Rising Power and Norm Containment: An Examination of China’s Shifting Response to Responsibility to Protect in the 21st Century

Proceedings of ‏The 3rd International Conference on Advanced Research in Social Sciences

Year: 2021

DOI:

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Rising Power and Norm Containment: An Examination of China’s Shifting Response to Responsibility to Protect in the 21st Century

Zikun Yang

 

ABSTRACT: 

The Responsible to Protect (R2P) manifests the prolonged tug-of-war between sovereignty- oriented states and the rule-based international community. Among states participating in the human security/national security debates, China distinguishes itself out due to its strong allegiance to sovereignty and non-interference, cultural relativist perception of human rights, and vigilance against the Western-centric global order as a rising power. Despite its endorsement of R2P in 2005 and substantial contributions to the United Nation peacekeeping operations (UNPKOs), China exhibits a paradoxical attitude towards forcible humanitarian actions. Supporting the UN African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) in 2006, Beijing soon became suspicious towards R2P in Libya in 2011, and eventually struck down eight R2P-related resolutions on Syria from 2011 to 2020. This research examines the fluidity and political contingency on China’s exhibited position on R2P in the 21st century. Through the constructivist-rational institutionalist prism, it weds the process-tracing method with a critical discourse analysis of Darfur, Libya, and Syria. The finding demonstrates that it is the norm containment strategy that enables this rising power to micromanage its commitments and scrutinize the compliance procedures of R2P. As China begins to accumulate more material and ideational power, it evolves gradually from a creative resistor to a competing entrepreneur and proposes the alternative norm with Chinese characteristic: Responsible Protection (RP). Theoretically, this research contributes to scholarships on norm dynamic and contestation and two-way socialization in global governance. Empirically, multi-archival and bilingual records reconstruct historical contexts of China’s evolving perceptions of sovereignty, intervention, and human rights, three key concepts in both international relations (IR) and international law (IL).

Keywords: China, Forcible humanitarian actions, Norm Dynamics, Rising power, R2P, Use of force.