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China’s Theoretical Innovation and Practical Contribution to the Right to Development
June 30,2017   By:CSHRS

China’s Theoretical Innovation and Practical Contribution to the Right to Development

——In Commemoration of the Thirtieth Anniversary of the United Nations’ Declaration of the Right to Development

WANG Xigen*

The right to development is one of the greatest contributions of developing countries to the human rights system. As the largest developing country in the world, China has been conducting persevering and beneficial explorations in the development of the concept of the right to development, idea optimization and practical protection. The year 1986, when the Declaration on the Right to Development was adopted, saw the beginning of reform and opening-up in China. Through development practices in over 30 years, great progress has been made in poverty alleviation, food safety, medical care, social security and education equality etc. China is the first country to have completed the poverty alleviation goal in the Millennium Development Declaration ,1 and is an active advocate and practitioner of Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Constantly resolving difficult problems on human rights and development and bravely conducting theoretical innovation, China has gradually developed a discourse system on the right to development with Chinese characteristics, and formed unique modes of practice, which are mainly summarized as the following basic conclusions.

I. In Terms of Orientation, the Right to Development is the Primary Basic Human Right

There are different views as to which human right is the most important in the human rights system. Some hold that citizens’ personal freedom is the most basic right; others that political right should rank top; and others still hold that there is no priority in human rights, as human rights in any form are equally important. The key to the existence of such different views is the existence of different values. As Comrade Deng Xiaoping pointed out long ago, “[w]hat are human rights? The first point is, how many people’s human rights? Human rights of the minority or the majority, or all people in a State?”  2To resolve the problems of clothing, food, living and transportation is the most important human right. “In China, the right to subsistence and the right to development are the most fundamental and important human rights.”  3“To maintain and promote people’s right to subsistence and the right to development is always the most important issue for China in terms of human rights.”4  The right to development and the right to subsistence have together become primary rights in the human rights system for the following reasons: The first is an external basis. “China advocates the mutual respect of national sovereignty, and gives priority to maintaining the right to subsistence and the right to development of peoples in developing countries.”  5In today’s world with the polarization of the poor and the rich, social and economic development in many developing countries is slow, and one third of the people in developing countries live beneath the poverty line. Only when the extremely adverse influence of the unfair and unreasonable old international political and economic order on development is eliminated and a fair, reasonable new international relationship order is established can active conditions be created for the common development of all mankind. “For peoples in the developing countries, the most urgent human right issue is still the right to subsistence and the right to economic, social and cultural development. Therefore, the right to development should be prioritized.”  6The second is historical basis. China is the country with the largest population in the world with relatively poor per capita resources and unbalanced development. Like other developing countries, for a long-time China was subjected to foreign invasion, occupation, plunder and oppression; and after the Second World War, China was contained by “Cold War” thoughts, and its economic and social development was seriously blocked. “To enjoy the right to subsistence and the right to development has historically become the most urgent demand of Chinese people.” The third is a theoretical basis. Fairness and justice are core social values. To comprehensively and equally enjoy the right to development meets the national conditions and the basic interests of all people in China. The fourth is a realistic basis. Since reform and opening-up, “the Chinese government has been prioritizing the solution to people’s problems with the right to subsistence and the right to development” and vigorously developing the economy. The miracle of becoming the country with the highest average annual growth rate in its national economy has been achieved, and people’s living standards have been greatly improved. Practices have proven that “China prioritizes the right to subsistence and the right to development, comprehensively improve the conditions of human rights under the conditions of reform, development and stability…The achievements made are also recognized by the world.”7  Of course, to stress the priority of the right to development is not to deny the importance of other human rights. On the contrary, while stressing the right to subsistence and the right to development, China regards the protection of citizens’ political, economic, social and cultural rights as a human rights goal not to be neglected, because all types of human rights and their specific forms are interdependent and inseparable. This is a “path promoting and developing human rights that truly meeting the national conditions in China" 8, which is of critical importance to comprehensively respecting and protecting human rights.

