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China and International Human Rights Regimes: Learning and Socialising in the post-1989

| March 14, 2015


Images of the Chinese government brutally cracking down on pro-democracy dissidents have scarred the reputation of human rights in China for more than two decades and poisoned discourse on the subject in Beijing with the international community always poised to question China on human rights. The unforgettable symbol of a student protestor standing isolated and vulnerable in front of a line of army tanks in Tiananmen Square in the Spring of 1989 has been reproduced endlessly to criticise the world’s foremost Communist power as having scant regard for human rights (Yun, 1989) even as they assume the mantle of being the world’s economic superpower, outstripping America and even their own expectations (Hu, 2011). Indeed with power comes responsibility and there are indications that a quiet revolution is taking place, beneath the surface, which has implications on a global scale. In reality the 1989 protests, far from suppressing an expression of free will, crystallised Chinese human rights (Angle & Svensson, 2001, p.xxix). No longer is China able to smash all uprisings and dissent with what Liu Qing justifiably calls an “iron fist” (Quing, 1999, p.436). In 2011 China is delicately poised at the crossroads: looking back to the past where human rights were suppressed and to the future where human rights must and will be fostered. In recent months, after numerous high speed rail crashes and official cover-ups, events have come to a nadir with the People’s Daily, the Communist party’s loyal mouthpiece, decrying the pursuit of “blood-smeared GDP” (Xinhua online, July 2011). The human rights tide is turning.


The subject of human rights in China is undoubtedly of significance not only to China but also to the world. For one thing, the rights of 1.2 billion people in China, 20% of the world’s population, to live free from fear and hunger is important; for another assessing the ability of international regimes to influence China is critical in resolving the human rights issues in developing countries. Nevertheless, China’s compliance with international institutions regarding international human rights is notorious despite ratifying several human rights conventions as early as the 1980s (Svensson, 2002, p.261). The various international human rights regimes, from the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child to the Convention against Torture, were once seen as a constraint on China’s violation of its citizen’s basic rights and no more than the hypocrisy of the signatory nations (Junmai, 1946). The list of violations by China toward international human rights regimes cast a shadow over the efficacy of those regimes. This does not necessarily indicate that human rights cease to exist, as international norms in cases are explicitly delineated in various international covenants, which in fact China is either a signatory to or a member of (ibid). With a view to exploring this critical but complicated issue in contemporary international politics, this dissertation aims to explore firstly how the behaviours of China can be understood in contemporary international politics, secondly how the domestic prioritisation on the economy is influenced by external pressure from the international community to shape China’s action towards international human rights regimes, and thirdly to assess how China, in the post-1989 Tiananmen Massacre era, is beginning to comply with international human rights regimes in a normative sense.

The paper starts by examining the theoretical gap in addressing interrelations between states and international human rights institutions, and then investigates how each relationship associated with international human rights regimes in the international community contribute to understanding China’s behaviour. The second part discusses the key variants in influencing China’s willingness and acts in reality; with the examination of the internally dialectical confrontation between universalism and cultural relativism, as well as the external pressure on China’s compliance from the other members in international community, leading toward practical commitments and enforceable standards. The third part focuses on an empirical examination, by observing China’s responses, including compliance (such as treaty ratification and implementation) and non-cooperation (such as refusal to ratify the international treaties and conventions) with contemporary international human rights institutions (UN regimes); then it connects China’s records of compliance with the international regimes with theoretical concepts to access its socialised process, and assess the scope that China views itself accountable to the world normative order by discussing both the advantages and the drawbacks with specific case studies. Finally, the paper comes to a conclusion concerning the prospects of China’s consciousness for protecting international human rights, and suggests some ideas for future research.

The paper aims to shed light on China’s changing behaviours regarding international institutions by empirical investigation within a broad theoretical framework. It argues that constructivist theories serve the best analytical framework and consequently the behaviour of China will be investigated chronologically within such a framework. It then, along with the case studies, suggests that because of the rising consciousness of being a member state in the international community and the interaction with major powers, China has been socially integrated into the world normative framework through a learning process; moreover, the changing pace of Chinese participation in the regulatory order demonstrates a clear increase in the last decade, from only instrumental sense to normative sense. The human rights tide is turning and China is caught up in its irresistible wake.


1. Understanding China in Contemporary International Community

1.1Theoretical gap in understanding acts of China on human rights  

The literature which examines the relationship between China and human rights in the international arena after the crackdown of the 1989 Tiananmen incident can be divided into two major categories: firstly the positivist camp which stresses a statist rational analysis and secondly the reflectivist camp which combine ideational and normative dimensions of states into the framework. From the positivists’ perspective, external pressure from other countries on China determines China’s compliance with international regimes (Weatherley, 1999, p.78). Under this theoretical framework, the realpolitik approach stresses material interests as the states’ priority for determining behaviour associated with international regulations and furthermore assumes that that states are rational. On the other hand the reflectivist approach addresses the issue of China and human rights in the international community by analysing broadly the question though a historic and organic process (Ash et al, 2007, p.182).

The realist approach has been primarily applied to analyse China’s behaviours in the international community since China’s acts in the international community have been claimed to demonstrate a material interest-oriented tendency (Loh, 2008, p.83). The realpolitik approach provides an analysis of how China treats human rights in the aim of pursuing and maintaining its own national interest. The main argument of realists revolves around the fact that China adjusted its conformity to international human rights regimes based on the consideration of material interests and power rather than any concerted international influence which only really materialised after the 1980s (Wan, 2001, p.13). Wan (2001) powerfully argues that: “power remains a central factor shaping the conduct of human rights diplomacy”. Moreover, power and bargaining explain the process and outcome of human rights exchanges between China and the west counterparts.

Analyzing the arena of international politics as an anarchical system, neo-liberalism maintains a state-centric approach which allows space for identifying and recognizing different actors, processes and structures in international politics (Ash et al, 2007, p.181). In this framework states cooperate with each other and achieve a measure of peace and stability. It highlights the significance of regional institutions and the reduction of transaction costs among states and has been adopted as a conceptual framework for addressing states’ compliance with international human rights regimes. Within the same broad theoretical framework of neo-liberalism regime theory assumes that the international arena is not an anarchical system. Regime theory argues that within this system states act according to a set of implicit or explicit norms by which nation states’ sovereignty are not allowed to be infringed except when absolutely necessary (Guo, 2007, p.137). Regimes were classically defined by Krasner (1982) as a set of “implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules and decision-making procedures around which actors’ expectations converge in a given area of international relations;” in this sense, regimes can alter state behaviours and fulfil their capacity as utility modifiers, enhancers of cooperation, bestowers of authority, learning facilitators, role definers, and agents of international realignments (Krasner,1983).

