Despite the astonishing integration of China with the global world, its attitude toward the established international institutions and practices seems ambivalent. China’s economic, legal and political systems, in other words, seems sui generis, and its general behaviour and attitude toward the international economic and legal order has a certain degree of “exceptionalism” or divergence. This can be seen in its interactions with the WTO, where China has started to reinterpret some of the association’s legal concepts and challenge some of its practices, and in its attitude toward notions such as rule of law, democracy and human rights. This state of affairs seems to reflect rather than a simple deviance of China, a deeper lacuna in the current international economic and legal order, which seems unable to address the new geopolitical situation, in which China is rising as a great power. Given the systemic nature of the challenge that China imposes to the existing economic and legal order, it is essential to focus on what norms China is currently creating and how it is shaping them. In order to elaborate on the existence of a ‘China international model’, my research takes as a case study the Belt and Road Initiative. Despite all the possible security and financial obstacles, the BRI might have serious implications not only for the international economic legal order, but also for international politics, and it can reveal aspects of a Chinese international model that is likely to re-emerge.
Maria Adele Carrai is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program and recipient of a Marie Curie Fellowship at KU Leuven. Her research focuses on China’s legal history and how it affects China’s foreign policy. As a fellow at the China and The World Program she will look at China as a normative actor and its impact on the international economic and legal order, with a particular focus on the One Belt One Road.
Maria Adele was trained as a sinologist and political scientist in Italy (La Sapienza University, Ca’ Foscari University, University of Bologna), the UK (SOAS, Erasmus) and China (University of Hong Kong, CUPL). After receiving her PhD in 2016 at the University of Hong Kong, she held a Max Weber Fellowship at the European University Institute of Florence (2015-17) and was a Global Hauser Fellow at the New York University Law School (2016-17) and a visiting scholar at Columbia University (2017).
Her thesis “A Genealogy of Sovereignty in Modern China, 1840 - present” looks at how Chinese intellectuals, political figures and diplomats articulated the notion of sovereignty in their foreign policy during the period in question. The study, currently under peer review with Cambridge University Press for publication, reveals how China, in deviating from the teleology imposed by the West and actively appropriating and manipulating Western international legal norms, has emerged as a key actor in the globalization of international law.
Maria Adele’s general research interests include international law and relations, Western and Chinese legal and political philosophy, legal history, Chinese foreign policy. She is a native speaker of Italian, is fluent in Chinese and French, and has a basic knowledge of Japanese and Arabic.