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Professor Tom Ginsburg has produced yet another classic of transnational law, political science, and international relations. Democracies and International Law yields important insights into the democratic nature of international law but cautions that authoritarian states can apply these very legal technologies for repressive or anti-democratic purposes. Building on Ginsburg’s theories of mimicry and repurposing, this contribution highlights the role of both techniques in the creation of China’s economic sanctions program. On the one hand, China has developed a basic set of tools to impose economic sanctions—a key instrument in the liberal international toolkit—on foreign entities and persons. In so doing, China has adopted elements of American economic sanctions, as well as European directives, to blunt the force of foreign sanctions. On the other hand, China has deployed sanctions for anti-democratic purposes, including squelching free speech, freedom of thought, and academic inquiry. While a full discussion of China’s sanctions regime (itself a project under construction) is still premature, the initial imposition of sanctions suggests China is trying to accomplish very different aims than the liberal states that pioneered economic sanctions in the twentieth century.

Recommended Citation

Timothy Webster, Retooling Sanctions: China’s Challenge to the Liberal International Order, 23 CHI. J. INT’L L. 178 (2022).