Where Does China Stand on Human Rights, vs the West?

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen likes to assert, as she did on March 30, that “How China meets international obligation regarding human rights will be another test for how – and how much – we can cooperate with China”. But who decides what constitutes respect for or violation of human rights? An interesting question. And one that was taken up by Prof. Zhang Weiwei, director of the China Institute of Fudan University in Shanghai, in an article published June 14 in Xinhua under the title: “China’s Poverty Eradication and Its Implications for Global Human Rights Governance”.

The primary focus of the article is on the standard of living, which the Western model does not consider a criterion of human rights, while it is fundamental in the Chinese model, which has allowed China to lift 800 million people out of poverty, and 400 million people into the middle income bracket.

Prof. Zhang, a foremost scholar of the Belt and Road Initiative, writes: “The United States has never considered poverty eradication a human rights issue, while Europe considers it an obstacle to the realization of human rights at most. However, China has politically recognized poverty eradication as not only a human right, but also a core one, and has put it into firm, vigorous, and extensive practice.” In the Western view, “importance is only attached to the political rights of citizens, but their rights to survival and development are ignored.”

As a result, “China is at the forefront of poverty eradication in the world. It provides great inspiration for all developing countries since almost all of the biggest challenges facing developing countries are related to poverty eradication…. The Chinese people, through their great practice of poverty eradication, are, in a sense, redefining modernization and modernity.”

Prof. Zhang further notes that the “Global Development Initiative” recently proposed by Beijing, sees development and a people-centered approach as a priority. “Only through development can poverty be eliminated and the root causes of many conflicts be removed.”

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