Dimensions of the New Belt & Road International Order: An Analysis of the Emerging Legal Norms and a Conceptionalisation of the Regulation of Disputes

Beijing Law Review, Volume: 9, 87-112, 2018

China’s “Belt & Road” initiative (“BRI”) has the potential to redefine international trade governance and the laws that establish its order.

As a result, new international legal norms are emerging that are characteristically “Eastern”. With a new international trade and investment order will come disputes over its interpretation. However, current dispute resolution mechanisms, including Investor State Dispute Settlement (“ISDS”), may not be efficient in resolving disagreements between the BRI’s participating states, or investors therein. In order to overcome this practical challenge, this paper examines some important legal aspects of the BRI and offers a new concept of dispute regulation in general.

As such, it firstly introduces the BRI as well as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and explores their relationship. Secondly, it tackles selective legal aspects, norms and questions that are emerging as a result of the BRI.

For the central argument, four traditional dispute resolution mechanisms are analyzed to inform a new BRI paradigm. This is supported by the special nature of the BRI, and the unique characteristics of countries participating in it. The paper is intended to begin a discussion of some emerging trends in international trade and the rules that relate to it, in the context of the BRI.