Rewriting the Rules: Analyzing the People’s Republic of China’s Efforts to Establish New International Norms

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  • By Maj Daniel W. McLaughlin, USAF

Over the past several decades, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has experienced what many commentators have referred to as an “economic miracle”—an unparalleled economic expansion that has propelled the nation from an economic backwater to ranking first or second in many major economic indicators.1 However, Beijing has not accomplished this feat in a vacuum; the modern rules-based international order has provided a stable and welcoming environment for the PRC’s economic reforms and development. Despite this assistance—both through direct interaction and by way of existing in the relatively calm and open geopolitical structure of the past four decades—there are growing indications the PRC is unhappy with the makeup of the current world order and the international norms it has produced. This article will explore the PRC’s reasons for wanting to challenge existing norms and demonstrate the PRC’s efforts to subvert existing multilateral institutions, establish new norms that favor Beijing’s more authoritarian tendencies, and displace the postwar international order with a new model, which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) believes will give it more influence and power.

The PRC’s current president, Xi Jinping, has repeatedly referenced the CCP interest in “reforming” the current international system. Xi presented the 19th Party Congress Report2 in late 2017 and significantly focused on the PRC’s role in global governance and China’s desire to reshape it. An early reference to this desire in Xi’s speech is paired with one of his major talking points in which the PRC aims to lead the “development of a community of common destiny for mankind,” a clear demonstration of the PRC’s ambitions.3 Xi also made certain his audience understood the CCP did not intend to be a passive observer in the development of this new order, stating, “China will continue to . . . take an active part in reforming and developing the global governance system.”4

Chinese academic Jiang Shigong recognizes this shift in global governance from the current economically open, liberal-oriented, democracy-supporting order to an order that aligns more with the PRC’s state-centric, authoritarian model is the goal of the CCP. Jiang is a CCP advisor and legal expert who believes the PRC’s best chance to make a “contribution to all of mankind depends . . . on whether Chinese civilization can search out a new path to modernization for humanity’s development.”5 This theme is common in Xi’s speeches, and he has echoed this basic principle in commentary both before6 and after7 the critical 19th Party Congress Report. The implication in these official statements is the PRC is increasingly dissatisfied with the level of control and influence it has in the world order and Beijing has increasing confidence that it has the capability to redefine the order. With that concept established, the question becomes: what steps is China taking?

A key aspect of influence in the world order is the ability of international institutions to establish and disseminate international norms. Prominent international relations scholars Drs. Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink define the relationship between norms and institutions by noting that norms are singular standards of “appropriate” or “proper” behavior, whereas institutions are the collective efforts that structure, interrelate, and protect the norms.8 Norms can exist without institutions, and institutions can be established before norms have been accepted; however, the two strengthen each other when used in tandem.9 The modern web of institutions, which was established in the aftermath of the two disastrous world wars in the first half of the twentieth century, has become self-reinforcing to a degree due to the overlapping liberal values the institutions support. Bretton Woods organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank10 support liberal economic reforms around the world. Additionally, regional and global transnational governments such as the United Nations and European Union provide a platform to cooperate or resolve differences in a way that maintains national sovereignty. Furthermore, legal mechanisms such as the Permanent Court of Arbitration11 and International Criminal Court12 hold nations accountable when international laws—legally defined norms—have been broken.

