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From Ideology to Pragmatism: China’s Position on Humanitarian Intervention in the Post-Cold War Era

Posted by on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 in Articles, Vol. 44 No. 2, Volume 44, Volumes.

This Article fills a gap in the literature by examining in depth China’s state practice and official pronouncements in respect of nine post-Cold War cases typically cited by academics when considering the international legal status of humanitarian intervention.  The majority of today’s
commentary and scholarship holds that the People’s Republic of China’s position on sovereignty and intervention remains inflexible and absolutist, much as it was for the PRC’s first four decades.  This Article contends that this view is outdated and overly simplistic: while China continues to champion a strong conception of state sovereignty in interstate relations, it has signaled a shift from an ideological insistence on noninterference toward a more pragmatic  approach to humanitarian crises.  In particular, this can be seen in China’s willingness to acquiesce in and even actively support multilateral humanitarian interventions that obtain both Security Council authorization and target state consent, as well as in China’s willingness to use its growing economic and diplomatic leverage to help secure consent to intervention.

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