II. In Terms of Nature, the Right to Development is an Essential Requirement of Socialism

On one hand, a basic conclusion is unprecedentedly drawn from the positive side that to realize all people’s equal right to development through common prosperity is the essential characteristic of socialism. The relationship between common development and socialism is disclosed, and common prosperity and equal development are taken as the essence and core of the basic political system in China. This is original both in the history of the international communist movement and the history of human rights. Comrade Deng Xiaoping has observed, “[t]he nature of socialism is to liberate productivity, develop productivity, eliminate exploitation, get rid of polarization, and finally realize common prosperity”. Common prosperity means fair distribution of the results of development, everyone enjoying the developmental results of socialism and sharing the benefits of reform,opening-up and economic development. We all know that interests are the substantive contents of rights, and rights are the externalization or forms of expressing interests. The interests and values manifested by common prosperity reflect the attributes of the right of development, and in essence are reflected as people’s right to development.

On the other hand, the relationship between the right to development and poverty is disclosed from the negative side. It is clarified that poverty is the biggest obstacle to the right to development, with the internal correlation between poverty and development, between human rights reflected at the height of institutional nature and a pioneering approach. First, the relationship between poverty and common prosperity. “Socialism is not to let the minority become rich and the majority stay poor. It is not like that. The greatest advantage of socialism is common prosperity, which reflects the nature of socialism.” 9 Second, the relationship between poverty and development. The breakthrough for development is poverty alleviation. “To practice socialism, we must develop productivity, as poverty is not socialism.” “First, we must get rid of poverty.”  “10China should resolve the poverty problem of one billion people, and the development problem of one billion people.” 11 “Poverty is not socialism, and development that is too slow is not socialism either.”12  Third, the relationship between poverty and people’s livelihood. “Socialism should eliminate poverty and improve people’s living standard.”13  We should effectively improve people’s well-being and let results of development more fairly benefit all people. Finally, the relationship between poverty and rights, especially the right to development. Just as Comrade Xi Jinping has observed, “[w]e should lay a foundation for poverty alleviation through development”, and “to eliminate poverty” is “the basic right of people in their pursuit of a happy life".14  The developmental course over 30-plus years has shown that the right to development is the proper meaning of socialism and an inevitable requirement for maximally releasing the values and functions of a social institution so as to finally realize all people’s equal right to development.

III. In Terms of Strategy, the Right to Development is Implemented by the Strategy that “Development is the Primary Task”

Since the launch of the reform and opening-up in 1978, the outlook on development proposed by the leading group centering on Deng Xiaoping, “development is a top priority",15  has enabled the practices of Chinese people on the right to development to enter a new historical period of rapid progress. This outlook on development is a complete system, including: the motivating force of development is reform, and we should remove obstacles of development and liberate and develop productivity through the reform of economic system and political system. The condition of development is opening-up, and we should drive and help the backland to realize better development by opening-up and leading development of coastal areas.  16The method of development is “to lay equal emphasis”, mainly including “laying equal emphasis on material civilization and cultural and ideological progress”, “laying equal emphasis on economic work and ideological work”, and “laying equal emphasis on construction and legal system”. The focus of development lies in centering on economic construction and accelerating the development of technology and education. The famous judgments that “technology is the primary source of productivity”, and “respect knowledge and respect talents” have been proposed. In 2002, it was proposed that “we should firmly grasp the primary task of development in governing and rejuvenating the country” . 17Since 2003, the scientific outlook on development centering on people and featuring comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable development has been gradually developed. “The scientific outlook on development is to aim at the all-round development of people and to let the results of development benefit all people.”18  The Decision of the CPC Central Committee on Several Major Issues Concerning the Construction of a Socialist Harmonious Society adopted by the Sixth Plenary Session of the Sixteenth CPC National Congress on October 11, 2006 has pointed out, “[t]o construct a harmonious society, we must stick to the people-oriented principle. We should always take the fundamental interests of the vast majority of people as the starting point and objective of all the work of the Party and the State, realize, protect and develop the basic interests of the vast majority of people, and constantly meet the growing material and cultural demands of the people. We should realize that development is for the people and depends on the people and the results of development are shared by the people and promote their all-round development.” Since the 18th CPC National Congress, in particular, the CPC Central Committee headed by Comrade Xi Jinping has disclosed the profound meaning of development from a new historical starting point by repeatedly stressing that “development is still the primary task of contemporary China", 19“development is the primary task",20“only with development can we eliminate the roots of conflict, only with development can we guarantee the people’s basic rights…Seek comprehensive development and make the basis of development more solid. The ultimate purpose of development is for the people.”21

IV. In Terms of Contents, We Should Realize the Right to Development Integrating Economy, Politics, Culture, Society and Ecological Conservation

