the implications of this more nuanced consideration of China’s engagement with international law for our understanding of China’s growing influence in global governance.


Shirley Scott (Presenter), UNSW Australia
Shirley Scott is a Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UNSW Australia. Shirley's research and teaching focuses on international law as a dimension of global governance, demonstrating the complex interplay between international law and power politics. Shirley has published on a range of subjects including the use of force, climate change, Antarctica, and the nature of US' engagement with international law, and has developed a theory of international law as ideology. Shirley is the Research Chair of the Australian Institute of International Affairs and a member of the Advisory Council of the Asian Society of International Law.