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Volume 54 Issue 6
November 2022
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Citation: Zhipeng HE. “Impossible Trinity for Great Powers” in International Rule of Law[J]. Academic Monthly, 2022, 54(6): 98-108. shu

“Impossible Trinity for Great Powers” in International Rule of Law

  • The process of promoting rule of law in international society endows great powers of more expectations. However, in the change and evolution of international relations and the moulding and operation of international rule of law, the great powers are facing with a “impossible trinity” of their own kernel interests, global ethics, and allies’ expectations. A great power could not at the same time satisfy the pursuit and guarantee of its own kernel interests, advocating and promoting the global common ethics, and meeting and satisfying the allies’ will. This “impossible trinity” is formed by the anarchism of contemporary world order, the non-central status quo of international laws, the scarcity of global resources, the priority of a state to ensure its own security and development, and the states could not entrust each other. Such “impossible trinity” of big countries means not only a value-duality sway between unilateral benefit and multilateral benefit for a state in international law, but also means that there exists a time-space discontinuity in the discourse of international laws for humanity’s common value, interest-pursuit of a state, and the wills between allies. Viewing on the status quo of international rule of law, one should not have a higher expectation on the value-setting of international rule of law, while viewing on the mode of national development, there must be a good balance between national interests and global common interests, and, at the same time, the allies for international strategy should be chosen very carefully.
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        “Impossible Trinity for Great Powers” in International Rule of Law

        Abstract: The process of promoting rule of law in international society endows great powers of more expectations. However, in the change and evolution of international relations and the moulding and operation of international rule of law, the great powers are facing with a “impossible trinity” of their own kernel interests, global ethics, and allies’ expectations. A great power could not at the same time satisfy the pursuit and guarantee of its own kernel interests, advocating and promoting the global common ethics, and meeting and satisfying the allies’ will. This “impossible trinity” is formed by the anarchism of contemporary world order, the non-central status quo of international laws, the scarcity of global resources, the priority of a state to ensure its own security and development, and the states could not entrust each other. Such “impossible trinity” of big countries means not only a value-duality sway between unilateral benefit and multilateral benefit for a state in international law, but also means that there exists a time-space discontinuity in the discourse of international laws for humanity’s common value, interest-pursuit of a state, and the wills between allies. Viewing on the status quo of international rule of law, one should not have a higher expectation on the value-setting of international rule of law, while viewing on the mode of national development, there must be a good balance between national interests and global common interests, and, at the same time, the allies for international strategy should be chosen very carefully.

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