The right to development may be broken down to the political right to development, the economic right to development, the social right to development and the cultural right to development. After the proposal of the strategy for sustainable development, the right to sustainable development should also be included. The “five-in-one” construction and development theory has overcome the backward outlook on development that equates development to economic growth, it does not simply copy the right to development in four aspects, economy, politics, society and culture, as determined in the preamble and Article 1 of the Declaration on the Right to Development; instead, following the new contemporary trend, the outlook actively plans for and enhances sustainable development. Therefore, this outlook has two significant innovations: First, the development from “four aspects” to “five aspects”, with particular emphasis on the coordination and consistency among the five key variables, politics, economy, society, culture and ecological conservation. Second, the development from “being scattered” to “integrated”, that is, focusing on people’s interests as the basic end results and sticking to people-centered development. In the five aspects of development, political development is the prerequisite for other developments, constituting the basic starting point and foothold of the right to development; only when people enjoy the political status and legal qualification for being masters of state affairs can they participate in the decision-making and process of development in an orderly and effective manner and determine their own fate and interest in development. Economic development is key to all other developments and lays a solid foundation for the right to development. Just as Marx pointed out, “Rights can never overstep economic structure, or social and cultural developments constrained by economic structure”. To accelerate economic construction, upgrading the level and quality of economic development and meeting people’s material demands are the primary meaning of the right to development, which substantially surpasses the theory of property right in the classical outlook on human rights, and the theory of economic rights in the modern outlook on human rights. Although Locke proposed the idea of classifying human rights into rights to life, health, freedom and property several hundred years ago, the right to economic development far exceeds the right to property.The rich and diversified contents and forms of the right to development can protect the right to development to a larger extent. We may say that without economic development, any right to development would be a meaningless term. Social development secures the right to development. China does not adopt the liberal idea of development, nor does it copy the idea of social development in the West, especially welfare states in Northern Europe. Instead, based on its national conditions, China matter-of-factly explores the socialist theory of social security with Chinese characteristics, which may be called how to gradually develop from urban-rural dual interaction to the unified “outlook of social equality”. Cultural development is an important content in the right to development. Culture is the value basis for the right to development, while the right to development is rooted in specific culture. Without culture, the right to development would lose soft power. Advanced and open national culture is not only a necessity for gathering power of development, but also a constituent of the right to development per se. Ecological conservation not only directly constrains development but also constitutes a basic element of development and becomes a key to promoting sustainable development. A series of insightful ideas have been developed centering on the relationships between the right to development and carbon emissions, GDP and the right to sustainable development, as well as the environment and the right to development, which make due contributions to enriching the right to development.

V. In Terms of Concept, It is Proposed that People Equally Participate in the Equal Right to Development

The 17th CPC National Congress held in 2007 officially included the concept of “the right to equal development” into a conference document of the highest level of the ruling party, and the 18th CPC National Congress held in 2012 re-emphasized that “we should ensure the right of all people to equally participate in equal development”. Article 1 of the Declaration on the Right to Development clearly provides, “[t]he right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized”. Therefore, the right to development is a unity of the right to participate in development, the right to promote development and the right to share the results of development. Participation in development is the most basic requirement of enjoying the right to development, and the right to participatein economic life is the basic measure for acquiring the right to development. Hence, to resolve the relationship between various elements of development, we should always stress all-dimensional participation in all processes of development centering on economic construction,emphasize the extensiveness and democratic requirement of political participation. This will allow people to master their own fate and determine their own interest in development and in the effective participation in political decision-making. Promoting development means the in-depth and continuous participation in it and an important guarantee for sustainable enjoyment of the right to development. From the perspective of the right to development, we not only need meaningful and valuable participation but also coherent and interactive participation, as only participation on the latter level can effectively promote the right and obtain the substantive benefits of development. Otherwise, the right to development would surely not be truly implemented through passive, negative or temporary participation.

Besides the right to participation in and promotion of development, the ultimate significance is to invest the results of development in participation and promotion and to realize the justice of distribution of development benefits. The basic conclusion that the Communist Party of China has repeatedly confirmed, “making results of development more fairly benefit all the people”, correctly answers the relationship between the means and end of development and the relationship between development and the right to development. Development is a prerequisite for the right to development, but development does not necessarily equate the right to development. Only when we integrate the course and results of development, and the means and end of development, can they be actualized as the right to development. In the final analysis, we should clarify the relationship between development and human rights in theory, define the relationship between efficiency and equality, and construct a basic theory with Chinese characteristics for equitable distribution of results of development.