Whereas the standard materialist realists claim ideational variables only help explain deviant cases but cannot explain non-deviant cases (Iain, 1995), the materialist explanation has lost its capability to explain why states are gradually bound by normative regulations in international system, in particular when it comes to China, which has shown increasing cooperation in several normative issues. Contractual institutionalism is right to point out that so much of state behaviour goes on inside international institutions, which Keohane (1995) suggests can serve as social environments. However, contractual institutionalism tends to view institutions as exogenous rule-based, sanction-based on non-changing agents, and this claim is not sufficient to explain China’s conformity in contemporary politics which is going to be investigated in the following case studies.

Contrary to neo-realist/neo-liberal rational choice theories, constructivists shed light on normative issues and recognise the probability of cooperation between states. Constructivists propose that identity matters in International Relations; moreover, since the norms constraining states are created by the states themselves, the norms in international community have capability of constraining states’ behaviours in the anarchical international framework (Wendt, 1999). This assumption of constructivists provides an explanation for how states in the international community cooperate upon different normative issues without forsaking the privilege of individual state sovereignty. It is noteworthy that, contrary to the majority of scholars’ perspectives, the ‘soft’ version of constructivism represented by Alexander Wendt as a matter of fact has been well received in China since its late coming to International Relations studies in China in 1980s (Xiao, 2004). Despite the fact that the variances of cultural conceptions of international norms may remain controversial in the Chinese International Studies community the rule-oriented constructivism with the Western mainstream studies was originally conceived by Nicholas Onuf in 1989. Rule-oriented constructivism will enable the Chinese “voice” to be heard and understood for the first time (Guo, 2007, p.8). At the same time to deal with China (its language and culture) also challenges many key propositions of rule-oriented constructivism.

An increasing number of scholars take a reflectivist approach to examine China’s relationship with human rights norms. Rosemary Foot (2000) suggests that China is genuinely engaged with the international discourse of human rights and has entered into international society at large which international human rights norms constitute one of its significant components. Foot (2000) argues that Beijing’s formulation of national interest derives in part from its socialisation into international human rights norms, through the process of adaption of what he identifies as ‘normative diffusion’. At the similar line with Foot, Zhang (1998) proposes that China has put in considerable effort to integrate into international society and this aim of integration was achieved through accession to the UN (Kent, 1999, p.52). He proposes that there has been an ‘alienation’ of China since 1949 by examining a historical process through which the ‘process of legitimation’ took place within international society as a whole.

Nathan (1994) perceives that there is a manifest evolution of China into international society and argues that the domestic politics of human rights have influenced China’s human rights abroad. Moreover, and in an example of the ‘second image reversed,’ international affairs have rebounded to reshape domestic affairs (ibid). Nathan concludes that China will be a ‘taker’ rather than a ‘shaper’ of the emerging international norms of human rights as China’s leaders remain insistent on the stubborn cultural roots of Western human rights policy, and that the influence of human rights pressure demonstrates how an international regime can influence domestic issues. With a similar line to Nathan, James Seymour suggests that the human rights question has changed China’s international relations by causing it to lose control of its own foreign policy battles. Seymour claims that the issue of human rights in China will be determined by the course of international political events more than international standards and foreign involvement plays only a subordinate role (Seymour, 1994).

Human rights as a morally normative concept should take into account ideas and behaviour as well as process and structure. Nevertheless, the positivist approach is facing increasing weakness and isolation in understanding international regimes’ effects on states. Realists acknowledge that the “interplay of ideas and power is the central issue of international relations” (Wan, 2001), which also include Beijing’s human rights diplomacy. Furthermore, liberal institutionalists have argued that their central proposition those regimes as international institutions as well as structure choices, which serves to provide incentives, distribute power and they define identities and roles, provide explanation more to international economic institutions than international regimes regarding normative issues.

The non-material characteristic of the human rights issues allows international human rights regime to be an organic social institution that must evolve in accordance with social and political change if it is to survive in international community (Kent, 1999). That is, when it comes to human rights, international regimes should be viewed as an ‘ordering logic’ which is a foundation of authority and an arena of struggle. As Jack Donnelly (1998) pinpoints, regime theory in terms of analysing human rights in international arena, ought to be taken as a broad approach to understand the world; the definition provided by Krasner help to clarify the concept of idea of regimes, while it requires other theories to provide explanation from historical dimension. Therefore, the regime is treated as a framework which allows several theories or models to apply underneath, which including the process of socialisation and learning, or the assumption that states can reassess their interests through experience (Kent,1999).

1.2 Normative Framework: China within International institutions

To analyse China’s behaviours within international institutions, Samuel Kim (1979) has been viewed as the initiator of investigating the importance of China’s behaviour in international institutions. His work has shown that China’s activities inside institutions provide critical insights into Beijing’s world views; moreover, these activities provide evidence about empirical behaviour to test intuition about how this world view may actually affect what China does on the ground. Ann Kent’s study of China’s approach to international human rights regimes shows how, within the broad goal of minimising threats to the rule of Communist Party, China’s diplomacy in this realm had been constrained partly by an acceptance of procedural norms of participation inside institutions, and partly by a sensitivity to multilateral praise and blame (Kent, 1999). With a compact examination, Kent investigates China’s interaction with the UN human rights regimes from post-1989 to 1998, and suggests that the UN serves as an effective instrument of monitoring China’s behaviours. Furthermore, Kent (1999) suggests that it should be noted that the learning process is a fluid, organic regime which is able to change and adapt in response to the input of its member states.

The effectiveness of the international regime may be examined separately from the impact of human rights pressures within China and the pressures from other powerful countries. Moreover, the role of the United Nations and its specialised agencies in many cases functions as an organ of standard-setting: promoting and monitoring more than implementing regulations in terms of the process of international socialisation; moreover, the acceptance of international norms and the procedural compliance as either instrumental/adaptive learning or cognitive/normative learning (Kent, 1999). It also has been suggested that Beijing’s formulation of national interest derives in part from its socialisation into international human rights norms, through the process of adaption of ‘normative diffusion’, which there is substantive compliance with the regime representing in cognitively learning sense (Foot, 2000).

