Treaties and pacta sunt servanda – a shared concept for the PRC?

Kelvin Kai Kei Miu, Noble Po Kan Lo, Ada Man Yin Yuen

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The doctrine of pacta sunt servanda (agreements must be kept) is the central clock piece for all treaty obligations. It holds the understanding and willful mindset that treaties will be kept and adhered to as the basis for their binding nature. Mutual recognition and consent had shaped the contemporary international relations for all signatories of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969 (VCLT).

While signatories observe the doctrine of pacta sunt servanda in most situations, some suggest that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has shown increasing reluctance to abide by treaty provisions. Indeed, pacts ratified decades ago by the PRC concerning its sovereignty and jurisdiction in East Asia are still subject to debates as of now. Arguably, unilateral declarations made by the PRC revoked its consent to these “historical documents”. Meanwhile, there remain some other historic pacts that the PRC honours would delimit its border. There seems to be a difficulty in reconciling the doctrine of pacta sunt servanda with the PRC’s selective compliance towards the pacts.

The issue at the heart of the study is, with reference to recent disputed events, to analyse whether a response to changing circumstances is the ideal counterclaim to the doctrine of pacta sunt servanda in contemporary China, and if affirmative, to examine how rigid compliance to all historic pacts may, the better or worse, redefine international relations.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021
EventPacta Sunt Servanda in Changing Times -
Duration: 25 Jun 202125 Jun 2021


ConferencePacta Sunt Servanda in Changing Times


  • Treaties
  • Pacta sunt servanda
  • Sovereignty
  • Jurisdiction
  • Unilateral declarations


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