VI. In Terms of Principle, We Should Stick to the People-Centered Orientation of the Right to Development.

To replace the classical theory of “popular sovereignty” with the theory of “people as central subjects” is a major theoretical innovation in human rights, including the right to development. The original point of the right to development is people, and the subjects of the right to development are also people, that is, the entire population and each individual that forms it, instead of a part or a small number of elites. Any discrimination based on birth, identity or status is against the original intention of the right to development. Article 2 of the Declaration on the Right to Development provides, “[t]he human person is the central subject of development and should be an active participant and beneficiary of the right to development”.“People” are the key to the issue of the right to development. The Western concept of human rights was developed in the Renaissance and the Period of the Bourgeois Revolution. The ideas of “popular sovereignty” or “sovereignty residing in people” put forward by Rousseau played an historic role in the progress of these ideas by laying a foundation for the development and revolution of the bourgeois concept of human rights. However, natural rights, social contracts and the binary opposition of civil society and political state on which this theory was established are, by their nature, idealistic and empirical, which will inevitably be reduced to elitism and elitist human rights. People orientation was proposed in ancient China, and people-oriented development has evolved into the idea of people as subjects.This means that people are the subjects of the right to development and people’s interest in equal development is a core concern of the right to development. The “theory of people as subjects” follows the Marxist tradition and sticks to the idea that equality should not stop at the so-called constitutional status of people as equal participants in state sovereignty in the political field, but must be promoted to all fields of human life including society, economy and culture etc.” 22 That is, the multi-dimensional economic, social, cultural and political right to development should be equally enjoyed by all people, and the basic interest of people should be the fundamental aim of all developments.

The CPC Central Committee headed by Comrade Xi Jinping has determined people as subjects as the basic value and objective for state governance, which is epitomized in a series of resolutions, important speeches and discussions since the 18th CPC National Congress. The Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC National Congress decided to establish “people as subjects” as a basic principle. The Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC National Congress further stressed that “to realize, maintain and develop the fundamental interests of the vast majority of people is the fundamental purpose of development, and we must stick to the people-centered idea of development, and take the enhancement of people’s well-being and promotion of people’s comprehensive development as the starting point and foothold of development”.

VII. In Terms of Steps, We Should Enhance the Right to Development in the “Chinese Dream” for the Great Revitalization of the Chinese Nation

The essential objective of the “Chinese Dream” may be summarized as “two centennial” objectives, that is, the objective of “comprehensively building a well-off society on the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China” and the “establishment of a rich, democratic, civilized and harmonious socialist modernized country on the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China". 23 Comrade Xi Jinping has observed, “[t]he Chinese Dream, in the final analysis, is a people’s dream, which must be realized by closely relying on the people and must keep bringing benefits to the people".24  Therefore, “human” rights are the basic reliance and ultimate goal on the path of realizing the “Chinese Dream”. “Development is a cause involving all people”, and “development…always centers on people and takes people as the starting point and end of all actions for development".25 Marx and Engels repeatedly stressed the importance and necessity of improving and developing people’s capacities, deeming that “everyone’s responsibility, mission and task are to comprehensively develop all their capacities”; “everyone is indisputably entitled to develop themselves.”26  Capacities are where rights virtually reside, all human rights are the unity of legal capacity and action capacity, and the acquisition, endowment or generation of capacities are the basic marks and source of power of human rights. Therefore, we should enable each Chinese person to stand on a stage of self-improvement and serving society, and allow them the opportunities to live a brilliant life and turn their dreams into reality.

In terms of contents, the Chinese Dream consists of three major aspects, prosperity, national revitalization and people’s happiness. But in the final analysis, the Chinese Dream is for people’s happiness and welfare and for people’s right to have a greater “sense of achievement”, that is the right to acquire the increasingly fruitful results of reform and development. Therefore, we should “constantly make new progress in ensuring that all our people enjoy their rights to education, employment, medical care, pension, and housing, and constantly realize, protect and develop the basic interests of the vast majority of people".27

VIII. In Terms of Focus, We Should Construct a Fair Social Security System.

“Equality of opportunity for development” is a central meaning of the right to development. One basic conclusion of the Declaration on the Right to Development is, “[t]he right to development is an inalienable human right and that equality of opportunity for development is a prerogative both of nations and of individuals who make up nations.” Therefore, “equality of opportunity” has become a theoretical keynote of the Declaration. China has added new aspects to this basis by optimizing “equality of opportunity” to “social equity”, proposed the construction of a social equity system with equity of rights, equity of opportunities and equity of rules to ensure the realization of the right to development. As the report of the 18th CPC National Congress highlighted, China must “[l]ose no time to construct a system playing a major role in ensuring social equity and justice, gradually establish a social equity and security system with right equity, opportunity equity and rule equity as its main contents, strive to create an equitable social environment and ensure people’s equal participation and equal right to development”.

