Edited by Sarah Biddulph and Joshua Rosenzweig
Chapter 2: Human rights in Chinese tradition
This chapter examines three approaches to the relationship between Chinese traditions (primarily variants of Confucianism) and human rights: Chinese traditions are (1) an obstacle to human rights; (2) an alternative to human rights; or (3) a source of human rights. Some scholars have insisted on one or other of these approaches, but this chapter argues here that there is truth in all of them. Tradition does not just teach us a single lesson about human rights and then retire from the field: traditions are dynamic, contested, and continue to be with us. Some of the reasons for the distinctive shape of modern Chinese human rights discourse lie with these traditional inheritances, though a range of political, legal, economic, and social factors also play into the on-going story. In the end, this chapter argues that modern Confucians should embrace the development of their tradition in directions that open up space for human rights.
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