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The Rise of Emerging Powers: A Challenge to Norms of Differential Treatment for Developing Countries?

English title The Rise of Emerging Powers: A Challenge to Norms of Differential Treatment for Developing Countries?
Applicant Dingwerth Klaus
Number 175887
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Politikwissenschaftliche Abteilung SEPS-HSG Universität St. Gallen
Institution of higher education University of St.Gallen - SG
Main discipline Political science
Start/End 01.07.2018 - 30.06.2021
Approved amount 386'160.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Political science
Legal sciences

Keywords (6)

world trade politics; climate change politics; global norms; regime complexity; rising powers; International Relations

Lay Summary (German)

Seit Beginn der 2000er-Jahre haben Schwellenländer wie Brasilien, China und Indien einen rasanten wirtschaftlichen Aufstieg erlebt. Das Projekt untersucht, wie sich dieser Aufstieg auf internationale Differenzierungsnormen auswirkt, die Industrie- und Entwicklungsländern unterschiedliche Rechte und Pflichten zuschreiben.
Lay summary

In der internationalen Politik finden sich einige Normen, die Entwicklungsländern im Gegensatz zu Industriestaaten besonderen Zugang, Ausnahmen oder finanzielle Hilfe gewähren. Im Handelsbereich gilt dies etwa für die Norm der Vorzugsbehandlung von Entwicklungsländern; in der Umweltpolitik für die Norm der geteilten, aber differenzierten Verantwortung, die Industrieländer bei der Lösung globaler Umweltprobleme stärker in die Pflicht nimmt als Entwicklungsländer. Mit dem wirtschaftlichen Aufstieg Brasiliens, Chinas und Indiens stellt sich die Frage nach der Zukunft solcher Differenzierungsnormen. Auf den ersten Blick lässt sich vermuten, dass der wachsende Einfluss aufstrebender Mächte auch eine Stärkung dieser Differenzierungsnormen zur Folge hat. Offen bleibt allerdings, ob Schwellenländer weiterhin Koalitionen mit Entwicklungsländer eingehen, die diese Normen stärken. Zudem sehen die Industrieländer die Schwellenländer zunehmend als Konkurrenten, deren Anspruch auf Konzessionen durch den wirtschaftlichen Aufstieg verwirkt ist. Trifft letzteres zu, liegt die Erwartung nahe, dass Differenzierungsnormen durch den Aufstieg der Schwellenländer unter Druck geraten.

Vor diesem Hintergrund wollen wir im Rahmen des Projekts herausfinden, ob internationale Normen der Differenzierung durch den Aufstieg der Schwellenländer gestärkt oder geschwächt werden. Gewinnen Sie an Bedeutung, weil die Koalition ihrer Unterstützer nun stärker ist? Büßen Sie im Gegenteil möglicherweise an Relevanz ein, weil die aufstrebenden Mächte aus der Gruppe der Entwicklungsländer ausscheren? Oder hängt die Entwicklung der Differenzierungsnormen von Gegebenheiten ab, die ja nach Politikfeld unterschiedlich ausfallen können?

Das Projekt fragt also letztlich danach, wie sich die normative Ordnung der Weltpolitik durch den Aufstieg Brasiliens, Chinas und Indiens verändert. Im Gegensatz zur aktuellen Forschungslandschaft schaut es dabei weniger auf die Konsequenzen, die dieser Aufstieg für „westliche Normen“ hat; sein Augenmerk gilt vielmehr dem Schicksal „südlicher Normen“. Mit diesem Fokus will das Projekt zu einem umfassenderen und differenzierteren Verständnis der nach-westlichen Weltordnung und ihrer normativen Dynamiken beitragen.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 18.05.2018

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Project partner

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
160381 Special and Differentiated? Norm Dynamics in the World Trade Regime 01.01.2015 International short research visits


The growing economic importance of emerging powers is altering the balance of power in international politics. Whether or not the power shift towards emerging countries represents a fundamental challenge to the Western norms that shape global order is a question that has received significant scholarly attention (Ikenberry 2011; Kupchan 2012; Steinfeld 2010). In distinction from this research, we are primarily interested in how the rise of Brazil, China and India-the three most prominent emerging markets in the Global South (Acharya 2014: 653)-has impacted the binary differentiation between the Global North and the Global South, a conceptualization that emerged within and then came to constitute a core feature of the post-WWII international order. Addressing this question with a specific view to international norms of differential treatment for developing countries, we seek to understand the conditions and mechanisms through which the rise of Brazil, China and India either strengthens or weakens global norms that provide differential treatment to developing countries as a group. Conventional wisdom suggests that greater economic fragmentation amongst the Global South delegitimizes a one-size-fits-all approach to norms of differential treatment, which provide the entire group of developing countries with privileged access, financial compensation or exemptions from obligations. But there remains an open empirical question: Are emerging powers continuing to side with developing country bargaining coalitions in defense of this binary approach? Do they join forces with developed countries that have economies increasingly similar to theirs? Or do they create an entirely new grouping of their own? Our research seeks to examine not only which of these possibilities prevails, but also the conditions and mechanisms through which the bargaining power of emerging countries shapes the alleged demise of norms of differential treatment for developing countries as a group. In addressing this question, we do not adopt a normative position on the desirability of “pro-Southern” norms, and we acknowledge that the debate on the merits of such norms is controversial. Our key contribution is thus an analytical one. We seek to understand whether the rise of a portion of the Global South empirically strengthens norms that redress structural inequalities between developed and developing countries that Southern coalitions have long advocated for in world politics, or whether, to the contrary, the rise of Brazil, China and India undermines these norms by disrupting the coalitions that support norms of differential treatment for developing countries as a group. With its focus on the shape and strength of differential treatment norms, our project engages directly with debates on the relevance of historically grown “North-South” relations as a central structuring principle of global politics in the 21st century (Hurrell/Sengupta 2012: 467; see also Jones/Weinhardt 2015). Theoretically, we bring together key insights from two bodies of literature that are rarely in dialogue: constructivist research on how norms change, and institutionalist research on the dynamics and consequences of international regime complexes. Building on these two strands, we assume that whether the bargaining behavior of Brazil, China and India strengthens or weakens norms of differential treatment for developing countries depends on factors that exist at the levels of shared normative beliefs on the one hand and of institutional opportunity structures on the other. To measure the strength of differential treatment norms for developing countries, we assess their pervasiveness, scope and legal quality. We test our model by closely examining the normative and bargaining dynamics in the trade and climate regimes, two major areas of global governance in which North-South politics have played a key role. The norm of special and differential treatment was introduced into the world trading system in the 1960s to counterbalance the demands for trade liberalization with the special needs of developing countries (Lichtenbaum 2002: 1008). In the climate regime, the norm of common but differentiated responsibilities grants the group of developing countries temporary exemptions from sharing the costs of mitigation and of adaptation to climate change (Martin 2011: 39; Meyer/Roser 2006; Roberts/Parks 2007). The examination of two regimes with high economic stakes helps us to hold a number of contextual variables constant. Meanwhile, by covering particular time periods, particular areas of regulation in each of the two regimes and, last but not least, particular rising powers, we ensure variation in the key parameters of our model. Methodologically, we rely on a combination of co-variational analysis and causal process tracing, with document analysis as well as qualitative interviews serving as our main tools for collecting primary data.