As far as orientation is concerned, “the view of social equity” can be used as an important theoretical basis for ensuring the right to development transcends the Western formalist view of human rights that everyone is equal before law. On the issue of justice, from ancient times to the present, there has been constant dispute in the West. The nature of such a dispute lies in the fact that the difference and connection between equality and equity have not been identified. In fact, equality and equity not only have similarities but also should be strictly differentiated. Equality, which advocates the equation, equivalence and parity of quantity, is an objective factual judgment; while equity should be a subjective value judgment, stressing fairness, justice and reasonableness, instead of simply emphasizing equation. Since the proposal of the objective of constructing a harmonious society at the Fourth Plenary Session of the 16th CPC National Congress, social equity and justice have been placed in a more important position. First, the correlation between equity and the development of people’s livelihood has been equity and the development of people’s livelihood is re-examined and positioned from three heights: social nature, state governance and core value. The report of the 18th CPC National Congress put forward that equity and justice are the internal requirements of socialism with Chinese characteristics. On January 7, 2014, President Xi Jinping reiterated at a political and legal work meeting of the CPC Central Committee that “the critical path to state governance lies in equity and integrity”and stressed that “we should take promoting social equity and justice as a core value pursuit and take the guarantee of people’s livelihood and employment as a basic goal”. Furthermore, he stated that “[s]ocial equity and justice start from the fundamental interest of the vast majority of people".28  Therefore, social equity is a core value of development and an essential condition for the right to development.

In terms of system, equity of rights, equity of opportunities and equity of rules surpass the abstract classification of formal justice and substantial justice. If equality of opportunity is a prerequisite, and equality of rights is an objective, then equity of rules is the key. “On whatever level of development, system is an important guarantee for social equity and justice. We should strive to overcome any violation against equity and justice caused by human factors through innovative institutional arrangements, and guarantee people’s equal participation and equal right to development.” “While constantly expanding the ‘cake’, we should also do a good job in sharing the ‘cake’”; “provide solutions through institutional arrangements, legal norms and policy support”.29

In terms of scope, the theory of justice for human development is used to replace the theory of social justice or global justice. Rawls’ social justice cannot jump out of interior affairs of a state to focus on the justice in the international community. He also came to realize this point in his late years and attempted to change it in the course of constructing a jus gentium system.Regretfully he failed to realize the change due to the inherent features of his theory. A “decent society” must protect the basic rights of all nationals, but this list of human rights only includes the right to life, the right to freedom, the right to personal property and the right to access formal equality. All nationals should approve this simple list of human rights.  30In fact, “whether in a free society or a decent society, it will not be very likely to have any result to accept this list of human rights”. 31 “Rawls’ goal is a realistic Utopia.”32  “Rawls, Blake or Negal have no excuse to exempt cross-border institutional arrangements from the evaluation of social justice.  33Besides, if the maintenance or reform of justice of international rules and international organizations is lost, global justice would never be realized.

