Human Rights in Chinese Foreign Relations: Defining and Defending National Interests

Human Rights in Chinese Foreign Relations: Defining and Defending National Interests

Human Rights in Chinese Foreign Relations: Defining and Defending National Interests

Human Rights in Chinese Foreign Relations: Defining and Defending National Interests

Synopsis

Few issues in the relations between China and the West invoke as much passion as human rights. At stake, however, are much more than moral concerns and hurt national feelings. To Washington, the undemocratic nature of the Chinese government makes it ultimately suspect on all issues. To Beijing, the human rights pressure exerted by the West on China seems designed to compromise its legitimacy. As China's economic power grows and its influence on the politics of developing countries continues, an understanding of the place of human rights in China's foreign relations is crucial to the implementation of an effective international human rights agenda.

In Human Rights in Chinese Foreign Relations, Ming Wan examines China's relations with the United States, Western Europe, Japan, and the United Nations human rights institutions.

Wan shows that, after a decade of persistent external pressure to reform its practices, China still plays human rights diplomacy as traditional power politics and deflects pressure by mobilizing its propaganda machine to neutralize Western criticism, by making compromises that do not threaten core interests, and by offering commercial incentives to important nations to help prevent a unified Western front. Furthermore, at the UN, China has largely succeeded in rallying developing nation members to defeat Western efforts at censure.

In turn, it is apparent to Wan that, while the idea of human rights matters in Western policy, it has seldom prevailed over economic considerations or concerns about national security. Western governments have not committed as many policy resources to pressuring Beijing on human rights as to other issues, and the differing degrees of commitment to human rights-related foreign policy explain why Japan, Western Europe, and the United States, in that order, have gradually retreated from confronting China on human rights issues.

Excerpt

No issue in the relations between China and the West in the past decades has inspired so much passion as human rights. Much more is at stake here than moral concerns and hurt national feelings. To many Westerners, the Chinese government appears ultimately untrustworthy on all issues because it is undemocratic. To Beijing, Western human rights pressure seems designed to compromise its legitimacy, and this threat hangs over what might otherwise be considered “normal” disputes on issues like trade and arms sales. and neither side harbors its resentment silently; rather, both bring their rights views to the table in seemingly unrelated official business. All these factors make human rights an important subject for the study of Chinese foreign relations.

This book examines China’s human rights relations with the United States, Western Europe, Japan, and the United Nations human rights institutions. Two sets of questions form the core of the research behind it. the first group focuses on the states and international institutions that initiate human rights pressure on China. What is the nature and impact of external pressure on China from key actors? Why have years of intense human rights pressure on the Chinese government yielded few tangible results? the second group puts China at the center. Has Beijing’s engagement with the international human rights establishment affected how it defines its national interests, particularly how it approaches relations with the initiators of rights pressure? What tactics has Beijing employed in response to such pressure? Does China’s response vary according to the initiating state or institution? Why has rights pressure contributed to rising nationalist sentiment within both government and society?

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