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Assessing Polemics, Principles and Practices: China and the Responsibility to Protect

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This article offers an overview of subtle yet significant shifts in Beijing's stance on non-interference and evolving standards of responsible and responsive international engagement in humanitarian crises to highlight China's firm, but cautious, support for the responsibility to protect (R2P). Although it is reticent to apply sanctions and objects to nonconsensual force, China has clearly and consistently affirmed the R2P principle and issued corresponding statements in favor of bolstering the UN's capacity to avert mass atrocity. China's statements provide a basis for Beijing to play a constructive, if reserved, role in translating the responsibility to protect from principle to practice. This article argues that the path of most promise and least resistance for consolidating China's support for implementing the responsibility to protect is paved in practical engagement rather than polemics. It concludes with specific measures that may be taken for China to contribute to upholding the global pledge to protect populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity.


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