BILATERAL INVESTMENT TREATIES IN A HARMONIOUS WORLD: CHINA’S PARADIGM
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China’s ascent up the echelon of the contemporary interstate system is often debated by reference to its implications for the US designed neoliberal world order. A ‘cauldron of anxiety’ appears to be brewing around what is said to be a potentially contesting force that is at best shallowly integrated and at worse set on institutional reconstitution. US anxiety over the integrity of the order she landscaped and from which she benefits may be understood insofar as insufficient submission signifies the risk of a rising untamed competitor. Yet, against the background of China’s participation in the international financial institutions, membership of the World Trade Organisation and the conclusion of a prolific bilateral investment treaties (BITs) program, in what way can she be said to have remained resistant and untamed? This work seeks to contribute to the debate by looking at it from the perspective of discourse. It examines two interrelated discursive structures:those of paradigm and law. In relation to the former it looks at the US engendered neoliberal worldview more specifically formulated as a Washington Consensus on the one hand and China’s vision of a harmonious world of lasting peace and prosperity on the other.In relation to the latter, juridical institutions furnish legitimising mechanisms and the rules by which paradigms are to be practiced. Since treaties form part of the US designed world order, this work applies BITs as a prism through which the interiors of paradigms may be unpacked. BITs are creatures of the capitalist paradigm in its neoliberal configuration in that they articulate and provide rules for the material realisation of a homogenised world in which the spatial movement of capital is free of impediments and sovereign rights are subjugated to property rights. By contrast they are not creatures of the harmonious world paradigm with its resurrection of indigenous heritage. In the context of China they represent processes of importation and adaptation originally triggered by forcible rupture. Against this construct of two different paradigms that nevertheless share a juridical structure this work concludes that China does aspire to a reformed world order. However, only time will tell whether reformative ambitions can survive own integration and the expansive compulsions of neoliberalism.
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