Iain Johnston (2008) provides an instructive model for understanding states’ socialisation in the international realm. The constructivist socialisation model proposed by Iain Johnston is adopted to investigate China’s behaviour within international security institutions, but the micro-processes which constitute socialisation helps to analyse China’s actions within international human rights regimes. The two socialisation micro-processes discussed could fall within the ‘rationalist’ paradigm (mimicking and social influence) where an actor is maximizing some utility by choosing alternatives that appear to increase the probability of meeting some goal. In case of social influence, self-perceptions of status are being maximized through interaction with other humans. At the international level Johnston proposes that the continuum of the compliance of China’s behaviour can be observed at three levels: accession to human rights treaties (the acceptance of the norms), the procedural compliance with reporting and the substantive compliance with the UN body, exhibited in international behaviour.

However, Iain Johnston distinguishes his framework from other major rationalists by asserting that international socialisation is based on social variants rather than material considerations (ibid). Only persuasion entails a process that might fall clearly within heading of the logics of appropriateness, where socialisation leaves actors with new definitions of self that provide self-evident and normal notions of expected behaviour. Johnston asserts that his socialisation does not fit neatly into either a constructivist or a rationalist approach. The assertion why the conception of international socialisation has great potential to explain China’s behaviour is primarily because of the changing circumstance in world politics.   Ian Johnston observed that from the mid-1990s on, the “hyper-sovereigntist” discourse had been diluted by a couple of new themes: globalisation and multilateralism (Deng and Moore, 2004).

Globalisation is also significant in encouraging China to socialise into international institutional framework. It can be claimed that the relationship between nationalism and globalisation will deteriorate in consequence of globalisation, but as David Held (1999) once formulated this globalised process, the process “embodies a transformation in the spatial organization of social relations and transactions…. generating transcontinental or interregional flows and networks of activity, interaction and the exercise of power,” which in this sense will implicitly alter China’s behaviours regarding international politics. Chinese official discourse has endorsed global economic and information integration is to be embraced because of its positive impact on national economic development, even if globalisation challenges sovereignty in these select areas. In addition, there is a new identity discourse that describes China as a ‘responsible major power,’ a key characteristic of which is to participate in and uphold commitments to status quo international economic and security institutions. In this sense, China’s behaviours have demonstrated growing potential to be examined under constructivist framework, However, the lens of investigation is not what states are able to learn to be more enlightened in their definitions of their interests and then demonstrate more cooperative behaviours, the difficulty because of the tremendous differences between language and culture of China and the Western countries should be recognized rather than regarded as a movement toward Western Enlightenment conceptions.

1.3 Theory and Practice: International socialisation of China

In short, the realpolitik approach examines how the international regimes affect the behaviours of Chinese governments. The power politics logic has been used to examine China’s diplomacy and the international human rights regimes, with its well-established norms, principles, and institutions, can be argued that it applies more to the title of regime theory, in particular of the neo-realist or liberal institutionalist. Under the theoretical framework of the positivist, China’s partial acceptance of international human rights regimes presents an ‘adoptive learning process’ through which the rules of games are learned, and the reason that China would like to learn rules, such as fulfilling some expectations on human rights on human record, is in order to maximise its national interests: the very definition of realpolitik (Wan,2001).

The so-called reflectivist approach alternatively evaluates to what degree do human rights norms constitute the way China acts regarding its national interest. That is, it investigates how China had been socialised into international society and thus constantly tries to balance its national interest against international norms. The national interest of China is viewed as a critical consideration when it comes to China’s behaviour in international human rights regimes. Wan’s realist analysis helps pinpoint the primary interests of China, which are economic development as well as its prestige in international community (2001); while Foot (2000) and Zhang (1998 or 1999?) on the other hand, demonstrate that those material interests ought to be continually negotiated in the international institutions of international human rights regimes.

Hence, in terms of understanding China’s performances in international community, international socialisation as a concept stemming from the reflectivist approach has the most potential for examining China’s conformity with international regimes in contemporary world politics. As Iain Johnston points out, ‘socialization’ in the anarchical international environment is a ‘selection’ rather than socialization (2008). It cannot provide explanation for the fact that several key factors are socialized into non-realpolitik practices, such as the democratic peace and democratic security argument. Accordingly, the paper is going to argue the evolutionary actions of China with international human regimes from within this analytical conception.

2. China and international human rights regimes

After the Tiananmen Square incident, the global scrutiny of human rights heightened upon China. The collapse of the Soviet Union only served to put China into the spotlight in terms of human rights. The initial reaction of China after the 1989 Tiananmen incident demonstrated an intense struggle between instrumental compromise and cognitive learning. However, there has been an apparent shift in the last decade, where China presents not only instrumental consideration but also in a cognitive sense. The two major catalysts investigated in this chapter are: firstly the battle between civil/political and economic rights as China’s priority, and secondly the interaction between China and the US. The following chapter analyzes how the institutionalisation of the international community created an environment for China to adapt international norms via the learning process which subsequently allowed China to increasingly present more compliance to international human rights regimes.

2.1 After the 1989 Tiananmen Incident

In China’s case regarding international human rights regimes there are critical dimensions worth examining in order to understand how constraining influences of international norms were perceived by China. To begin with the 1989 Tiananmen incident can be viewed as a turning point that symbolised China’s entrance into international society (Economy & Oksenberg, 1999). On the one hand, the spotlight on China becomes an impetus for China to access the international normative standards and conceptualise the international human right regimes considering other cultures. Furthermore, the incident represented a critical step in turning the scrutiny of the world on China; at the same time, it helped reallocate “a significant portion of China’s precious diplomatic capital to dealing with the human rights concerns” (Seymour Samuel S. Kim ed., 1998).

