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Questions: China and Human RIghts – What are Asian Values? Do they exist? Critically analyse China’s human rights strategies.  

Divergent Conceptions of Human Rights: Universal Legalism vs. Developmental Relativism

  • Western conceptions and constructions of human rights discourse have a heavier, if not predominant basis in establishing universal legal norms for individual political and civil rights (Dallmayr, 2002, p. 184) (think of the Enlightenment, and of figures such as Locke, Montesquieu, etc.)
  • China is indeed party to much of the UN’s dialogue on human rights, and has integrated the protection of human rights into its constitution (both by amendment to an article and constitutional revision) (Zhang and Buzan, 2019, pp. 9-10; Zhang and Buzan, 2019, pp. 16-17), but in practice continues to prioritize economic rights over political rights and often uses development as a justification to its denial of civil and political rights (what Zhang and Buzan term as “developmental relativism” (2019, pp. 7-8)
  • Consequently, Zhang and Buzan (2019, p. 8) contend that has exploited the dichotomy between civil and political rights and economic rights despite the overtures above to universalist conceptions of human rights


  • China’s crackdown on human rights activists, a prominent case being Chen Guang-cheng
  • China’s crackdown on Uighur ethnic minority in Xinjiang