China and Russia in R2P debates at the UN Security Council


7 May
2020

, Volume
96, Number
3

Zheng Chen and Hang Yin

While China and Russia’s general policies towards the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) are similar, the two reveal nuanced differences in addressing specific emergencies. Both express support for the first two pillars of R2P while resisting coercive intervention under its aegis, as they share anxieties of domestic political security and concerns about their international image. Nonetheless, addressing cases like the Syrian crisis, Russian statements are more assertive and even aggressive while Chinese ones are usually vague and reactive. This article highlights the two states’ different tones through computer-assisted text analyses. It argues that diplomatic styles reflect Russian and Chinese perceptions of their own place in the evolving international order. Experiences in past decades create divergent reference points and status prospects for them, which leads to their different strategies in signalling Great Power status. As Beijing is optimistic about its status-rising prospects, it exercises more self-restraint in order to avoid external containments and is reluctant to act as an independent ‘spoiler’. Meanwhile, Moscow interprets its Great Power status more from a frame of ‘loss’ and therefore is inclined to adopt a sterner approach to signal its status. Although their policies complement each other on many occasions, there is nothing akin to a Sino–Russian ‘bloc’.

Source: International Law and Governance

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