‘The Chinese party-state prefers to see human rights as reducible to a tool used by state actors to undermine China, because this conception does not challenge the authoritarianism of the Chinese party-state.’
The News Lens
By: Brian Hioe
Recent statements by China that it seeks to export its model of human rights abroad indicate
how the Chinese party-state perceives criticisms made against it in the name of human rights as simply being western attempts to undermine it. And so, the Chinese party-state, in the name of cultural relativism, asserts that China can have its own interpretation of human rights, with “Chinese characteristics.”
Certainly, positive aspects of China’s new human rights “action plan” include vows to lower poverty through raising 60 million people out of poverty, and to reduce air pollution and incidences of disease. More questionable, however, are claims that China will seek to limit future use of torture and to safeguard Chinese citizens’ Internet freedoms within permissible boundaries.
Indeed, it is questionable whether any of China’s periodically issued human rights plans are more than propaganda, seeing as the plans are issued by propaganda bodies and not by legal bodies. If China’s human rights plans seem to evince a worldview that human rights are equal to economic development, with plans consequently reading more like a Five-Year Plan than anything else, this demonstrates the overlap between China’s Marxist past and its capitalist present. This overlap comes from an economically reductionist worldview, as per vulgar Marxism, which is then layered on top of the rather capitalistic view that money can solve all problems.
Yet if the Chinese party-state thinks that there is something particularly unique about its model of human rights, which allows it to be exported abroad for the sake of soft power, this implies a worldview that sees human rights discourse reduced to a tool employed by western countries for the sake of soft power. Certainly, western countries use human rights to criticize their enemies for the sake of soft power. However, it is not true that human rights discourse, which emerged primarily during the Cold War, is reducible to soft power initiatives by western countries aimed at eroding the political credibility of their enemies. [FULL STORY]