(W.E. Talk) How is China Playing an Active Role in Global Human Rights Governance?

2022-08-07 Editor : Hao Yunhui ECNS App Download

(ECNS) - On February 28, 2022, Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China, attended the High-level Segment of the 49th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Beijing via video link. In the Segment, he put forward China's four proposals for promoting and protecting human rights, stressing that China will hold fast to encouraging democratization and legalization of international relations, practicing true multilateralism, and moving global human rights governance toward a fairer, more reasonable and inclusive direction. China will uphold the current Chinese concept of human rights, advocate common values of all mankind, make our contributions to the development of human rights in the world, and provide Chinese solutions.

We need to find answers to the following questions in order to have a thorough understanding of China’s role in global human rights governance: What is the significance of global human rights governance? What are the challenges? Why should China play an active part in the reform and development of the global human rights governance system?

The question of our time: The significance of global human rights governance

The starting point of our attention on global human rights governance should be on our understanding of the real world with reference to this time in history: people from all countries should uphold the concept of “The globe is one family” and work together to build a community with a shared future for mankind because our fates on this earth are bound together. Global human rights governance is a significant field in which governance and the cause of human rights are integrated organically. It is also an important research field where China contributes wisdom to humanity's civilizing values including the rule of law, rights, peace, development, fairness, justice, freedom, and democracy.

"Being committed to playing an active part in global human rights governance" is not only one of the main features of China's international development but also contributes to our valuable experience gained from domestically advancing China's human rights cause. We are committed to continuing to uphold and develop human rights in combination with our experience in this new practice. We shall advocate humanity's common values, practice true multilateralism and actively participate in the reform and construction of the global human rights governance system.

The question for our world: Challenges facing the global human rights governance system

The challenges facing global human rights governance, first and foremost, are the same urgent challenges that have always faced humanity, that is, the profound crisis within our failures to achieve peace, human development, and world governance. There are many specific challenges. Traditional and non-traditional security threats such as the arms race, nuclear weapons proliferation, terrorism, cyber security, climate warming, environmental problems, a financial crisis, and continuing global poverty are all connected to the protection of human rights. Peace and security, the rule of law, and human rights are challenges any global governance must address.

Second, the lack of equity and justice in the current global order has aggravated the human rights crisis in all countries around the world. A major challenge facing the current global human rights governance is that some Western countries callously manipulate international human rights issues to undermine multilateral solutions and any attempt to implement a global human governance system. The root cause of this obstruction is that recent changes in international politics, economics, and trade have weakened the foundation of liberalism’s value system supporting the western-dominated international order, exacerbating the inevitable divergence in global cultural and political identities and precipitating conflicts in values among countries which significantly complicates global governance.

In addition, the differences in concepts of human rights between China and the West have not been properly understood. This has created an obstacle to human rights dialogues and even induced confrontational discourse. Without any consideration of the importance of equality as a factor, the Western concept of human rights falls back into formalism and individualism, failing to respond to the deeper causes of social conflicts. In international exchanges, some Western countries are accustomed to using the Human Rights Council and other international human rights bodies as instruments to exert their own motives. They turn a blind eye to human rights violations in their own countries, impose double standards on other countries and make deliberately provocative comments constituting outright interference in the domestic affairs of other countries. All of which indicates that they have not left behind their former “great powers” logic of oppression and their ideological conception of a now extinct international order. Recent disputes over international economic and trade cooperation have also underscored this divide at the intersection of commerce and human rights governance.

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed new challenges for global human rights governance. These challenges lie in responding to common risks, handling human vulnerability, and improving institutional and social resilience. The expansion of global risks to include every society in the post-pandemic era reveals the complexity of managing any attempt at modern social governance and highlights human fragility, demanding new guidelines for improving the rule of law, protecting human rights, and achieving global justice. The current welfare models and legal control models of current modern governments for managing existential risk remain inadequate and a far cry from the one which might meet universally established human rights standards. The key goal of successful global human rights governance should center on pragmatic human adaptability and initiative to enhance governmental resilience in domestic and international communities.