The 1989 June 4th Tiananmen incident could be viewed as an early indication of China’s “normative diffusion” of its rude awakening (Foot, 2000). There is a gradual reception to certain fundamental principles of human rights after Tiananmen (Svensson, 2002, p.265). Foot argues that the normalisation of diplomatic ties with Washington helped expose the Chinese regime to external pressure. Nevertheless, after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, there were several cases revealing that China’s interaction with the western countries and the United Nations, in particular the diplomacy between Washington and Beijing, did not thoroughly prevent China from continuing to violate the norms by asserting its national interest over the individual rights. The incessant violence in oppressing human rights issues can be attributed to the different understandings and conceptualisations of human rights and the validity of international regimes as a critical dimension when examining China. It has been argued that there is an embedded dilemma in China’s conception of human rights: an inherent paradox. That is, the orthodoxy of China’s International Relations academics used to possess a relativistic approach to human rights, which is contradicted by the universalist approach suggested by the West (Svensson, 2002, p.179). The relativist proposes that the concept of human rights should take an individual’s cultural and historical background into full account thus people from different backgrounds can formulate the idea in order to accommodate to their own cultures. Specifically, human rights, from a relativist perspective, should be “to summarise our culturally influenced intuitions about the rights thing to do in various situations”, and thus help increase “the predictability , and thus the power and efficiency, of our institutions, thereby heightening the sense of shared moral identity which bring us together in a moral community” (Rorty, 1993).

Furthermore, when conceptualising human rights within a larger framework, China’s prioritisation on economic rights in fact can be compatible to the ‘basic rights’ suggested by Shue (1980).The ‘basic rights’ assert that all individuals are entitled to demand security rights (the rights not to be subjected to murder, torture and other life threatens) as well as subsistence rights (the rights to minimal economic security, such as unpolluted water air, unpolluted water, adequate food, adequate clothing, and adequate shelter). These formulations are complimentary to the Chinese governments’ claim to prioritise the economic development and domestic human rights issues. Nevertheless, as Connolly (1983) critically suggests, rights can be fundamentally contested as no definition can be finalised and there is no definition of a right as good as any other. Hence, there is no need to judge whether the Western or Chinese formulation is morally right or not.

2.2 Internal factor: Developmentalist discourse

Apart from the relativist guoqing perspective inherited in China’s diplomatic custom, the other side of the dual nature of the CCP’s human rights policy, the instrumentalist perspective, has been claimed for inherently politicized human rights in China (Sullivan, 1999). From the instrumentalist perspective, human rights issues are politically employed as one core element within the CCP’s human rights diplomacies. In most cases China has been satisfied that its acceptance of civil and political liberties should be based on its developmental stage (Ding, 1989). This is partly because the CCP leadership had relinked the economic globalisation and political multipolarity’ in the period after Tiananmen, which gave the focus of nationalism to the post-Tiananmen leadership’s claim to domestic leadership (Hughes, 2006). That is, China takes the prescription for delusion of human rights abuse is more economic development and more interactions with the outside world.

Also addressing the issues of China’s economic development discourse, Sullivan (1999) proposes that by examining the influence of developmentalism on Chinese political discourses on human rights from 1989 to 1995 we can come to a better understanding. He identifies four categories for the human rights discourse of China since 1989: Neo-Maoist discourses, Reform-Leninist discourses, Developmentalist discourses and Universalist discourses. Developmentalist discourses posit that economic growth through marketization should proceed without subverting Beijing’s political-liberalisation policies, such as the enforcement of human rights legislation of China. He argues that the acceptance of developmentalism by Chinese political elites and foreign governments maintain China’s logic that using developmentalism as an attempt to systematize a relativist perspective on human rights within a political logic that universalises the CCP’s development experiences. On the other hand, the Western conceptions of human rights are closer to the so called Universalist discourses. The Universalism suggest that human rights not only are inherent to the human condition, while should be abided by facilitate the expansion of individual liberties under conditions of rapid economic growth; believes that human rights are inherent to the human condition and the individual liberties should not be at expense of individual liberties. However these discourses can only be primarily found on elite and local levels such as dissidents’ political writings or student protests (Sullivan, 1999).

The developmentalist discourse can be viewed as a prerequisite to the Universalist perspective of human rights. The fact that the PRC does not possess the historical conditions for Western-style conceptions of democracy and liberalism indeed result to the discrepancy between these normative ideas, while human rights are not the patent of Western culture but the natural product of a universal economic and social development, which the model essentially is similar to industrialisation in Great Britain (reference 80). It is not going to deny that the developmentalist doctrines can be the way of Chinese officials to justify their domestic human rights violations and policies; which the promotion of developmentalism by PRC political elites legitimises the systematic violation of human rights. What would like to point out in the essay is that the emphasis on rights to survive more than on civil and political rights is not necessarily contradictory to the learning process of international socialised process. It should be taken as a cultural difference more than a resistant action. However, it is noteworthy that the developmentalist discourse, whether from a relativist or Universalist view, human rights are not alienable to the human condition and are subjected to the development level of China.

As Johnston points out, China tends to show less conformity to international human rights regimes in particular when the international human rights regime comprises more than individual political and civil liberties (Johnston, 2008).Investigating from the cultural difference between China and Western human rights concepts, Clarke and Feinerman (1995) suggests that the China’s criminal law has ‘’proved resistant to the forces of change affecting the rest of the society’’ which remains closely tied to domestic politics and this accordingly hinder China’s compliance to international human rights law.

2.3 External impacts: sensitivity to international community  

Moreover, the trend of international institutionalisation in consequence of globalisation strengthens the structural influence posed on China. Firstly, the increasing sensitivity to multilateral praise and blame acceptance of procedural norms of China encourages its acceptance of procedural norms, which acts can be viewed from instrumental sense evolving to cognitive sense. As previously argues, the globally closer inspection of China’s human rights records in consequence of 1989 Tiananmen incident has forced China to put increasing emphasis on international prestige because of the external pressure from the countries. China is looking to use the linguistic instruments of human rights to show how engaged the government is within the rules of international community.

The US-Sino relation is one of the significant factors influencing China’s behaviours in terms of international human rights regimes. Most scholars, whether positivists or reflectivists, recognise that the Sino-US relationship plays a critical role in Beijing’s human rights diplomacy. Positivists, underpinned by Wan (2001), propose that China tends to improve its human rights record with respect to Washington’s demand. Wan argued that China is power-orientated by observing that pressures from Europe and Japan on China represent only encouragement and negotiation aimed at convincing China of the virtues of norms, while China tends to change its conformity with respect to the US’s demand. Moreover, China’ diplomatic tendencies may enforce the US-Sino relations as a major concern for its subscription to the international human rights institutions. Firstly, China has intent to rely on ethics more than legal norms, moral consensus more than judicial procedure, Secondly, China prefers solving conflict through bilateral state relations rather than multilateral intervention, which is contrast with the Western preference for the constraints of international law (Kent, 1999). As Copper and Lee (1997) suggests, though China has begun to be put under the microscope by other countries in the world after the 1989 movement, the most vocal critics remained from the United States and to a lesser extent Western European countries. That is, the external pressure and push to China to adjust its behaviours to meet the international human rights standards remain from the Western countries which possess the major material interests’ trading with China.

