China has ratified numerous legally binding international agreements. Like other countries, it has a strong incentive to commit itself in this way: international agreements are a means of binding other treaty parties; strengthening international standing; creating a favourable legal framework for trade and investment; and, such as with the 1984 Sino-British Declaration on Hong Kong, settling territorial questions.
At the same time, China has been careful to avoid making commitments in two areas in particular: questions of national security and sovereignty, where it recalls a history of mistreatment by outside powers; and human rights, where its political and cultural traditions differ considerably from those of Western democracies. China has often included reservations precluding international arbitration in the international agreements that it has ratified.
One notable exception to this rule is China’s membership of the WTO and conclusion of trade and investment agreements, where arbitration is such a core part of the system as to be unavoidable. To the extent that China is accused of breaching its international commitments, these tend to concern its perceived national security interests and territorial sovereignty, as in the case of the governance of Hong Kong, and maritime and territorial rights in the South China Sea.
In other areas, such as human rights and climate change agreements, China is typically careful to limit its commitments so that it does not formally breach them.
Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP