ASTK15726U COURSE: Soft Law Governance in EU and China

Volume 2017/2018

Master students: 7.5 ECTS

Bachelor students: 10 ECTS


In recent years, soft law, or ‘rules of conduct which, in principle, have no legally binding force but which nevertheless may have practical effects and also legal effects, have been increasing in both the European Union (EU) and China. Soft law, therefore, is becoming increasingly important in the governance of both EU and China. The compliance of soft law, however, poses a challenge. For instance, in EU, the implementation record of recommendations is relatively poor, while in China, policy implementation is often a tug of war. Paths to compliance, nevertheless, remain hotly debated. On the one hand from the IR theorists, the enforcement school competes with the management school over the effectiveness of each approach. On the other hand in regulatory studies, the strategy of deterrence and compliance of regulatory enforcement are also generating ambiguous results in domestic regulation. Still, these debates will shed light on the compliance strategies of soft law in EU and China.

In general, this course will address the following questions: what is soft law? How is it employed in both EU and China? Why is it becoming increasingly important in the governance of EU and China? What is the challenge of soft law compliance? What are the compliance strategies in general? And how to use the theories from the IR and regulatory enforcement studies to understand the compliance of soft law? Basically, this course aims to provide a fresh look into EU-Member States relations and the Chinese central-local relations. Through the comparison between EU and China, the students are expected to have many interesting insights into EU and Chinese politics.

The course will enable the students to have a more detailed and nuanced understanding of soft law governance in both EU and China. Moreover, students are expected to have a solid grasp of the compliance strategy theories, and then apply these theories to other different context. Lastly, students will be inspired by the comparative perspective of EU and China, and be encouraged to do more comparative studies.

Learning Outcome


Students will get to know the broader development of soft law governance in EU and China, the compliance theories of enforcement vs management in the IR debate, and the debate of deterrence vs compliance in the regulatory studies. More concretely, students will have a better understanding of EU-Member States relations and the central-local relations in China.



Students will be able to identify the cases of soft law compliance in EU and China, analyzing the approach that EU institutions and the Chinese central government take to enhance member states/local government compliance.



Students will be able to apply the theories of compliance strategies from IR and regulatory studies to many other cases of soft law in other international regimes, or countries, or a specific sector. Moreover, students will be able to draw inspirations from the comparison between EU and China, and then take a comparative approach to many other areas.



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Prior knowledge in Chinese and EU politics would be an advantage.
The course will be organized mainly with lectures, group work, and student presentations.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment


• Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course’s goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings

• Grade 7 given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings

• Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner.’