The contention the PRC has with these institutions is that the CCP was not in power in the mid-to-late 1940s when the norms were being developed, and Beijing was not contributing to global governance in the 1950s when the institutions were being established. Therefore, the CCP should be able to adjust existing norms to support its worldview and priorities, in line with its position as a great power. The norms and agreements that uphold modern institutions are “Western” ideals in the CCP’s view, and these norms and institutions provide an inherent advantage to Western nations—primarily the United States—to the detriment of non-Western nations—primarily the PRC. The concept that Western languages, theories, and concepts dominate international affairs, norms, and education and weaken non-Western views as a result is not a view unique to the PRC.13 It is with that mind-set the PRC has begun to establish itself as the global counterweight to the United States and the West as a whole, drawing supporters to its side in an effort to “rewrite” what is and is not accepted among the community of nations.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas Friedman’s 1999 book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization, highlights the concerns a nation might have with international institutions that enforce norms the nation does not agree with. Writing specifically about the modern economic and trade system he refers to a “Golden Straitjacket” that simultaneously enriches the country and limits its political freedom.14 Simply put, aligning with institutions—even those that correspond to one’s own beliefs and norm adherence—“narrows the political and economic policy choices of those in power to relatively tight parameters.”15 While it may seem counterintuitive for liberal institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank to promote democratic ideals while simultaneously limiting the democratic options available to a member nation, researcher Robert Went contends, “the curtailment of democracy on a national level as a consequence of economic globalization would be the concomitant development of democracy on a global level.”16 In this view, institutions restrict sovereign democracy to promote stronger global—presumably democratic—governance.

One of the CCP’s main talking points throughout its history has been its objection to “imperialism.” This view stems from China’s so-called “Century of Humiliation,” in which China experienced repeated outside interference from European colonial powers and Japanese imperial aggression from the First Opium War in the mid-1800s to the end of World War II in 1945.17 This anti-imperialism theme has developed into one of the modern PRC’s “core interests”—national sovereignty.18 Core interests is a new term in official PRC dialogue and represents the issues and narratives widely seen by observers as “red lines” that provoke the PRC to respond. This has become a recurring theme as the PRC has grown increasingly assertive in recent years, and Beijing is making known its most critical, nonnegotiable, and rigidly enforced requirements for bilateral and multilateral relations.19 By establishing the narrative of the CCP’s core interest in maintaining national sovereignty at the same time that Xi is advocating for a reformation of the global governance system to more closely align with the CCP’s norms, the PRC is laying the groundwork for Beijing to ignore future international demands based on established norms. Concurrently, it is providing justification for the PRC to develop institutions that will prop up China’s own norms.

The establishment of parallel international institutions by itself does not demonstrate a nation’s desire to develop or maintain different international norms. Structures that enhance integration between closely aligned nations on geographic, cultural, or religious grounds can supplement the broader and more inclusive international institutions such as how the African Union, Arab League, and Organization for Islamic Cooperation are all nonmember permanent observers of the United Nations.20 One area in which this tendency can be easily viewed is in the regionalization of international development banks on the model of the World Bank. As of 2016, there are 15 recognized multilateral development banks focusing on broad regions, subregions, or specific member concerns.21 The trend of smaller development banks began in 1959 as Latin America was attempting to combat the spread of communism, and other banks have opened since then as developmental priorities have waxed and waned, with the most recent development bank being the PRC-founded Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Some critics have cited the AIIB as evidence of diminishing American influence over global financial and economic priorities.22 Other critics contend the AIIB is the PRC’s attempt to circumnavigate American and Japanese influence in the similarly focused, and much older, Asian Development Bank.23 On closer examination, it seems that despite China’s desire to wield greater soft-power influence in the region, the AIIB does not demonstrate an attempt by the PRC to defy international norms or establish new ones—yet. So far, the AIIB has gone through all the internationally recognized and expected steps necessary to create a respectable and responsible multinational development bank. The AIIB’s founders heavily borrowed language from the World Bank to set up its treaty-bound charter, global membership beyond just a PRC-dominant hierarchy was established at the outset,24 and a combination of transparency and political neutrality agreements are codified in the AIIB’s constitution. Additionally, the AIIB is working closely with the World Bank and has even transferred several key responsibilities to the World Bank such as project supervision—an indication that the AIIB is at least as concerned about ensuring regionally relevant development as it is about soft-power projection.25

However, it is clear from other examples that the PRC is not content to supplement existing institutions and norms. The PRC-dominant Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is widely seen as a “vehicle for Chinese interests”26 and has an expanding group of members, observers, and official dialogue partners across Central and South Asia.27 The SCO lists priorities such as regional security, opposition to ethnic separatism, and regional development among its reasons for being established—all of which align closely with the PRC’s specific concerns and priorities for its own western provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet, which are the closest provinces to the SCO’s earliest member states.

