Why Does China’s New Law on Foreign Relations Matter?
China’s Law on Foreign Relations will further enrich the foreign-related legal toolbox and integrate the rule of law thinking with practice.
The enactment and promulgation of the Law on Foreign Relations of the People’s Republic of China (LFR) is an important result and progress of implementing Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, particularly Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy and Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law, fully implementing the spirit of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, upholding and promoting the rule of law both at home and in diplomatic relations with other countries in a coordinated manner.
LFR is also a major landmark to accelerate the overall layout of rule of law work in China’s foreign relations, and enhance the systematization and coordination of legislation for Chinese foreign relations.
China’s first law for foreign relations
At present, the world is facing “profound changes unseen for a century.” China’s overall national strength and international influence have increased significantly, and its relations with the rest of the world have been undergoing unprecedented and profound changes.
Under the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), we are vigorously promoting and expanding the Chinese path to modernization. China has become a mainstay of maintaining world peace and stability and a major driving force for global economic growth. At the same time, the world is undergoing profound adjustments in the international balance of power, complex changes in the international landscape and world order, and a new period of turbulence and changes. China’s development is faced with a more complex international situation, and the rule of law plays a more prominent role in developing foreign relations and safeguarding national interests.
Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has made the overall strategy for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation amid internal and external challenges. While stressing that the rule of law is an important part of the country’s core competitiveness, China has integrated the rule of law into the four-pronged comprehensive strategy – that is to make comprehensive moves to build a modern socialist country, deepen reform, advance law-based governance and strengthen Party self-governance – and started to strengthen legislation in foreign relations.
With the enactment and promulgation of the first law on foreign relations, China will accelerate the formation of a comprehensive legal system in its foreign relations to provide a legal guarantee for safeguarding China’s sovereignty, security and development interests and promoting the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
The legal framework of Chinese foreign relations
LFR lays a foundation and offers a legal framework for China to guide and adjust its foreign relations. The law and other relevant legislation constitute the country’s legal system in the field.
In recent years, China has taken a series of measures to advance the legislation to build a comprehensive legal system for its foreign relations. For example, in 2021, China adopted an important foreign legislation the Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law, which is a defensive measure to counter containment and oppression. Like the similar laws in other countries, China’s Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law is a common practice to respond to foreign sanctions, interference and long-arm jurisdiction through legislation. Meanwhile, the draft legislation, such as the Law on Foreign State Immunity, was put on the agenda of the Standing Committee of National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature.
Against this background, the systematization of the legal system in foreign relations has become an important agenda. It has been increasingly necessary to draft and make a basic law to guide China’s foreign relations.
On the one hand, the LFR serves as the mother law for other legislation work in foreign relations, ensuring the clear division of jurisdiction between different laws and regulations in foreign relations while coordinating the work between them in foreign relations. On the other hand, the LFR fills in gaps of China’s legislation in foreign relations. The Law on Foreign Relations stipulates important issues that previously existed in legal gaps, such as the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions. It also solves the problem of the lack of legal basis in practice, which is conducive to promoting the positive interaction between international law and China’s domestic law.
China’s LFR and the contemporary world
The LFR is a response to today’s world that is profoundly changing. At present, the world has entered a period featured with unprecedented instability and uncertainty. In the complex and changeable international situation, China faces increasingly significant external threats and challenges. In particular, as China has never been so close to the center of international stage in recent years, some countries have done all they can to carry out comprehensive containment measures and “sanctions” against China, quite a few of which have taken the form of “legal warfare.”
Some countries have established a relatively complete system of laws and regulations in their foreign relations which allow them to achieve their strategic goals through legal means. China, on the other hand, had insufficient basic legislation in the field of foreign relations.
China’s Law on Foreign Relations will change this status quo, so as to respond to challenges and prevent risks more effectively. Moreover, it will further enrich the foreign-related legal toolbox and integrate the rule of law thinking with practice. Through the systematic provisions on important foreign relations legal system, the law will provide an important legal basis for dealing with disputes and problems in foreign relations in the future while playing an important role in upholding UN Charter, safeguarding China’s sovereignty, national security, and domestic economic and social development in the course of international exchanges and cooperation.
The author is director’s secretary of Centre for Chinese Foreign Strategy Studies, Renmin University of China, and a distinguished research fellow, Center for American Studies, Zhejiang International Studies University (ZISU).
The article reflects the author’s opinions, and not necessarily the views of China Focus.