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China in Darfur: humanitarian rule-maker or rule-taker?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 March 2011


Most people hold that in its quest for natural resources abroad, China shields rogue states with egregious human-rights record from international opprobrium and sanctions. Its political support for Sudan is a case in point. By examining Chinese perspectives on humanitarian intervention and national sovereignty, this article first argues that Beijing's interests are so multiple and complex that concern about the implications of humanitarian intervention for national integration is more crucial than oil in determining its policy towards Sudan. Paradoxically it asserts that China, a non-democratic country, is more influential than liberal democratic states in making the rules of humanitarian intervention in Darfur because of a lack of political will in the West. In addition, there are early signs that China intends to utilise its newfound power to remake international rules regarding territorial sovereignty. Further development is likely to be shaped by its interactions with the United States.

Research Article
Copyright © British International Studies Association 2011

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98 Initially the US planned to deploy the USS George Washington to the Yellow Sea in the second exercise in September 2010. But later the government changed its mind. Xiaokun, Li and Cafarello, Natalie Trusso, ‘US Aircraft Carrier Heads for Yellow Sea’, China Daily (7 August 2010)Google Scholar , {–08/07/content_11114261.htm} accessed on 7 August 2010; ‘Yellow Sea Drill Involves No Aircraft Carriers: US’, Agence France Presse (20 August 2010), through Factiva. The plans for another military exercise in October 2010 in the Yellow Sea that would have involved the aircraft carrier were cancelled ahead of a G20 summit meeting in Seoul in November 2010. Huang, Cary, ‘Scrapping of Joint Exercise Shows Sino-US Ties Warming’, South China Morning Post (26 October 2010)Google Scholar , through LexisNexis.

99 Blumenthal, Daniel, ‘The US Stands Up to China's Bullying’. Wall Street Journal Online (27 July 2010)Google Scholar , {} accessed on 28 July 2010.

100 Maritime powers, particularly the US, have long been opposed to coastal states' quest for expanding their jurisdictions seawards beyond the territorial waters. What is significant now is that it is China, a strong candidate for world power, rather than the traditional ‘territorialists’ such as Brazil and Peru that challenges the US. Boczek, Boleslaw Adam, ‘Peacetime Military Activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Third Countries’, Ocean Development and International Law, 19 (1988), pp. 445468CrossRefGoogle Scholar ; Pedrozo, Raul (Pete), ‘Preserving Navigational Rights and Freedoms: The Right to Conduct Military Activities in China's Exclusive Economic Zone’, Chinese Journal of International Law, 9 (2010), pp. 929CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

101 China's assertiveness in both the Yellow Sea and the South China Sea has met with resistance from the US as well as Southeast Asian countries for the latter. ‘Testing the Waters’, Economist (31 July 2010), through Factiva.

102 Hobsbawm, Eric, Globalisation, Democracy and Terrorism (London: Little, Brown, 2007), pp. 1011.Google Scholar

103 China began to take major steps in resolving the Darfur crisis when the preparation of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games was reaching its final stage.

104 It is argued that Kofi Annan, then UN Secretary-General, Canada and the ICISS were the norm entrepreneur, champion and broker of R2P respectively. Weiss, Thomas G. and Thakur, Ramesh, Global Governance and the UN: An Unfinished Journey (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2010), pp. 317319Google Scholar . For the role of the West in creating the norm of humanitarian intervention in the post-Cold War era, see Wheeler, Nicholas J., ‘The Humanitarian Responsibilities of Sovereignty: Explaining the Development of a New Norm of Military Intervention for Humanitarian Purposes in International Society’, in Welsh, Jennifer M. (ed.), Humanitarian Intervention and International Relations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 2951Google Scholar ; Finnemore, , The Purpose of Intervention, pp. 5284Google Scholar .

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