China's concept of human rights focuses on results, not theory
Published: May 24, 2022 06:05 PM Updated: May 24, 2022 05:53 PM
Look, Uncle Sam is busy cleaning up its own mess on human rights problems. Does the US still think it's the beacon of human rights? Illustration: GT
Look, Uncle Sam is busy cleaning up its own mess on human rights problems. Does the US still think it's the beacon of human rights? Illustration: GT

When China was underdeveloped, it chose to keep silent and exercise restraint when the US criticized it.

Nowadays, more and more human rights problems in the West are coming to light. In the meantime, the Chinese people have become more confident in sharing the vital contribution of China's human rights cause toward global development.

China's progress in human rights has at least three aspects of significance to the world, which are overlooked by most Western media and politicians.

First, China's progress in human rights has positively promoted the development of human civilization in the 21st century.

Since the beginning of this century, more than 10 wars have broken out, resulting in over 20 million refugees. Natural disasters caused by climate change have also resulted in about 5 million deaths annually. According to UN report, nearly 690 million people are hungry. The still raging COVID pandemic has affected more than 526 million people with 14.9 million excess deaths associated with the virus.

China's human rights progress has come through such hard times. In 2021, China eradicated extreme poverty. In the past four decades, China launched no wars, suffered no famine and experienced no financial crisis while it arduously fought the pandemic, doubled its forest coverage and made progress in low carbon development. The catastrophes that have impacted human civilization's progress in the 21st century, including wars, financial crisis, climate changes, famine and so on, affected the Chinese people much less than it did to others.

It can be said that China's pragmatic progress in human rights, combined with the country's guard against these catastrophes that could impact human rights has made China the highlight of the 21st century in human civilizational development.

Second, China's progress is a new breakthrough in the practice of human rights worldwide. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights approved by the UN General Assembly in 1948 and the following series of human rights treaties formed the rule base and theoretical foundation for promoting human rights development.

But there is often a gap between theoretical vision and practical implementation. Even in the US, the strongest country in the world, racial discrimination and gun-violence are deep-rooted, while the universal health care is far from being realized even after half a century of efforts. All these have turned into a "cancer" for human rights in America, pushing human rights theories into a dilemma. However, China's progress in human rights has provided the possibility of a practical breakthrough in human rights goals that even Western developed countries themselves have not achieved.

Third, China's progress in human rights is a new reference to help developing countries to put their own human rights on track. In 2021, there are still nearly 700 million people living in extreme poverty, the majority of whom are in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The extreme poverty rates of countries such as South Sudan, Burundi, and Madagascar stay above 70 percent. In recent decades, even traditionally developed countries like the US, Japan, Italy, Sweden have seen extreme poverty rates ranging from 0.3 percent to 1.5 percent.

Western society has paid attention to the path of human rights development with democratic political elections as a core concept, emphasizing the logic of free competition, while making the supremacy of capital their preferred policy. This not only cannot provide a fundamental prescription for the complex road of human rights across the world, but has also brought many developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America into a wrong path in their national development trajectory.

China has not copied the Western approach when it comes to human rights, but regards the people's right to subsistence and development as its top priority. It can be said with confidence that China's human rights progress has expanded the inherent development path of human rights across the world since the 20th century. The country has become the most steadfast major power in bolstering the UN Human Rights Council, providing new options for developing countries to resume the path of improving human rights.

From the above-mentioned three perspectives, the West ignores the global significance of China's rapid development inhuman rights, and constantly points their fingers at individual details and cases of China's human rights, and even magnifies them to smear China's national image. This is a violation of basic facts and reflects the West's narrowness in terms of theory and vision, and it also mirrors the arrogance and even evil of the West in foreign exchanges. From this perspective, the West owes China an apology for over human rights, and lacks the ability to offer sincere praise.

Of course, expounding the global significance of China's human rights to the progress of human civilization, to the theory and practice of worldwide human rights, and to developing countries does not mean that China's human rights have no flaws or deficiencies. As the largest developing country, China is in and will be in the primary stage of socialism for a long time, and there is still a large room for development in terms of national income, environmental protection, social equity, rule of law, cultural services, and political rights.

Ultimately, it is believed that China's human rights career will continue to develop, and China will make greater contributions to the further progress of global human rights.

The author is professor and executive dean of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. wangwen2013@ruc.edu.cn