Adjudicating Disputes Along China’s New Silk Road : Towards Unity, Diversity or Fragmentation of International Law?

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219–247
Journal / PublicationNetherlands International Law Review
Issue number2
Online published30 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


This article analyses dispute resolution in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) from the perspective of the debate on unity, diversity and fragmentation of international law. This article presents a critical perspective that although the BRI preaches unity through greater economic (and social) integration, it currently increases fragmentation by failing to offer a unified dispute resolution mechanism. The analysis considers how some of the major procedural issues perceived in the BRI—at the time of transnational dispute management—are being addressed. Approaching this from the perspective of diversity in international law provides a novel method to consider BRI adjudication, and (potentially) a concrete target (of unity) to aim towards for strengthening the BRI as a genuine transnational law-making process. However, the consequences of increased fragmentation in BRI dispute resolution are many, including multiplications of disputes in different forums (with different procedures, case law and legal remedies) which, in the long term, will bring deep fragmentation among BRI countries and become an impediment to the BRI’s success. Finally, this article asks whether unity in BRI dispute resolution is a realistic target, considering the Chinese State’s (perceived) preference for maintaining flexibility in relation to the initiative, and highlights the long-term consequences for international lawyers of the fragmentation in BRI dispute resolution.

Research Area(s)

  • Belt and Road Initiative, China, Dispute resolution framework, Dispute settlement, Fragmentation of international law, International commercial courts