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Reconstructing the Silk Road: Norm Contestation in Sino-European Relations in Times of the Belt and Road Initiative

Article by Simon F. Taeuber in the Journal of Rising Powers and Global Governance (Volume 1, Issue 1, Apr. 2020, pp. 31-65)
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This paper analyses EU and member-state responses to the Belt and Road Initiative and addresses norm contestation in Sino-European discourse regarding the primary institutions of Sovereignty, International Law, and Market Economy. The paper combines the toolset of the English School with norm contestation theory in its discourse analysis. The findings show evidence for contestation and increasing tension in Sino-European discourse and relations since the beginning of Xi’s presidency. Moreover, that the BRI, while at first a projection screen for substantive disagreements and contestation, eventually became subject to contestation itself. Based on these findings, the paper advances three arguments. First, that the BRI increasingly presented a challenge to EU cohesion and unity, especially in member states’ foreign policy vis-à-vis China. Second, that substantive disagreements between China and the EU, Germany, and Italy were based in a clash of pluralist and liberal-solidarist interpretations of Sovereignty, International Law, and the Market Economy. Third, that in contesting liberal-solidarist interpretations of PIs, China is resisting European solidarisation and arguably proposing a pluralist alternative to a liberal-solidarist order.


Belt and Road Initiative , Discourse Analysis , English School , Norm Contestation , Regional International Society , Sino-European Relations