Handbook of US–China Relations
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Handbook of US–China Relations

Edited by Andrew T.H. Tan

This Handbook addresses the key questions surrounding US–China relations: what are the historical and contemporary contexts that underpin this complex relationship? How has the strategic rivalry between the two evolved? What are the key flashpoints in their relationship? What are the key security issues between the two powers? The international contributors explore the historical, political, economic, military, and international and regional spheres of the US–China relationship. The topics they discuss include human rights, Chinese public perception of the United States, US–China strategic rivalry, China’s defence build-up and cyber war.
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Chapter 6: Human rights in US–China relations

Ming Wan


This chapter examines human rights in US–China relations since the mid-1990s, applying a theoretical framework of ‘events-transformed structures’, namely examining how some events transform the structures that affect state behavior. Defined as regularized patterns of social interaction, structure exists on different levels, dimensions or networks of power. Fundamentally, a structure-transforming event affects either or both physical and social environments, which necessitate visible adaptation in thinking and behavior. The singular event of Tiananmen in June 1989 transformed the structure of US–China relations, creating a new normal. Other key events in US–China relations helped mold the shape of US–China relationship, but the human rights subset has remained stable, which also constrains the overall bilateral relationship. This conclusion should be familiar for those who follow the human rights angle of US–China relations. But the chapter offers a stronger theoretical basis for that conclusion, which also enables us to connect this case potentially to other cases studied with a similar framework and to anticipate better future events.

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