A similar, Western-oriented organization is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which bills itself as the world’s largest regional security organization, featuring 57 countries from three continents.28 The OSCE explicitly states that its priorities include strengthening “the sharing of norms” with outside partner nations across the Middle East and East Asia, as well as to “develop [sic] norms” to address the proliferation of small arms.29 The norms that the OSCE had hoped would diffuse from Western-aligned nations into Central Asia members such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan30 have not always proceeded smoothly and have resulted in several tense diplomatic exchanges as fellow OSCE member Russia defended its former satellites in the halls of the OSCE.31 These rifts make it easier for the SCO to infuse its influence and the PRC’s agenda into Central Asia.

The charter of the SCO made it clear that no members would use the institution to infringe upon the sovereignty of another member by emphasizing “mutual respect of sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity of states, and inviolability of state borders, non-aggression, non-interference in internal affairs, non-use of force or threat of its use in international relations.”32 The SCO prioritizes governance issues that cannot be explicitly challenged by the OSCE’s liberal-leaning norms, including counterterrorism, combating organized crime, and border security. By creating a forum to discuss the PRC’s concepts of how to deal with these threats, the PRC opens a dialogue with partners who are looking for a voice that represents an alternative to the current international norms. The SCO’s focus on regime security, versus the OSCE’s focus on human security, is a defining difference between the norms championed by the two organizations.

The PRC’s (and Russia’s) support through SCO bodies to the Central Asian states has led to a diffusion and strengthening of PRC-backed “norms” that diminish freedom of speech, press, and assembly, as well as growing corruption and centralization of power by the political elite.33 This leads to a civil conflict between the state leadership, open to the PRC’s support as an “alternate normative actor,” and the in-country opposition groups and nongovernmental organizations, which routinely cite and draw inspiration from “the rhetoric of liberal norms.”34 Yet in an effort to retain influence in Central Asia, the OSCE is increasingly shifting its focus away from enforcing and promoting norms of democratic reforms, support for fundamental freedoms, and open markets in favor of transnational security norms to compete with the SCO’s vision—a policy shift that risks “changing its identity as the price of maintaining an active presence in Central Asia.”35

Christopher Walker of the National Endowment for Democracy believes organizations such as the SCO are part of a larger effort by authoritarian states such as the PRC to “contain democracy”—turning George F. Kennan’s Cold War containment policy against the authoritarian Soviet Union on its head.36 In his view, the SCO, China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, and the Forum of China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States are explicitly designed to limit or exclude the voices of democratic countries and enable the PRC to “not merely [defend] authoritarianism . . . but [reshape] the international norms that stigmatize such governance.”37 Walker notes that the PRC has already had some success by getting the SCO nations to agree to support refoulement—the return of persecuted individuals to the country which had persecuted them—the prevention of which had long been a norm established in the international community. The embracing of this new norm goes beyond the SCO, however, as nonmember nations Malaysia and Cambodia have also agreed to the PRC’s push for a treaty to support the process.38

The PRC’s diplomatic initiatives are designed, in large part, to obscure the PRC’s purpose from foreign policy elites. Its diplomatic instrument of power is utilized to support the “inexorably linked”39 economic instrument, and together the two instruments bind nations into an ever-closer dependency with the PRC. One particularly clear example of the PRC’s efforts on a regional scale is in the Middle East and North Africa, wherein the Belt and Road Initiative, the “1+2+3”40 policy, the establishment of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, and the 2016 publication of China’s Arab Policy Paper are all examples of tools used to build the PRC’s influence in bilateral and multilateral settings without the PRC explicitly building a coalition to achieve its strategic goals. The PRC can use that influence to garner support for its core interests in international institutions—such as Iran’s silencing of PRC criticism at the Organization of the Islamic Conference—and return the favor for Beijing’s partners in institutions that the PRC commands a particularly powerful presence—such as the PRC’s position as a veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council. By maintaining neutrality in regional conflicts, balancing rivals, and upholding China’s declared policy of nonintervention, the PRC is able to more easily leverage partnerships in the region when an overt display of influence is required—such as the 2019 United Nations Human Rights Council letter.41 Furthermore, the establishment of PRC-based, Beijing-dominated organizations such as the SCO provides a ready audience of like-minded states that are more pliant to the PRC’s preferred rules of international conduct. These like-minded states—in bilateral and multilateral settings—enable the PRC to slowly build its own international norms; challenge the established, rules-based international order and diminish the protections provided to weaker states within the current international system; deny individual freedoms; and empower central governments.

