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date: 15 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter traces the broad history of Asia’s engagement with international law, focusing on three aspects that continue to have resonance today. First is the experience of colonialism by India and many other countries across the continent. Second, the unequal treaties of the nineteenth century and the failure to recognize the People’s Republic of China for much of the twentieth century encouraged a perception that international law was primarily an instrument of political power. Third, the trials that followed World War II left a legacy of suspicion that international law deals only selectively with alleged misconduct, leaving unresolved many of the larger political challenges of that conflict with ongoing ramifications today. The chapter then argues that Asian states’ ongoing ambivalence towards international law and institutions can also be attributed to the diversity of the region, power disparities among states, and the absence of ‘push’ factors driving greater integration.

Keywords: international law, history, international engagement, Asia, China, India, Japan

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