Handbook on Human Rights in China
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Handbook on Human Rights in China

Edited by Sarah Biddulph and Joshua Rosenzweig

This Handbook gives a wide-ranging account of the theory and practice of human rights in China, viewed against international standards, and China’s international engagements around human rights. The Handbook is organised into the following sections: contested meanings; international dimensions; economic and social rights; civil and political rights; rights in/action and access to justice; political dimensions of human rights in Greater China; and new frontiers.
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Chapter 5: Human rights in Chinese foreign policy: a battle for global public opinion

Katrin Kinzelbach


This chapter reviews from when, why and how human rights have played a role in the foreign policy of the People’s Republic of China. Until 1988, human rights did not figure prominently in Chinese diplomacy. From 1989 onwards, as a result of an international outcry against the violent crackdown of peaceful demonstrations, the Party-state initially employed a defensive rhetoric that focused on downplaying human rights violations. Beijing’s diplomats offered to engage in confidential dialogues and signaled goodwill by making a number of calculated concessions. As memories of the massacre faded and global power dynamics shifted, the Party-state’s international stance on human rights became more assertive. This chapter argues that the People’s Republic successfully used a combination of propagandistic communications and tools of power politics to immunize itself against international human rights criticism.

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