Problem of Forced Migration: View from Beijing

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2019-63-1-94-102

E. Soboleva (, 
National Research University Higher School of Economics (St. Petersburg), 16, Souyza Pechatnikov Str., St. Petersburg, 190008, Russian Federation 

Abstract. Although China still poses itself as a developing country, its unprecedented economic growth, relative stability and security have made it an attractive destination for refugees both from bordering countries, the majority of which are economically underdeveloped, politically unstable and ethnically complicated, and distant countries in the Middle East and Africa. Moreover, the rise of China has resulted in international pressure on Beijing to take more responsibility in addressing international refugee crises. In order to understand how China responds to these new challenges and external pressures, this paper asks the following questions: What is the legal and institutional framework of China’s refugee policy? Are there contradictions between international refugee protection regime commitments and China’s treatment of refugees? How does China contribute to burden-sharing initiatives? Does Beijing try to challenge the existing regime and promote alternative norms? The introductory part of the article outlines the main features of the international refugee protection regime: major legal acts, norms and institutional framework. In the main part, the author analyzes legislation governing China’s policy towards refugees and institutions involved in this process, as well as China’s treatment of refugees from different states. The article demonstrates that international law and norms have had an impact on the PRC refugee policy, as Beijing has ratified the Refugee Convention, cooperates with the UNHCR, has successfully resettled and assisted over 250 000 refugees, etc. At the same time, China still violates major principles of the international refugee protection regime, such as non-refoulement, hasn’t adopted national refugee legislation, and its contribution to burden-sharing initiatives is much smaller than contributions of the major developed countries. Apart from donations to the UNCHR, China provides financial aid directly to countries suffering from the inflows of refugees and within the multilateral projects, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, which reflects its foreign policy interests and changing status in the international system. Although Chinese officials have on many occasions expressed support of the international refugee protection regime, they have also reacted to external pressure by constructing alternative discourse about definition of a refugee, refugee crises around the world and China’s role in them as that of a rising power. 

Keywords: refugees, migration, UNCHR, asylum, migration crisis, PRC foreign policy 


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For citation:
Soboleva E. Problem of Forced Migration: View from Beijing. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2019, vol. 63, No 1, pp. 94-102.

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