Within existing international organizations, the PRC has also attempted to make an impact on the enforcement of norms. The PRC helped block resolutions in the United Nations regarding intervention in the Syrian Civil War, citing Beijing’s belief in nonintervention in support of state sovereignty—but also because of the PRC’s negative opinions on how intervention unfolded in Libya, which it had initially supported.42 The PRC’s policy of alternating support for enforcement within existing institutions could fall under one of two motivations identified by China-expert Dr. David Shambaugh for the PRC’s international organizations strategy: the “supermarket approach” in which the PRC selectively identifies the specific instances of norms it is willing to help enforce and the “hollow it out from within” strategy of weakening the existing liberal order through a lack of consistent application of its principles. Shambaugh notes the possibility that either of the motivations could be true to a degree, though he unfortunately does not come out firmly in favor of that interpretation or in any of the individual motivations as being the PRC’s actual goal.43

Beyond international organizations, the PRC is also reaching directly to a global audience to spread its message and define the narrative Beijing wishes to champion. The PRC spends an estimated 9 billion USD per year in its mass media enterprise, with CCTV, Xinhua, and China Radio International reaching vast audiences in multiple languages. Erected under the banner of freedom of the press, these media outlets instead spread twisted versions of the news and openly acknowledged propaganda to show the PRC and fellow authoritarian states in a positive light and distort the actions of democracies.44

Walker identifies three elements of the PRC’s containment strategy: erode the rules-based institutions that established democratic norms and support the post–Cold War liberal order, subvert the reform attempts of budding democracies and limit their viability, and systematically assail the established democracies to reshape the manner in which the world thinks about democracy.45 This final step is of particular importance to the PRC and is one reason their media operations garner such large investments. The PRC’s soft-power outreach through media, investments, financial benefits, and diplomatic overtures might be winning some support from the entrenched elites in fellow authoritarian countries, but the support from the average citizens in those countries is quite low.

Despite spending 15-times as much on public diplomacy as the United States, the PRC is seeing minimal returns on its investment.46 In an effort to overcome their limited success so far, PRC media outlets are continuing to ramp up their self-proclaimed “discourse war” with the West. The PRC hopes the repetitive drumbeat of propaganda will lead to a shift in the popular narrative in nonaligned nations, struggling democracies, and anti-Western countries around the world, easing the transition from the current liberal-oriented structure and norms, to one more accepting of the PRC’s closed, authoritarian system.47

The norm-altering ambitions of the PRC will not change in the near-to-mid future because, unlike democracies with a broad spectrum of views and ideologies within and among various political parties, the CCP maintains a relatively stable political ideology. Party members who follow the senior leaders’ views and are also successful in administrative positions rise to increasingly powerful positions, which reinforces the long-term focus of the Party’s ideology. Fresh ideas are rarely introduced with new membership into high-level positions because the Central Committee members who supported Xi’s more aggressive and assertive foreign policy in 2017 are likely to be the members of the next several iterations of the Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee. The goals and processes that have been building up from within the CCP will not change under the “next administration.” This includes the PRC’s desire to wield its influence on smaller nations in China’s self-proclaimed periphery as well as to reshape international order and the norms that support that order. Xi may have accelerated the PRC’s claiming of the world’s “center stage” in 2017’s 19th Party Congress Report, but it has been, and will remain, a central goal of the CCP.48

The PRC hopes to rewrite the accepted norms through a combination of diminishing the credibility of existing liberal norms and the increasing acceptance of its own norms through soft-power influence and regional institutions. It sees the current system of norms and the institutions that promote and enforce them as relics of an era in which the PRC was not a great power and had no say in the establishment and development of the institutions and norms. As the PRC’s power continues to grow, the CCP wishes to use its new norms to reinforce its power instead of facing the Western-dominated liberal norms, which it sees as confining. Any attempt to prevent the subversion of existing norms by the PRC or like-minded actors must begin with a strengthening of the institutions that themselves strengthen the norms. Only by providing a stable structure for nations, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals to put their faith in can those who support the existing norms hope to uphold the postwar liberal international order against the rising threat of the PRC’s subversion of the old norms and its attempts to influence the new.

