China's Approach to International Law : From Traditional Westphalianism to Aggressive Instrumentalism in the Xi Jinping Era

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-153
Journal / PublicationChinese Journal of Comparative Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


China has been expanding its engagement with the international legal order for decades, yet its general approach to international law remains mysterious or at least hard to understand. This article provides a preliminary examination of China's contemporary international legal stance. It argues that, although China has appeared to be a follower of the traditional Westphalianism, it is at heart an instrumentalist in terms of complying with international law. In the Xi Jinping era, China's approach to international law can be characterized as 'aggressive instrumentalism', though Xi Jinping's 'Community of Shared Future for Mankind' concept has arguably also demonstrated a certain degree of idealism.