China’s norm entrepreneurship in maritime affairs

World politics

My research focuses on China’s oceans governance. Recently, I have been reading on China’s norm entrepreneurship in the maritime domain. Below is the collection of literature exploring China’s distinctive strategies in environmental governance, Arctic affairs, and maritime disputes.

Article: Norm Entrepreneurship with Chinese Characteristics? Constructing a ‘Green BRI’

This paper by Etienne Höra explores China’s push for environmental norms through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The focus is on understanding China’s strategies of norm entrepreneurship, tailored to its state institutions and the practices and beliefs of the Chinese Communist Party. The paper also delves into the complexities of global norm-based governance in a fragmented policy landscape.

Since its launch in 2013, the BRI has incorporated a ‘green development’ vision. This sparks ongoing debate about the extent to which these environmental norms extend to China’s international ventures. Höra’s research examines China’s norm advocacy by scrutinising its domestic political methods. Particularly, the ‘campaign politics’ garners support without binding legislation. It also grapples with the challenge of applying conventional norms research concepts in China, calling for a framework attuned to local contexts.

The highlight of this paper is the discussion of how China implements its norms of ‘Green BRI’ through collaborations with international development and financial institutions, as well as BRI partner countries. Indeed, not all countries accept China’s approach. However, this reflects the ongoing governance complexities within the BRI.

Overall, this paper insights into China’s efforts to champion environmental norms through the BRI. It has offered a nuanced perspective on the dynamics shaping global environmental governance.

Article: Have you entered the storehouses of the snow?’ China as a norm entrepreneur in the Arctic

Marc Lanteigne, who is an expert is China’s Arctic affairs, publishes an article that delves into China’s evolving role in the Arctic. This article sheds light on understanding China’s quest to establish itself as a norm entrepreneur in this increasingly vital region. China’s interest in the Arctic is propelled by the growing economic and strategic importance spurred by climate change and melting ice. However, acceptance as a regional player poses challenges for China, especially from Canada and Russia.

To overcome these hurdles, China adopts a norm entrepreneurship strategy, advocating for the Arctic as an international space and fostering partnerships between Arctic and non-Arctic players. This approach positions China as a ‘near-Arctic state’, aiming to avoid being perceived as a regional interloper or a disruptor of established norms.

The paper also explores China’s involvement in diverse areas like scientific research, economic partnerships, and maritime transit routes. It highlights China’s participation in Arctic institutions like the Arctic Council and its diplomatic ties with Arctic states such as Denmark, Iceland, and Russia.

As a researcher who has a growing interest in China’s polar affairs, I have learnt a lot from this paper. It has provided a comprehensive analysis of China’s Arctic policy, focusing on its efforts to position itself as a norm entrepreneur, tackle diplomatic challenges. For sure, the world needs to be more aware of China’s effort to shaping the future governance of the Arctic.

Book: China’s Law of the Sea: The New Rules of Maritime Order

One of my most favourite book in 2023. In this timely and crucial study, Isaac Kardon, senior fellow for China studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, examines China’s influence on the international maritime order, centring on the South China Sea disputes. The analysis goes beyond regional geopolitics. It offers a comprehensive historical and legal examination of China’s role in shaping the global maritime order.

This book stands out by delving into China’s internal perspective on maritime law. It argues that China does not advocates for an alternative maritime order. Instead, it engages in extra-legal changes to diminish the significance of established international maritime laws and norms.

Kardon traces China’s evolving stance toward international law. It links historical legacies like the ‘century of humiliation’ to contemporary political objectives. The narrative suggests that China strategically uses the rule of law to develop its maritime power. It positions itself for a prolonged struggle over the rules of maritime order.

The book’s strength lies in multiple case studies. It illustrates how China’s interpretation of maritime laws differs from other players in the South China Sea disputes. Kardon identifies four facets of rules: geographic, resource, navigation, and disputes resolution rules. Through compelling examples, he showcases the role of Chinese scholars, think tanks, legal experts, and maritime bureaucrats in promoting China’s discourse in international law.

Frankly, this book is not precisely about China’s norm entrepreneurship in the maritime order. However, Kardon has demonstrated how China’s bending international rules of the sea to achieve its national interests could frustrate the application of international law in East Asia and beyond.

The study significantly contributes to a nuanced understanding of China’s role in the maritime order, prompting further exploration of its influence beyond the South China Sea in the broader realm of international law of the sea. Although the book may require background knowledge of legal debates in the South China Sea disputes, I highly recommend for researchers interested in China’s strategy toward maritime security and regional order.

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