As above argues, since China tends to employ their diplomacies bilaterally rather than multilaterally, the major actor China interacted with can be the first-hand one to learn from. In this sense, and in the cognitive learning sense, the actions of the US handled with China in terms of China’s human rights records affect how China learns to conform to human rights regimes under international framework. The correlation is evident from cases. The US concern for human rights was explicitly revealed in the Sino-US relations before the 1989 June 4th incident. However, after this, the Bush and Clinton administration put human rights issues into the policy domain of the bilateral relationship (Feng,1999); that is, human rights has become a diplomatic instrument of the US to influence China’s cooperation in international community.

It has been argued that the American emphasis on human rights has subverted the promise and the potential benefits of Sino-American relations. Wan suggests that in particular after Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, the Sino-US relationship had increasingly driven by power-political interests’ consideration. In other worlds, Wan posit that the Tiananmen incidents on contrary push China toward a more interest-driven path in terms of human rights issue. In Feng’s view, the US attempts to combine human rights and policies to deal with China has failed to improve Sino-US relations and neither to change China’s behaviours to conform the international human rights regimes which most are established by Western countries (Feng,1999). The ill-consistent human rights diplomacy of the US since the Tiananmen incident has led to the uncertainty of China’s confidence of becoming compliant to international human rights regimes. For instance, the 1994 delinked human rights to China’s Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status, on the other hand allow the human rights issue declined rather precipitously within the context of Sino-US relations. Also, in the 1995 Human Rights Report, issued on March, 1996, listed China’s record of human rights as one of the worst in the world. In the same year, the Clinton administration along with the European Union sponsored a proposal to condemn the Chinese human rights situation at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission; at the same year December, China put the dissent- Wei Jingsheng on trial.

2.4 Learning and Socialising: China in the International Community

To conclude, the 1989 Tiananmen incident is critical in providing Beijing (Zhang, 1998) with the impression that human rights consideration constituted an integral part of being a respectable member of international society. To be precisely, China becomes to take its role and image as an important correlation between international institutions and diplomacy. According to Iain Johnston (2008) analytic framework of social influence, to the degree that China’s identity as a responsible major power increasingly incorporates elements with individual political and civil liberties, China’s diplomacy will become more sensitive to censure diplomacy from developed and developing states.

Taking both internal and external variants into consideration, the general international community presents more conditions for China’s learning and cooperation more than disobey. Firstly, despite being seen as a ‘rising power’, China is a ‘status quo power’ in contemporary international community. It is partly because Chinese leadership at the moment does not appear to wish to apply much in terms of its economic development interests or its relationship with the US (Johnston,2003); and partly because China and the US have geographic assets- the US in continental force and China in marine power respectively, likely to reach a stable and peaceful balanced status quo (S. Ross, 1999) Hence, pushed by the heightening demands from western countries, China after 1989 Tiananmen incident has taken a proactive role in making its pursuit of national interest- economic development and international prestige- is able to conduct within the framework of human rights. At the same time, instead of assuming a simply rational actor model as regular regime theorists propose, China’s response would be better understood as fitting into a pattern of ‘’bounded rationality that reacts to problems as they arise and searches for solutions within a familiar and accustomed repertoire’’ (Chayes and Chayes, 1993). Therefore, according to the above arguments, the progressive enmeshment by liberal values after 1989 served to provide China incentives to re-assess its stance on human rights in both positive and negative respects, which is going to be investigated with cases studies in the following chapter.

3. Empirical examination: case studies in Post-1989 Tienanmen Era

This section examines China’s application of the international human rights regimes since 1989, and inspects ensuing struggle between reserved actions and signature of international regulations of China, and to what degree it remains on instrumental learning and non-linear socialisation. Broadly speaking, Kent (1999) observes cases from 1989 to 1998 and suggests that the Chartered-based bodies such as the UN Human Rights Commission and the UN Human Rights Sub-Commission and also the treaty bodies such as the Committee Against Torture (CAT) and the Special Rapporteur on Torture illustrates this changing attitude of China. Nevertheless, cases manifest the struggle between China and UN specialised in the previous period of post-1989 era.

Take the International Labour Organization (ILO), a UN specialised agency for example, it can be observed that China’s organisational learning curve was showing a struggle within the state by two discrete cases of its governing body- the Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA). The curve observed from Kent (1999) moved from outrights denial of its reporting to partial acceptance, which indicates a gradual nature of the curve was along the lines of the International Labour Organization (ILO) experience that the internationalisation of standards was an evolutionary process. The CFA inquiry into the rights of Chinese workers of two main cases – Case 1500 in 1989 and Case 1652 in 1992 was seen as a growing positive response to international regimes. The former addressed the problem of the crushing of the issues of 1989 incident and related violations of trade union rights; and the latter introduced to address problems arising from China’s new Trade Union Act of 3 April 1992 and generally trade-related issues. According to the above records, it can be concluded that China was not convincing in subscribing to the overall international human rights in the early stage of post-1989 era.

3.1 UN World Human Rights Conferences

Yet, three significant international human rights conferences: UN Human Rights Conference at Vienna, the Bangkok Declaration, and international Women Human Rights World Conference in 1995 examined at the first place in this paper suggests that there has been an attitude shift of China . The UN Conferences are critical in testing to what degree that China’s compliance with the regimes can be viewed in a substantial sense. This is because contrary to the political bodies such as UN Commission, which in practice offer potential for public inspection internationally and monitoring; the conferences provide China with platform to submit China’s theoretical conception of human rights to international scrutiny.

Firstly, the 1993 UN Human Rights Conference in Vienna offered a medium for china to influence the world; at the same time, it provided a forum where current human rights norms to be evaluated and negotiated among China and other states. Through the Vienna Conference and the Bangkok meeting, China assent to some norms by reaffirming the privilege of collective rights over individual rights and again asserting the priority of the rights of subsistence and principles of sovereignty and non-interference and even the cultural relativist arguments. Though China has been argued to consolidate its leadership among the developing countries through the conference, China’s effort to achieve mutual accommodation within the Vienna process still indicates that some significant concession had been made by China and other developing counterparts, to economic and social rights and the right to development in particular. The changes could be interpreted as constructive efforts within the United Nations to work out how the rights could be implemented in practical way, and at the same time facilitated a spirit of mutual tolerance between human rights protagonists (Kent, 1999). This learning process on China in terms of the Vienna process overall proved little to be neither linear nor continuous.

