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From Cautious Interaction to Mature Influence: China's Evolving Engagement with the International Investment Regime

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As the Belt and Road Initiative expands the global footprint of Chinese firms, Beijing increasingly relies on international law to protect investments overseas. How and why has China's engagement with the international investment regime evolved over the past four decades? This article addresses these questions by examining the central component of the international investment regime: bilateral investment treaties (BITs). Through analyzing China's BIT practice and the security exceptions in 1,173 BITs concluded by both China as well as its treaty partners, this article provides evidence of changing Chinese engagement, from cautious interaction (1978–1991) to active participation (1992–1997), committed implementation (1998–2012), and mature influence (2013–present). As Beijing accepted, applied, and shaped the rules and norms of the BIT system, China's treaty practice co-evolved with the international investment regime. A co-evolutionary approach illuminates why—and how—state behaviour and international orders change over time.
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Keywords: BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE (BRI); BILATERAL INVESTMENT TREATIES (BITS); CO-EVOLUTION; INTERNATIONAL LAW; INTERNATIONAL ORDERS

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2020

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