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Global norms and major state behaviour: the cases of China and the United States

Foot, Rosemary and Walter, Andrew (2013) Global norms and major state behaviour: the cases of China and the United States. European Journal of International Relations, 19 (2). pp. 329-352. ISSN 1354-0661

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Identification Number: 10.1177/1354066111425261


When do major states conform to or diverge from global behavioural norms? We argue that existing theories find it difficult to explain important aspects of this variation in behaviour and we offer instead a framework consisting of three explanatory variables: degree of ‘fit’ between global norms and dominant domestic-level norms; actor perceptions of procedural and substantive legitimacy; and actor perceptions of consequences for the global power hierarchy. We argue that the relative importance of these variables is contingent on the level of domestic salience of the issue area. When salience is high, the degree of normative fit is the primary driver of behavioural consistency; when salience is low, degree of fit becomes less important and the other two variables play a more powerful role in driving behavioural outcomes. We demonstrate how this framework helps to account for the behaviour of the two most important states in the global system, China and the United States, in five areas of central importance to the contemporary global order: the limited use of force, macroeconomic policy surveillance, the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, climate protection and financial regulation. Our argument also explains why globalization may reduce rather than increase levels of behavioural consistency with global norms.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2013 The Author(s)
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2012 13:48
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2021 02:49

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