Secondly, there are two major contributions achieved in the Beijing World Conference of 1995 international women’s human rights regimes. For one thing, in Beijing there is a demand that governments must comply (Marin, 1995), which representing a demands for accountable changes with the stricter recommendation from judges and more concrete implementation of women human rights. Moreover, the resulting ‘’Beijing Declaration and Platform for action’’ reasserted the Vienna document in its commitment to the universality and inalienability of human rights. It was the first time for the UN acknowledged counting women’s unsalaried work. Therefore, the higher achievement reached in the 1995 Women Human Rights Conference implies that China is releasing its strict conservative concepts of human rights to the international human rights institutions (Desai, 1996). Desai investigated the international women’s human rights regimes and then proposes that the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 helps promote the international women human rights movement, which the dilemma between universalism and relativism of international human rights was narrowed during the conferences.

Thirdly, the 1993 Bangkok Declaration is worthy examining with the 1993 Vienna Human Rights World Conference, since the Bangkok Declaration is regarded as a radical expression of the Asian Values perspective, which offers an extended critique of human rights universalism. Despite the fact that the Bangkok Declaration did not include all of China’s aims, but it generally recognised the concepts that the collective rights to development was as important as individual political and civil liberties, including around forty Asian and Pacific countries signed the Bangkok Declaration. It can be concluded that whether China’s behaviour conforming to international human rights regimes or not is majorly defined by US-defined norms. It is evidenced from the Bangkok Declaration that most of member states are developing states and they have been at the core of community that refuse to signal opprobrium, even some developed states refused to single out China according to the UN human rights soapbox. The stress on the principles of sovereignty and noninterference, calling for greater emphasis on economic, social, and cultural rights, particularly the right to economic development, over civil and political rights in the 1993 Bangkok Declaration again underscores China’s preservation of its economic development.

3.2 International Human Rights Covenants

The progressive socialisation of China into international community can be observed from its gradual subscription to two key international human rights covenants in the last twenty years. The two crucial international human rights covenants: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) have signed by China in 1997 and 1998 respectively. China hitherto has ratified ICESCR and signed ICCPR, with the fact that ICESCR has already come into effect while ICCPR has not. However, China issued a human rights action plan for 2009 and 2010, and in 2011 Chinese officials reaffirmed that all targets are meant to be met (China Post,2011).

China’s signatures of both the ICESCR and ICCPR signified the initial step of China accommodating international human rights regimes into its policy. Because the signing of these two covenants have effectively constituted China’s acknowledgement of the importance of the International Covenants and of the international community’s right to monitor its human rights condition (Kent, 1999). Furthermore, ratification of the ICCPR would be a significant step in terms of China’s compliance with international human rights regimes. Firstly, the covenant disallows arbitrary arrest or detention and protects freedom of expression; moreover, under the covenant no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country, a right that China currently does not recognize for political dissidents who have fled overseas or who have been expelled. As previously argues, China has growingly aware of and taken international image into its consideration as its diplomacy. Hence, Beijing, under a microscope where human rights are concerned, are less likely to propose reservations that make ratification meaningless as this would be counterproductive to improve China’s international image. Moreover, ratification would mean regular reports to a United Nations human rights committee, whose members have consistently taken a tough stance on compliance with the covenant will be able to bolster the interaction between China and international human regimes.

Nevertheless, the hesitance of China’s ratification to ICCPR performs a critical indication of China’s current mind-set of international human rights institutions. The key reason why China promised to ratify ICCPR until recently is because the two international documents have different requirements on state parties in their performance obligations. ICCPR is stricter and more standard than ICESCR in terms of the method and degree of performing obligations. First of all, it is because that ICCPR requires state parties to realize all the basic rights stipulated in the covenant through effective constitutional and legal procedures and to ensure the effective realization of the basic rights stipulated in the covenant; secondly, ICCPR does not only require state parties to perform their obligations immediately but also ensures the implementation of the covenant in their respective countries through effective legal procedures.

3.2 Fledging New Frameworks of International Human Rights

The increasing tendency of China’s conformity with international regimes has demonstrates in its interaction with UN institutions. The newly concept of ‘The Responsibility to Protect’ , a normative frame work which takes the UN Charter, the UN General Assembly and the Security Council as the major sources for understanding, can illustrate China’s adherence to the various components of human rights-related topics in UN institutional framework (Foot and Walter, 2010).

‘The Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) is a concept responded to Former UN president Kofi Annan’s calling for a higher protection on individual human beings from global community in 2001 report of International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). This concept has significance associated with UN human rights regimes in two dimensions. For one thing, the individual human rights have been recognised according to the R2P idea. In order to ensure that the global community would stand effectively to prevent gross and systematic violations of human rights from happening (Annan,1999), the individual sovereignty has been emphasised by redefining state sovereignty by Annan’s several public statements. For another, the R2P has obtained its validity of binding states following its publication. The World Summit Outcome document of September 2005 accepted a version of R2P conceptions , with all UN member states agreeing to adopt the R2P language in paragraphs 138 and 139 which also promised to behave according to the UN Charters, which accordingly states members ought to be ‘in cooperation with relevant regional organisations as appropriate, should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity’ (UNGA Document,2005). Moreover, the idea of R2P has been contained in the UN Security Council Resolution 1674 which unanimously in 2006 and was reaffirmed in the Security Council Resolution 1706 (Foot and Walter,2010).

Nevertheless, as Foot and Walter (2010) proposed, the international debate over R2P focuses particular on two pillars of R2P ideas: one is the acceptance of the idea that it is a state’s responsibility to prevent abuses from developing, and another is the international duty to build capacities inside states so that atrocities do not occur in the first place. In this sense, the inherent ideas embedded in R2P which stress the individual rights more than states sovereignties can be seen recognised by China in cognitive terms, as R2P is officially endorsed in several UN institutions. China’s 2005 paper on UN Security Council reform moreover illustrates its inclination to approach forward human rights norms in international community. The 2005 paper not only recognised that there will be ‘legitimate concern of the international community to was and defuse a massive humanitarian crisis’, but also declared that ‘any response to such a crisis should strictly conform to the UN Charter’ (China’s Position Paper, 2005). The above indicates a consistency of China’s compliance to UN Charter which can be observed in the near decade. For instance, Beijing joined other permanent members of the Security Council in authorizing military action in Somalia in 1992 under Chapter VII provisions of the UN Charter; also, in 1993 China supported a key resolution on Haiti which referred to the incidence of humanitarian crises.