The question for China: China's positioning and guidelines for global human rights governance

China has always been a supporter, practitioner, and promoter of the healthy development of the cause of global human rights. We oppose politicizing human rights or imposing "double standards" on human rights issues. We continue to advance the international community in addressing human rights issues in a fair, objective, and non-selective manner. China participates in and advances bilateral or multilateral human rights dialogue, actively moving the establishment of a global human rights governance order toward more fairness, justice, reasonableness and inclusiveness.

China has cooperated with multilateral human rights institutions of the United Nations including Charter-based and Treaty-based bodies, within which China is playing an increasingly important part. The human rights concepts advanced by China have been adopted into resolutions of the UN Human Rights Council and have become an important component of the global human rights conversation. China has played and will continue to play an active role as a responsible partner in the development of global human rights discourse and human rights governance mechanisms.

China has continually improved its domestic governance system, promoted high-quality economic and social development, and improved internal human rights in practice, thereby contributing to improving global human rights conditions. China stays committed to "empowering" people through development and continues to increase its "investment in people" so that more possibilities are created for people's freedom and opportunity.

China's own rule of law and human rights record has enriched the ideological resources and value available to the international human rights governance. The Communist Party of China has led the people in pioneering the right path to the modernization of administration that conforms to China's national conditions, follows the ideas contained in the rule of law, and leads to righteous regulation and governance. Featuring openness, inclusiveness, and science as its guide, this model is different from the evolved models of Western countries including Britain, France, and Germany, or the imitations of such models in East Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. Instead, China follows a new path, its own organic path, an interactive structure of top-down and bottom-up, in promoting its modernized template of a rule of the law society.

The question of which path: China's proposal for reform and development of the global human rights governance system

First, the rule of law and the issue of rights should have a shared common meaning in the consultations about reform and development of the global human rights governance system. It is necessary to promote positive dialogue about issues concerning the international community and rule of law. The platform for global human rights governance lies in the United Nations. That is the proper voice of the international community. Conversations about the rule of law, human rights, and democracy belong within the "universal and indivisible core values and principles of the United Nations" and are incorporated in the Charter of the United Nations. As an important conversation in the international community, the topics of applying the rule of law and human rights are international concerns, and the public good is generated by seeking to implement global governance through its offices. This process will help turn basic human rights and common human values into a global reality.

Second, the underlying force driving the reform of the global human rights governance system lies in promoting human rights through human development. Respecting, protecting, and realizing human rights throughout development actualizes humanity's freedom and universal progress. The uneven development of human potential is the largest imbalance in the world today. The populations of many countries suffer from insufficient and or uneven development in the fields of politics, economics, and social equality. This has been the result of a failure of efficient national governance, enfeebled state capabilities, and the inability to cope with the risks of modernity. This has led to human rights crises, humanitarian disasters, adverse impacts on neighboring countries, regional instability, and threats to international order. The principle of promoting human rights through development will result in the successful interaction between national human rights development and global human rights governance.

The basic strategy for developing a truly global human rights governance system is to allow nations to independently choose the path in modernizing the rule of law domestically. We should follow true multilateralism and work together to address the challenges in the process of modernization and globalization. We must respect the independent choices of all countries and advance shared value standards for establishing exchanges and mutual learning about respective systems and cultures. The governing principle must be to win the support of others peacefully, through communication, seeking to bring political stability, social development, and betterment to the lives of people, making a meaningful contribution to the cause of human progress.

Finally, the prospect of improving the global human rights governance system lies in embracing the diversity of democratic alternatives in the world and the varied systems which contain the rule of law, all realizing a common goal of " harmony in diversity" and "finding common goodliness". The diversity of global governance models containing these elements reveals that human rights is not merely a function of a country’s independent choice of several paths to modernization. The creation of a community containing human rights is also the result of a diversified internal dialogue of a community’s deep reflection and contemplation about the predicament of modernity. There will be no advance in human civilization without diversity, and such diversity will continue to exist. It is important that countries should pursue peaceful co-existence based on mutual respect and expanding common ground while reserving differences, promoting exchanges and mutual learning about the concepts of human rights, and contributing new energy to the goal of global human rights governance and human progress.

ZHANG Wanhong, professor of School of Law of Wuhan University and director of Wuhan University Institute for Human Rights Studies
Zhang Wanhong, professor of School of Law of Wuhan University and director of Wuhan University Institute for Human Rights Studies


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