Major Daniel W. McLaughlin, USAF

Major McLaughlin currently serves as a staff officer working for the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs. Prior to this assignment, he was a 2020 graduate student at the National Intelligence University, where he earned a master’s degree in strategic intelligence, with a dual concentration in China and the Middle East. He is also a graduate of Air Command and Staff College (master’s degree, military operational art and science, 2019) and Trident University (master’s degree, education, 2012). He was previously an instructor pilot in both the KC-10A Extender and T-1A Jayhawk and has more than 3,100 flying hours, including more than 1,200 combat hours over the course of seven deployments.

1 Some examples: in 1978 the PRC exported 10 billion USD of goods, just 1 percent of global trade—by 2015 it was exporting 4.3 trillion USD and was the largest exporting country in the world; incomes have risen enough that 850 million people in the PRC have risen out of poverty by World Bank statistics since the 1970s; its gross domestic product rose from less than 50 billion USD in the 1960s to over 10 trillion USD today, second in the world behind only the United States: Virginia Harrison and Daniele Palumbo, “China anniversary: How the country became the world's 'economic miracle',” BBC, 1 October 2019,

2 Party Congress Reports are presented once every five years and are viewed by China scholars as the second most critical demonstration of the CCP’s strategy, ranking just behind the CCP Constitution and ahead of Politburo Standing Committee member speeches: Timothy R. Heath, “What Does China Want? Discerning the PRC’s National Strategy,” Asian Security 8, no. 1 (2012), 57.

3 The current official CCP English translation uses the term “shared future”; however, the original word, translated directly from Chinese reads as: “community of common destiny for mankind.” In early speeches, the PRC translated the word as “destiny” as well, but negative press and global public reaction led to future translations using the less intimidating “future” versus “destiny,” though Xi still uses “destiny” when speaking to domestic audiences. Liza Tobin, “Xi’s Vision for Transforming Global Governance: A Strategic Challenge for Washington and Its Allies,” Texas National Security Review 2, no. 1 (December 2018); and Xi Jinping, “Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects and Strive for the Great Success of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” (speech, Beijing, 18 October 2017).

4 Xi, “Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society.”

5 He goes on to clarify the PRC’s potential role in helping developing countries “shake off” capitalism and assisting their “cultural conflicts and difficulties.” Jiang Shigong, “Philosophy and History: Interpreting the ‘Xi Jinping Era’ Through Xi’s Report to the Nineteenth National Congress of the CCP,” China History, 11 May 2018.

6 “The pattern of global governance depends on the international balance of power, and the transformation of the global governance system originates from changes in the balance of power. . . . We must improve our ability to participate in global governance, and in particular, our ability to make rules, set agendas, and carry out publicity and coordination.” Xi Jinping, “Improve Our Ability to Participate in Global Governance,” in The Governance of China II (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2017), 488–90.

7 In a speech at a central conference on diplomatic work, Xi stated Chinese diplomacy must “lead the reform of the global governance system according to the notion of fairness and justice.” Xi Jinping, “Using the Thought on Diplomacy for New-Era Socialism with Chinese Characteristics as a Guide to Create a New Landscape in Major-Country Diplomacy with Chinese Characteristics,” in On Building a Human Community with a Shared Future (Beijing: Central Compilation & Translation Press, 2019), 550.

8 Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink, “International Norm Dynamics and Political Change,” International Organization 52, no. 4 (Autumn 1998), 891.

9 Specifically, institutions can be established to enable the establishment of the norms they wish to advocate: Finnemore and Sikkink, “International Norm Dynamics and Political Change,” 899.