On the other hand, China’s behavioural consistency failed to reveal when the issues comes to its core interests. The unwillingness of China to support UN Security Council sanction against Burma during times of humanitarian need in the country is an example. Beijing even used its veto power of P5 to obstruct the resolution which was in aim to offer response to a humanitarian crisis in Burma in 2007. Furthermore, UN Security Council has been argued to be a body that derives its authority from the fact that it represents an international procedural consensus (RF and AW, 2010) In this sense, Beijing has stated a firm willingness to respect the UN Charter and its prohibitions on the use of force is in order to maintain its power in the UNSC. This claims can be illustrated by the speeches of China former president- Jiang Zemin in 2001, which Jiang required ‘conclusive evidence, specific targets, compliance with the UN Charter and the role of the Security Council’ (Kramer ,2007) when dealing with 2001 September incident.

Hence, as far as R2P concept concerned, China though maintain a conservative definition of the overall concept, it recognises that the states do have a responsibility to protect their own people from the four crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity . As Pang (2008) points out, R2P could be used to bridge the divide between supporters of ‘humanitarian intervention’ and supporters of state sovereignty and non-intervention.

The Millennium Development Goal Report (MDGs) is another significant forum exemplifying China’s rising conformity to international human rights institutions. MGDs, stemmed from the United Nations Millennium Campaign in 2002provides a framework for the entire UN system to work coherently together toward a common end, and now an important yardstick of the international community to measure development progress which has regarded as the third-generation human rights on globally sustainable development. According to its 2010 annual report ( UN Millennium Development Goals Reports ,2010), China demonstrates a high progress in terms of human rights–related indications. It shows that China has ‘already met’ the objectives of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger’ and ‘achieving universal primary education’, while ‘promoting gender equality and empower women’ remains on ‘likely’ level. In this sense, China is progressing on human rights compliance with universal standards. For one thing, the shared accountability and reciprocal obligations emphasised in this UN framework can be seen as a forum for China’s cognitive learning into socialisation; for another, the third-generation human rights are those rights that go beyond the mere civil and social, while the human rights are correlated among each other, the achievement of the MDGs’ objectives require improving first and second generatation on human rights.

On the other hand, the unwillingness China to ratify the Rome Statute which legitimised the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been argued to be a serious drawback of China’s linear compliance to international human rights regimes. ICC is significant in testing China’s compliance with international human rights regimes because the formulation of human rights and the jurisdiction challenge China in several respects. In terms of human rights formulation, the remit of ICC covers crimes against humanity genocide, war crimes and the crime of aggression. War crime sand crimes against humanity are defined widely, which rape in war time and other gender-based offences are also recognised as war crimes (Brown,). On the other hand, the perseverance of sovereignty over international normative regulations of China still represents in China’s diplomatic rhetoric. Moreover, as previous argues, China is learning majorly from the US diplomatic interaction in Sino-US relations, US’s unwillingness of ratification can increase China’s alert to cooperate with international community and accordingly impede China’s willingness to comply with international human rights regimes.

China illustrates this concern that international human rights regimes may undermine states’ privileged jurisdiction over their citizens when it comes to the signature of the Rome Statute. These examples highlight the fact that the idea of holding an individual accountable for international justice challenges the fundamental ideas of sovereign states in international politics. The notion of the sovereign state is the fundamental concept behind most states, and one which they are not willing to surrender. Moreover, this underpins the fundamental problem between international law and states, which is the persistent sovereign attachment to world politics. Furthermore, China as one of the five permanent members in UN Security Council (UNSC) can effectively block a probe. This indicates that Chinese actions in Tibet and elsewhere, China’s friends Myanmar and Sri Lanka, also tend to enjoy more diplomatic cover.

3.3 Understanding China’s compliance with key variants

Taken as a whole, some points are worthy examining again with the variants which has been proposed in the previous chapter. Firstly, the uncertainty of China’s compliance embedded in Compliance of international human rights regimes also can be observed by some inconsistency of China’s diplomacy, in particular within Sino-US relations. For instance, Chinese White Paper on Human Rights issued in 1991 though represents China’s effort of further integration into international community, it does not changes the priority of the rights of sovereign states which Zhang (1998)claims as China’s ‘insistence on the sacred inviolability of sovereignty.’ Moreover, after blocking a draft resolution criticising the CCP’s human rights violations at the 1995 session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Jing YongJian, head of the Chinese delegation, argued that human rights are being used as a political weapon of the United States and Western countries (Michael F. Sullivan).

The interaction between the US and China post an important influence which was evidenced from the following examples. The contradictory cases behaviours During a 1991 meeting with former US President Jimmy Carter in Beijing, Premier Li Peng argued that the PRC’s yearly population increases and limited arable farmland made the rights to subsistence the most important human rights concern. However, in the 1993 APEC meeting, Party General Secretary Jiang Zemin argued that the PRC adheres to different human rights standards because developed and developing countries have different concepts of human rights because of varying cultural traditions and phases of development.

The Beijing Declaration can be viewed as another evident case. It has been argued that the Beijing Declaration of 1995 international women’s human rights regimes did not necessarily indicate a willingness of China to reallocate existing resources to accomplish the mission, since it can be observed that US demonstrated its inconsistent diplomacy in the case of UN Forth Women’s Conference (Feng, 1999). The US offensive attitude has only strengthened Chinese rejection to the international regimes of human rights; moreover, the tougher the US offensive is, the more intense China’s resistance. It has been posits that US torn down its line on human rights occasionally because it attempts to constrain China’s development while at the same time not to enrage China excessively in order to secure the market opportunities with China. This point could be illustrated by the UN Fourth Women’s Conference held in China, which though US congress insisted Clinton should boycott the conference to be held in China while in the end Clinton’s wife Hillary to make the trip there.

