A New Cold War?
The Pentagon is sounding the alarm about China’s military buildup. The Washington Post says:
China's military buildup is increasingly aimed at projecting power far beyond its shores into the western Pacific to be able to interdict U.S. aircraft carriers and other nations' military forces, according to a Pentagon report released yesterday that outlines continued concerns over China's rising strategic influence in Asia.
International law buffs have begun speculating about what China’s rise in power might mean for international law. Here are some possibilities:
1. A new cold war, resulting in a bipolar system similar to the one that existed during the old cold war. China and the U.S. would each have a sphere of influence, would surreptitiously attempt to undermine the other’s sphere of influence, and would resolve conflicts and tensions across spheres on an ad hoc basis. International law would play less of a role than it does today, and would mainly be applied to countries other than China and the U.S.
2. A new great power system, similar to the one that existed during the nineteenth century. China, the U.S., Russia, the EU, perhaps India, and so forth, would resolve international conflicts on an ad hoc basis, or on the basis of a loose set of commitments. International law would have two tiers, one for the great powers, and one for the rest.
3. Increased legalization and institutionalization, 1990s-style. China would join the U.S. and EU in supporting international tribunals and conventions, but these would, as a result, reflect China’s values and interests, to a greater extent than at present. This means the west would have to compromise on human rights, among other things.
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