10 The “World Bank Group” is often referred to as simply the “World Bank” and constitutes five separate institutions that have slightly overlapping but diverse goals in terms of developing open, liberal economies, reducing poverty, and raising incomes around the world while directly supporting the development of national economies through reforms and investments. Due to how widely recognized it is, the term “World Bank” in this article is used to refer to the five institutions collectively; The World Bank, “Who We Are,” retrieved 7 February 2020,

11 “The Permanent Court of Arbitration, established by treaty in 1899, is an intergovernmental organization providing a variety of dispute resolution services to the international community.” Permanent Court of Arbitration, “Home,” retrieved 7 February 2020,

12 “The International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.” International Criminal Court, “About,” retrieved 7 February 2020,

13 Andrey Makarychev and Viatcheslav Morozov, “Is ‘Non-Western Theory’ Possible? The Idea of Multipolarity and the Trap of Epistemological Relativism in Russian IR,” International Studies Review 15, no. 3 (September 2013), 330.

14 To highlight the various requirements (norms) a country might need to adopt in order to be accepted into the international community (institutions) Friedman lists the following economic “to do” list: “To fit into the Golden Straitjacket a country must either adopt or be seen as moving toward the following golden rules: making the private sector the primary engine of its economic growth, maintaining a low rate of inflation and price stability, shrinking the size of its state bureaucracy, maintaining as close to a balance budget as possible, if not a surplus, eliminating and lowering tariffs on imported goods, removing restrictions on foreign investment, getting rid of quotas and domestic monopolies, increasing exports, privatizing state-owned industries and utilities, deregulating capital markets, making its currency convertible, opening its industries and stock and bond markets to direct foreign ownership and investment, deregulating its economy to promote as much domestic competition as possible, eliminating government corruption, subsidies and kickbacks as much as possible, opening its banking and telecommunications systems to private ownership and competition, and allowing its citizens to choose from an array of competing pension options and foreign-run pension and mutual funds. When you stitch all of these pieces together you have the Golden Straitjacket.” Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux: 1999), 103.

15 Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, 103.

16 Robert Went, “Economic Globalization Plus Cosmopolitanism?,” Review of International Political Economy 11, no. 2 (May 2004), 340.

17 William A. Callahan, “National Insecurities: Humiliation, Salvation, and Chinese Nationalism,” Alternatives 29 (2004): 204.

18 “Sovereignty” takes the form of both territorial integrity (“one China”) and state sovereignty (freedom from external interference): Jinghao Zhou, “China’s Core Interests and Dilemma in Foreign Policy Practice,” Inha Journal of International Studies 34, no. 1 (April 2019), 33.

19 Michael D. Swaine, “China’s Assertive Behavior Part One: On ‘Core Interests’,” China Leadership Monitor, no. 34: 2.

20 United Nations, “Intergovernmental Organizations Having Received a Standing Invitation to Participate as Observers in the Sessions and the Work of the General Assembly and Maintaining Permanent Offices at Headquarters,” retrieved 7 February 2020,

21 Examples of regional banks include the Inter-American Development Bank and Asian Development Bank; sub-regional banks include the Andean Bank and the Black Sea Bank; unique member concerns can be seen in institutions such as the Islamic Development Bank: Vikram Raghavan, “The World Bank and Regional Development Banks,” Proceedings of the Annual Meeting (American Society of International Law) 110 (March–April 2016), 274.

22 Paola Subacchi, “The AIIB Is a Threat to Global Economic Governance,” Foreign Policy, 31 March 2015,

23 “Addressing concerns with the AIIB,” Japan Times, 1 July 2015,

24 Though the PRC still holds a veto-blocking percentage of shares of the AIIB, it must be acknowledged that the United States holds a similar veto-blocking number of shares at both the IMF and World Bank.

25 Raghavan, “The World Bank and Regional Development Banks,” 275–77.

26 David Lewis, “Who’s Socialising Whom? Regional Organisations and Contested Norms in Central Asia,” Europe-Asia Studies 64, no. 7 (September 2012), 1220.