Moreover, as far as international institutions concerned, some points have been pinpointed. As Goldsmith and Ponser (2005) suggest, the coercion of human rights regimes is applied inconsistently by states, depending on the political and economic interests of the enforcing states and the cost of enforcement. However, the institutionalisation of the ICC is expected to mitigate the notoriously political dimension of war crimes trials. According to the principle of complementarity under the Rome Statute, the ICC will only have complementary jurisdiction with national courts, taking up cases only if the latter are unwilling or unable to exercise power (Brown, 2002). In other words, the principle of complementarity allows nations to be able to preserve their sovereign privileges in international human rights regimes by endowing the state with the initial opportunity to investigate the case and prosecute criminals in its domestic courts (2009).

The evidence has indicated that the undesirable gap between China’s conformity and the implementation of international criminal justice is shrinking in contemporary global society. First, like the threat of economic sanctions or military action, ultimately, the threat of prosecution may simply become another diplomatic bargaining chip. However, the truth is that we have not seen war crimes trials become a bargaining chip thus far. This year (2011), despite being expected to show support for its authoritarian counterpart Libya, China voted yes to the UNSC resolution to approve the use of force in Libya without any apparent political interference, thereby demonstrating that the behaviors of states in global politics can evolve.

In regards of theoretical analysis, China has gradually adopted its diplomacies which to some have been self-binding, in more adaptive than disruptive sense. Indeed under realistic theoretical framework, it can be claimed that these changes have not exactly represented an internationalisation of international norms, as they have been in cases made for short-term tactical reasons and moreover have not demonstrated a linear development. China views the UN as a useful forum to maintain its status as a permanent member of the UNSC; furthermore, China’s participation in UN humanitarian regimes provides a useful public relations coup for the government by being an official spokesman for the developing world in the UN.

Nevertheless, whereas China’s socilaisation presents a non-linear curve in the cases of the UN conferences and covenants in the first decade, the cases in the last decade demonstrates a clear shift of China’s compliance with the fledging international normative regimes by recognising several international human right regulations in constructive sense with a normative learning consciousness. The signing and expecting ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1998 further underlines the fact that China is normatively diffused by international human rights regimes. Also, it is noteworthy that the growing cooperative voting of China with UNSC resolutions indicates not only a increasing socialisation into international community, but also indicates that China’s rising recognition of being a P5 in UNSC generates a reciprocal influence for being a member of performing behaviours meeting up not only other states’ expectations but also China’s own domestic demands. The UNSC had the responsibility to authorise the use of military force to protect from severe human rights violations, such as genocide, even against the will of the government committing such abuses.’


In conclusion, China is gradually moving into the international human rights fold by a progressive learning process which is evidenced from the changes in China’s behaviour in increasingly conforming to the international human rights regimes. As noted in the introduction the tide of human rights is turning and events this year have only served to highlight that the Chinese people are waking up to the fact that their speech, thought, writings and actions could and should be protected. However, there still exist sporadic outbursts of state control such as the arrest of the painter Ai Weiwei which underscore the fact that such progress hangs on a knife edge. It is vital to note that China stands at a crossroads: it is too early to say that human rights will be respected universally but certainly there can never again be a Tiananmen Square. In terms of a theoretical understanding the claim that material interests among states will be continually negotiated in the international human rights regimes under rational choice theories analysis has failed to explain China’s growing subscription to the international institutions. The failure thus far also of the universalist model, which is the preserve of elite western nations, and the positivist model, which has seen international pressure fall on deaf ears for decades, highlight that the reflectivist model is the most appropriate for analysing China’s growing compliance with human rights.

The international regimes provide an environment for China to access the international platform to become a significant presence; moreover, the interplay between China and other states, in particular Sino-US relations, offer objects for China’s mimicking behaviours of its learning both cognitively and instrumentally. Through the learning process, the international human rights regimes have been normatively diffused allowing China to socialise into the community faster because of the irresistible pressure and structural changing of international community, which accordingly raises China’s into the international consciousness in praise and condemnation. Its conformity can be attributed to its growing conceptions of being an international member of the international community. Social influence and persuasion admittedly do play a significant part. However huge dissimilarities in formulating human rights remain between China and the Western countries. The Chinese definition of human rights is heavily twisted toward economic, social and cultural issues rather than political issues. These conflicts are inherently revealing in the compliance with international human rights regimes as a national interest of China which is highly associated with sovereign privilege and economic development and is viewed as a critical consideration when it comes to China’s behaviour towards international human rights regimes.

Furthermore, the case studies examined in this paper suggest that China demonstrates a substantial socialisation into the international community. The first decade after the Tiananmen incident presented confusion in China’s compliance with international institutions overall, whereas in the last decade China has demonstrated its growing inclination of conforming to international human rights norms by ratifying critical international covenants such as ICCPR and recognising certain significant international norms such as the conception of R2P. China is no longer viewed as a unitary actor in the international community. In most case studies concerning UN bodies, substantial procedural learning was evident. China presents its socialisation into the international community by a growing conformity to international human rights regimes in a more cognitive than instrumental sense, while its instrumental concerns have implications in particular for US-Sino diplomatic relations.

Furthermore, the strong trend of international institutionalisation nowadays can help the socialisation of China. The international forum and the trend of institutionalisation were reinforced by a growing awareness that finding common ground was a prerequisite for translating into accountable mechanisms for implementing these rights. Therefore, from the most part it can be concluded that “membership in in UN human rights bodies has indeed led China to become more internationally socialised but that cognitive/normative learning has been offset by its parallel efforts to reshape and reoperationalize their norms and procedures.” (Kent,1999)

Despite some genuine steps toward acting as a member of the international community the full implementation of core norms by China is still to come and as outlined above the country is at a crossroads. Cases in recent years reveal that China has remorselessly cracked down on dissidents and petitioners despite heavy global criticism. This raises important issues for not only China but also the whole human rights community for how to go forward from here. That is, to what degree that China at its national level is accountable for its human rights violation; moreover, in what ways-legal, social, political cultural do the international community make human rights violators in China liable under international institutions. What can be expected is that the rule of zero-sum game will implicitly change due to the rising institutionalisation in the international forum, which accordingly will require Chinese officials to have coherent answers for the human rights issues. China will increasingly have to defend their country’s record against the criticisms. Such a dialogue, which can be constructive, indicates that China is increasingly being regarded as a significant international stakeholder. Whether human rights will truly take grip there is questionable but at least the pursuit of “blood-smeared GDP” is being openly questioned. That at least is progress.


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