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How China Uses “Soft Law” To Engage Countries in Its Belt and Road Initiative

Since a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) or a so-called “cooperation agreement” is not legally binding, many U.S. and European stakeholders often shrug when China announces that it’s signed one of these agreements with countries along its Belt and Road Initiative.

That’s a big mistake though, according to two U.S. experts who published a new report for the Brookings Institution. Jack Nolan, an advisory associate for the international law firm Grant Thornton, and Indiana University Assistant Professor Wendy Leutert, contend that Beijing’s use of non-enforceable “soft law” agreements are both very popular with governments in developing countries and highly effective.

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