IX. In Terms of Method, We Should Promote the Right to Development throughthe Idea and Method of Rule of Law

Rule of law, reform, anti-corruption and good governance are external guarantees for the right to development. The 18th CPC National Congress put forward for the first time that “we should employ thoughts and methods of rule of law to deepen reform, promote development, resolve conflicts and maintain stability”. The Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC National Congress re-stressed this point, while the Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC National Congress specifically pointed out that “we should promote development by ideas and methods of rule of law"34, and separate the promotion of “development” by rule of law from deepening reform, resolving conflicts and maintaining stability, which reflect the extreme importance of rule of law for development and the right to development. Of its internal mechanisms, the first is based on the scientific proposition that a “market economy by nature (should) be a rule-of-law economy".35 To promote economic development, “we must comprehensively promote the construction of a socialist country governed by rule of law and provide institutionalized solutions for these problems through rule of law".36 The second mechanism is derived from the nature of rule of law with Chinese characteristics, that is, “people are subjects in comprehensive state governance by rule of law”. Sticking to the status of people as masters of themselves and maintaining the basic requirements of people’s interests are the fundamental differences between socialist rule of law and capitalist rule of law. We should “maintain people’s rights and interests and enhance people’s well-being in the whole course of law-based governance, and make law and its implementation fully reflect people’s will";  37“we should unswervingly enforce rule of law and one important intention is for the benefits of our children and future generations and long-term development”; “to realize economic development, political transparency, cultural prosperity, social justness and fine ecology, we must better play the guiding and regulating role of rule of law.” 38 Third, we should ensure the equal right to development by coordinating the relationship between development and interest conflict. Given the overall good situation of development, we should eliminate unbalanced, inharmonious and unsustainable problems in development. “To resolve the outstanding problems that people are most concerned with, that is, education, employment, distribution of income, social security, medical care and housing, we need totightly weave a net of law and strengthen the force of rule of law.  39Fourth, we should base ourselves on the proposition that “the problem of rule of law or rule of man is a basic problem in the history of human politics and civilization”, to skip over the “development pit” simply equating development with economic growth.

The course of realizing the right to development is in fact a course in which mankind becomes constantly modernized. “With a comprehensive view of modern history in the world, we can see that no country that has been successfully modernized has not well addressed the problem of rule of law or rule of man. On the contrary, though some countries once realized rapid development, yet they have not successfully entered the threshold of modernization, but sunk in this or that ‘pit’, and led to the stagnation or retrogression of economic and social development. The latter situation, to a very large extent, is related with ineffective rule of law.” 40 Fifth, we should be based on the “four aspects” of “comprehensively building a well-off society, comprehensively deepening reform, comprehensively governing the State by law, and comprehensively strengthening Party self-discipline”. To comprehensively deepen reform is the basic drive for realizing the right to development, to comprehensively govern the State by rule of law is the basic guarantee for realizing the right to development, to comprehensively build a well-off society is the basic support for the right to development, and to comprehensively strengthen Party self-discipline is the basic guarantee for realizing the right to development. To comprehensively build a well-off society is an important milestone in the course of realizing the right to development. “To realize this goal by 2020, the level of development in our country will ascend a big step.” And “without comprehensively deepening reform, development will lack drive, and the society will lack vitality. Without comprehensive law-based governance, it will be difficult to realize the harmonious development of the society”. Without comprehensively exercising self-discipline of the Party, we cannot make good use of public power to seek the right to development.  41Only when “four comprehensive efforts” support, promote and enhance each other, can we jointly assume the sacred mission of maximally guaranteeing all the people’s right to development.

X. In Terms of Ideas, We Should Guide the Right to Development through an Innovative, Coordinated, Green, Open and Sharing Outlook on Development

All human rights are established on a certain theoretical basis. As a new human right, for the right to development to be effectively implemented, we must constantly optimize our idea. The Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC National Congress put forward, “[t]o resolve the difficult problems of development, and foster advantages of development, we must firmly establish innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared ideas of development”. 42 The internal connection with the right to development is reflected as:

Innovation is the primary drive to realizing the right to development. The development from exogenous development to endogenous development is a basic approach for acquiring vitality. “Endogenous development means a course for self-sustaining by using local resources and embedded development without relying on international financial institutions, trans-national corporations and the constraint of international regulatory institutions.”43  A key reason for the difficulty to realize true improvement to the right to development is that current international economic and political relations make it impossible to acquire independent and self-sufficient innovative development. Development must firmly rely on the technologies, fund and management experience of developed countries. Innovative development from the perspective of the right to development covers four levels of meaning: (1) innovative orientation of the right to development. In terms of the relationship between innovation and the right to development, it is proposed that “innovation is placed on the central position of the whole situation of national development”, and “to make efforts in innovation is to work on development”.44  (2) The endogenous drive of the right to development. On the path of practice promoting the right to development by innovation, the most fundamental is to enhance the ability of independent innovation and take the path for realizing independent and self-sufficient innovation. (3) The innovation system for the right to development. “We should further implement the strategy of innovation driving development, promote technological innovation, industrial innovation, enterprise innovation, market innovation, product innovation, business innovation and management innovation and accelerate the development of an economic system and development mode with innovation as the main guidance and support.” 45 (4) Self-innovation of the right to development. Innovation is not just technological innovation but cannot do without innovation in theory, system and culture. Currently, as to whether the right to development exists and to its theoretical basis and institutional guarantee, there are serious disagreements and even sharp opposition in the international community. Therefore, to realize the right to development, we should conduct our own theoretical, institutional and cultural innovation instead of fully relying on technology-centered material innovation. To this end, we should construct a recognized basic theoretical system for the right to development, develop a complete policy and law regulatory system for the right to development, and create a culture for the right to development generally accepted by mankind. Each of these three aspects has a long way to go, in which we should make a difference.

