China’s Foreign Relations Law: Balancing “Struggle” with Beijing’s “Responsible Great Power” Narrative

By Moritz Rudolf

On June 28, China’s national legislature, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, adopted the Foreign Relations Law [对外关系法]. It went into force on July 1, 2023.

The Law underlines two important trends: China’s increasing global outreach and its willingness to embed this global outreach within a legal framework.

As a framework law, it restates China’s long-standing foreign policy positions and codifies its foreign policy praxis. It also highlights new priorities such as the recently launched Global Security Initiative [全球安全倡议], Global Development Initiative [全球发展倡议], and Global Civilization Initiative [全球文明倡议]. While it clarifies many aspects of the function and vision of China’s foreign policy apparatus, it also creates significant legal uncertainty, especially with regards to the application and implementation of international treaties. This is particularly relevant given the deterioration of U.S.-China relations and the renewed prioritization of “struggle” [斗争] in the PRC’s foreign policy vocabulary and as a new key element of Xi Jinping Thought.

The Law outlines China’s foreign policy framework and goals in 45 articles spanning six chapters, which I discuss in turn below.

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NPCSC Session Watch: Patriotic Education, Food Security, Accessible Environments & New Delegate Affairs Commission

UPDATE (June 26, 2023): The NPCSC is expected to approve the Barrier-Free Environments Development Law and the Foreign Relations Law on Wednesday, June 28.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay (cropped)

The 14th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) will convene for its third session from June 26 to 28, the Council of Chairpersons decided on Friday, June 16. Eight bills, including six draft laws, are on the session’s tentative agenda, which we preview below.

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