27 The United Nations recognizes the following membership of the SCO—Members: PRC, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; Observers (states interested in full membership): Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia; Dialogue Partners: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Turkey; United Nations, “Partnerships and Cooperation: Shanghai Cooperation Organization,” Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, retrieved 7 February 2020,

28 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, “Who We Are,” retrieved 7 February 2020,

29 Norms are addressed in the subsections “Partners for Co-operation” and “Forum for Security Co-operation” here: Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, “Who We Are.”

30 All four of whom are OSCE and SCO members.

31 Lewis, “Who’s Socialising Whom?,” 1222.

32 Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Charter of the Shanghai Cooperation Organizations, Article 2, Principles.

33 Lewis, “Who’s Socialising Whom?,” 1233.

34 Lewis, “Who’s Socialising Whom?,” 1235.

35 Lewis, “Who’s Socialising Whom?,” 1235.

36 Christopher Walker, “The New Containment: Undermining Democracy,” World Affairs (May/June 2015): 42–51.

37 Walker, “The New Containment: Undermining Democracy,” 46.

38 Walker, “The New Containment: Undermining Democracy,” 46.

39 Sarah Kaiser-Cross and Yufeng Mao, “China’s Strategy in the Middle East and the Arab World,” in China Steps Out: Beijing’s Major Power Engagement with the Developing World, ed. Joshua Eisenman and Eric Heginbotham (New York: Routledge, 2018), 175.

40 “1” is energy as the principal axis of cooperation; “2” is the two wings of infrastructure as well as trade and investment; “3” is the focus on the advanced technologies of nuclear energy, space satellites, and new energy. Xi Jinping, “Promoting the Spirit of the Silk Road, Strengthening Sino-Arab Cooperation,” in On Building a Human Community with a Shared Future (Beijing: Central Compilation & Translation Press, 2019), 129–30.

41 In short, 22 nations submitted a letter to the Human Rights Council objecting to the PRC’s mistreatment of its Muslim minorities. Within four days the PRC countered with a letter of its own signed by 37 nations which supported the PRC’s actions, then two weeks later another 13 nations and the Palestinian Authority signed (bringing the total to 50). Roie Yellinek and Elizabeth Chen, “The ‘22 vs. 50’ Diplomatic Split Between the West and China Over Xinjiang and Human Rights,” China Brief 19, no. 22, 31 December 2019,

42 The PRC initially supported the United Nations Security Council’s Resolution 1970 and felt as though the mandate had been exceeded by the time Resolution 1973—the no-fly zone—was voted on several weeks later. The non-intervention policy of the PRC government is a long-standing diplomatic effort by the Chinese Communist Party to support a nation’s rightful government. This policy started as an anti-imperialist policy in the Mao-era but has since evolved into the Chinese government staying out of military or diplomatic interventions into other nation’s internal political disputes—unless, as research Imad Mansour points out, the international community has already come to a consensus that intervention is the right course of action. Mansour believes that outright regime change is still a Chinese “red line,” even if that course of action has multinational support. Andrew Scobell and Alireza Nader, China in the Middle East: The Wary Dragon (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2016), 32; and Imad Mansour, “Treading with Caution: China’s Multidimensional Interventions in the Gulf Region,” The China Quarterly 239 (September 2019): 656–78.

43 There is a third possibly which Dr. Shambaugh identifies, though it does not align with the PRC’s actions in this instance. The third possibility is the PRC is internalizing international norms by joining international organizations, which seems increasingly unlikely but was still a hopeful view when the book was published in 2013. David Shambaugh, China Goes Global: The Partial Power (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 141–42.

44 Walker, “The New Containment: Undermining Democracy,” 50.

45 Walker, “The New Containment: Undermining Democracy,” 43.

46 The US Department of State’s budget for public diplomacy was $666 million in 2014 compared to the estimated 10 billion USD spent by the PRC that year. David Shambaugh, “China’s Soft-Power Push: The Search for Respect,” Foreign Affairs (July/August 2015): 100.

47 Shambaugh, “China’s Soft-Power Push,” 100.

48 Xi Jinping, “Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects and Strive for the Great Success of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” (speech, Beijing, 18 October 2017).



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