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Remarks by Ambassador Zhang Jun at the UN Security Council Open Debate on the Promotion and Strengthening of the Rule of Law in the Maintenance of International Peace and Security

2023-01-12 21:30

Mr. President.

I thank the Japanese Presidency for the initiative to hold today's meeting. I also thank Secretary-General Guterres, ICJ President Donoghue, and Professor Akande for their briefings.

Our world is in the grip of interlocking changes and turbulence. While old issues and tensions remain, new challenges emerge thick and fast, with a mounting governance deficit. All these have made it all the more relevant to bolster the rule of law at the international level, which is a shared responsibility of all countries. I would like to share our views as follows.

To strengthen the rule of law at the international level, the first order of business is to uphold the authority of international law. The UN Charter establishes the basic norms governing modern international relations. Its purposes and principles form the cornerstone of modern international law. Regrettably, however, the purposes and principles of the Charter have not been fully implemented. A scant few countries have willfully backed out of international treaties and agreements, applied international law selectively, and pursued double standards and a utilitarian approach towards international law, using it when it fits their interests and discarding it when it does not. Such acts trample upon the authority of international law, chip away at the foundation of the rule of law at the international level, and undermine the harmony and stability of international relations. This approach must be abandoned.

Strengthening the rule of law at the international level means encouraging dialogue and consultation to settle disputes. Closer interactions between states would inevitably bring about occasional hiccups and frictions. What matters is to find appropriate ways to properly handle the differences. Direct dialogue and consultation between the parties is a customary practice in dealing with international disputes. It is in line with the spirit of international law, and has proved to be the most effective and feasible means of dispute settlement. Instead of resorting to third-party mechanisms, we encourage the countries concerned to do more in terms of negotiation, good offices, and mediation, and to resolve their disputes through dialogue and consultation. State consent is a basic principle of international law, and must be followed when resorting to international judicial organs for dispute settlement. The International Court of Justice, as the principal judicial organ of the UN, should play a positive role in the peaceful settlement of international disputes as mandated. 

To strengthen the rule of law at the international level, we should make sure all countries are engaged in international rules-making. All countries, regardless of their size, power, and wealth, are equal members of the international community. International rules-making is not the prerogative of a few countries, and is by no means a case of following whoever has the biggest fist. International affairs should be dealt with jointly through consultation, and the future of the world should be decided by all countries. All countries should participate equally in international law-making, and international rules should reflect the concerns of all countries in a balanced manner. Every effort should be made to seek consensus in international law-making and rules-making under the UN framework. Doing so is consistent with the spirit of democratic law-making and the essence of multilateralism.

To strengthen the rule of law at the international level, we must resolutely reject unilateral sanctions. No country can place its domestic law above international law. Unilateral sanctions have no basis in international law. Whatever banner they fly, they cannot conceal the illegality of such sanctions. Some countries have indiscriminately imposed unilateral sanctions beyond international law, hindering the economic and social development of other countries, and creating grave humanitarian disasters. In violation of the principles of fair competition, market economy, and multilateral trade rules, some countries, the United States in particular, are hamstringing other countries' high-tech enterprises on all sorts of trumped-up charges, and artificially destabilizing the global industrial chain and supply chain. Their behaviors not only undermine other countries' legitimate right to development and the common interests of the international community, but also run completely counter to the spirit of rule of law at the international level. 

Mr. President, 

There is a phrase that we often hear these days, that is, the rules-based international order. It is an ambiguous formulation that is not found in the UN Charter, not in any of the leaders' declarations adopted by the UN, and not in any of the General Assembly or Security Council resolutions.

We want to ask: What kind of rules is the so-called rules-based international order based upon? Who creates these rules? And how are these rules related to the international order? We have yet to hear a definitive, unambiguous answer to these questions. What we have seen instead in reality is how the so-called rules-based approach pursued by some countries has plunged the world into immense trouble and chaos.

If the rules referred to in their formulation are the universally recognized international law and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, then why not be clear and upfront about it? If there are, surprise surprise, other rules than universally recognized international law that can serve as the basis of international order, may I ask, what are these rules? Could you list them one by one? Why do those countries, while chanting the rules-based mantra at every opportunity, be evasive on the specifics of these rules? 

We therefore have to suspect that the true intention of a scant few countries touting a rules-based international order is to create an alternative to the existing system of international law, to impose their own standards and will on others by putting their own narrow interests at the center of the universe, and to open the back door to double standards and exceptionalism. The statement made by the US Representative earlier today further convinces us that our suspicion is fully justified. If we let this dangerous trend go on unchecked, our world will regress into the age when the law of the jungle and power politics ruled the day. All peace-loving peoples of the world should be wary of this. We hope this meeting provides a pivotal opportunity for all countries to affirm unequivocally that there is only one system in the world, that is the international system with the UN at its core; there is only one order, that is the international order based on international law; and there is only one set of rules, that is the basic norms governing international relations anchored in the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. 

Mr. President,

As a permanent member of the Security Council and the largest developing country, China will continue to stand by and behind true multilateralism, safeguard the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, take the lead in implementing the rule of law at the international level, uphold international fairness and justice, advocate common values of humanity, and make unremitting efforts to advance global governance in a more just and reasonable direction, build a shared future for all countries, maintain common security, and promote common development.

Thank you, President.

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