Rights beyond Borders: The Global Community and the Struggle over Human Rights in China

By Rosemary Foot | Go to book overview

4 The Generating of Attention, 1976-1989

Over this period of the Chinese leadership's exposure to the human rights regime, it received decidedly mixed signals about the levels of compliance required, suggesting certain trends but no clear conclusions about the strength of the obligations that would be incurred through participation. First, despite the deepening of global concern about human rights, governments would often treat with leniency or understanding certain states with records that deserved close scrutiny, such as China. This was acutely obvious in the case of the Carter administration, because of the President's self-identification with the human rights issue and as a result of his decision to offer succour to Soviet dissidents but not to their equivalents in China. Secondly, and pulling gently in the opposite direction, the power of various sub-national and transnational groups to generate global attention to human rights abuses inside China was growing, indicating to the Chinese government that its international political environment in this issue area was capable of undergoing significant change. Moreover, the forms of domestic unrest towards the end of the 1980s, together with the nature of the internal debate about the future of China's political system, demonstrated the indivisibility of the external and internal spheres and that actors in both domains could work together to promote similar objectives. Even to a Chinese leadership that predominantly viewed the world through a realist lens, it was becoming evident that the global system was made up of actors other than states, the most powerful of which would have some ability to determine which issues and events would warrant attention and judgement. Towards the end of the 1980s, therefore, Beijing had discovered that, while greater global involvement could bring rich rewards, it could also reduce a government's ability to maintain control over both domestic and external realms.

Information about the abuse of human rights in China became available in a halting fashion over this period from 1976 to 1989. The inconsistency in the global response was built upon a number of separate

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Rights beyond Borders: The Global Community and the Struggle over Human Rights in China
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Rights Beyond Borders iii
  • Acknowledgements vi
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations x
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • Part One the Setting 27
  • 2: The Evolution of the Global Human Rights Regime 29
  • 3: The Global Consequences of China's Economic Reforms 60
  • Part Two the Process 81
  • 4: The Generating of Attention, 1976-1989 83
  • 5: Tiananmen and Its Aftermath, June 1989-November 1991 113
  • 6: The Shift to Multilateral Venues, 1992-1995 150
  • 7: From Public Exposure to Private Dialogue, 1995-1998 190
  • 8: Betting on the Long Term, 1998-1999 224
  • 9: Conclusion 251
  • Bibliography 274
  • Index 291
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