Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party has taken steps to assert more influence over the international legal system and to shape the global legal environment to better serve its political and economic objectives. This report examines the potential ramifications of China’s assertive use of new legal tools for US interests and international stability, and discusses several options that the United States and its partners can pursue to bolster the rules-based order that underpins global stability and cooperation.

Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping leads top officials pledging their vows to the party during a gala in Beijing on June 28, 2021. (Photo by Ng Han Guan/AP)
Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping leads top officials pledging their vows to the party during a gala in Beijing on June 28, 2021. (Photo by Ng Han Guan/AP)

Summary

  • The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seeks to expand the applicability of its “rule by law” (as opposed to “rule of law”) paradigm, enhancing its ability to use the law as a tool to increase its international influence and advance its political and economic objectives.
  • The CCP is taking three steps to expand rule by law abroad: expanding its control over the legal system at home, increasing the extraterritoriality of PRC laws, and crafting new legal tools to block US extraterritorial laws and shape the behavior of foreign actors.
  • These legal developments have significant implications for US industry. Companies will experience escalating risk from increasingly assertive intellectual property jurisdictional claims and efforts to control speech abroad.
  • The PRC’s increasingly assertive development of “legal weapons” is likely to further strain US-China relations and potentially destabilize the rules-based order that underpins global stability and cooperation.
  • US policymakers can counter CCP efforts by publicly identifying these moves as a threat to democratic governance, working with partners to formalize support for the rule of law in trade and security relationships, and revitalizing US participation in the United Nations to strengthen rule of law norms.

About the Report

Informed by multiple Chinese sources, including open-source government documents, statements by high-ranking officials, reports in state-affiliated media, and Chinese-language academic publications, this report explores the Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing efforts to extend the applicability of its legal system abroad as a means of securing its position at home and advancing its foreign policy objectives. The report was commissioned by the China Program at the United States Institute of Peace. 

About the Authors

Jordan Link is a China policy analyst at the Center for American Progress (CAP), where he focuses on the economic and strategic challenges the Chinese Communist Party poses to US foreign policy. Nina Palmer, now in the US government, was a senior fellow at CAP when the report was written; the views expressed are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the US government. Laura Edwards, a former China policy analyst at CAP, is now a graduate student at Georgetown University.
 

Related Publications

Sameer Lalwani on the Future of U.S.-India Relations

Sameer Lalwani on the Future of U.S.-India Relations

Monday, January 30, 2023

By: Sameer P. Lalwani, Ph.D.

The United States and India have a common cause in their tensions with China, as well as a “natural partnership” on technology investments, says USIP’s Sameer Lalwani. But India remains noncommittal when it comes to Russia’s war on Ukraine: “They’ve concluded that they need Russia to stick around.”

Type: Podcast

The Latest @ USIP: Security in the Taiwan Strait

The Latest @ USIP: Security in the Taiwan Strait

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

By: Scott Kastner

Taiwan represents the most dangerous issue in the broader U.S.-China relationship, as well as the most likely flashpoint for a war in East Asia. But while the security situation in the Taiwan Strat has grown more strained in recent years, the prospect of conflict is not inevitable. Scott Kastner, a professor for government and politics at the University of Maryland, College Park, says the immense cost of a possible war remains a major deterrent — but to maintain a peaceful status quo, the U.S.-China relationship cannot devolve into a new Cold War that makes Chinese leaders feel less invested in the current global order.

Type: Blog

Conflict Analysis & PreventionGlobal Policy

Another Clash on the India-China Border Underscores Risks of Militarization

Another Clash on the India-China Border Underscores Risks of Militarization

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

By: Sameer P. Lalwani, Ph.D.;  Daniel Markey, Ph.D.;  Vikram J. Singh

On December 9, hundreds of Indian and Chinese forces clashed along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the roughly 2,100 miles contested boundary that separates northern India from China. Neither side used firearms, and no deaths were reported, but both Indian and Chinese forces sustained injuries. The skirmish was the worst since the summer of 2020, when deadly fighting in the Galwan Valley led to the most significant border escalation in over four decades. In the wake of those 2020 clashes, India and China held 17 rounds of military talks — but have been unable to reach terms for disengagement across key areas of the disputed border.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

What You Need to Know About Japan’s New National Security Strategy

What You Need to Know About Japan’s New National Security Strategy

Monday, December 19, 2022

By: Mirna Galic

Japan released on Friday a new, robust national security strategy and complementary defense planning documents. The strategy is Japan’s first in nearly 10 years and only its second ever. The strategy navigates the country’s response to significant changes in the regional and global security environment, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and reflect Japan’s growing sense of vulnerability vis-à-vis its immediate neighbors. USIP’s Mirna Galic looks at the new strategy and what it means for the region.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy

View All Publications