Abstract and Keywords
This chapter places China at the centre of international legal theory. More broadly, it explores how the multiethnic Qing Empire (1644–1911) became ‘China’, a sovereign nation-state in a world of other, formally equal nation-states. In framing the question, international law is approached as a foundational aspect of the political ontology of the modern world—one that depends on and sustains a particular metaphysical conception of the world, with associated notions of political time and space. In this light, the law of nations is analyzed at its origin as the constitution of Europe: a set of constitutive norms that governed the relationship among the so-called ‘Family of Nations’, sometimes characterized as the ius publicum Europaeum, or the public law of Europe. As this historically specific legal order has become globalized by means of colonialism, it has become effectively the constitution of the world.
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