Coordination is an internal requirement for realizing the right to development. The right to development is a product of deep integration of subject, time and space and elements. The theory of equality in Western academic circles, post-modernism and the attachment theory of the Latin-American school, among others, to some extent, include analyses of the gap of development and unequal development, which has also produced a certain positive significance. Equal development on which the right to development in China depends may be called a “theory of comprehensive coordination”. From the comprehensively coordinated and sustainable scientific outlook on development to the current new outlook of coordination, the contents and degree have been constantly developed and deepened. Importance is not only attached to coordination between urban and rural areas, among different regions, between economy and society, man and nature, and international and domestic situations.There is also deep coordination conducted inside each group of coordination objects, with stress on “promoting the simultaneous development of new industrialization, IT application, urbanization and agricultural modernization, improving national soft power while enhancing hard power, and with continuous reinforcement of overall development”. To “reinforce the coordination of development, we must expand the space of development in coordinated development and strengthen the capacity for development in weak areas”. This means that we should mainly protect the right to development of those that develop later,providing general protection of the right to development, specifically reflected in: (1) promoting coordinated regional development and realizing a regional right to development. While region is originally a geographical concept, instead of a subject of human rights, the miracle for realizing the right to development in China starts from regional development. Through the construction of special economic zones, open cities, Western development, rise of Central China, revitalization of old industrial bases in Northeast China, urban groups, urban circles and main function areas, we are able to “create a new pattern of coordinated regional development within the capacity of resources and environment with orderly free movement of elements, effective constraint of main functions, and equalization of basic public services, so that the sparks of regional development finally spread for the benefits of all people’s right to development”. (2) Promote urban and rural coordinated development and realize the right to development based on equality, with focus on protecting the equal right of development of farmers, migrant workers, and stay-at-home children. (3) Promote the coordinated development of material civilization and cultural progress to effectively protect the right to cultural development. The development from a civilized ancient country, to a large country of culture, to a cultural power is a long journey for the process of the right to development and is above all a sub-form of the right to cultural development formed by the interpenetration of the right to development and cultural development. The equal allocation of public and cultural resources such as culture, education and sports, the non-equal special preferential treatment for disadvantaged groups and weak regions are turned into reality by the policy balance of rule of law and mandatory intervention of public power.

Green development is a necessary condition for realizing the right to development. The right to development, at the beginning of its proposal, did not include any idea of sustainable development. As problems in the relationship between man and nature become more and more serious, increased attention is being paid to sustainable development and to optimize the right to development with sustainable development is put on the agenda. A new form of the right to development——“the right to sustainable development” comes into being. The concept of green development has brought new vitality for the sustainability of the right to development, mainly reflected as: First, new concepts of green development have been proposed, such as “ecological conservation”, “beautiful China” and “beautiful countryside”. President Xi Jinping’s explanation of the Suggestions of the CPC Central Committee on Preparing the 13th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development mentioned “green” seven times and “sustainable” four times.The purpose being to establish solid category pillars for the green tree of the right to development. Second, new values of green development have been disclosed. Following the tradition of “unity of heaven and man”, we keep innovating and put forward that “a fine ecological environment is the most equal public product and public good benefiting the most people”46 ; “environment is people’s livelihood”and “blue sky is also happiness”. 47 These scientific conclusions profoundly disclose the relationship between ecology and people’s livelihood, and point out directions of progress oriented by the right to development. Third, there is a need to focus on the objective of the right to sustainable development. The Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC National Progress stresses the use of the strictest rule of law to protect ecological conservation, and puts “the division of red lines of ecological protection” as the most important and overriding task for strengthening the construction of a system of ecological conservation. Fourth, we must define the relationship between the right to development and ecological protection. We should overcome approaches that take “the emission right as the right to development” and seek development at the cost of sacrificing the environment, take an active part in international actions on climate change, and compose a new chapter of “climate justice”.

Opening-up is an external condition for realizing the right to development. Article 4 of the Declaration on the Right to Developmentpoints out, “1. States have the duty to take steps, individually and collectively, to formulate international development policies with a view to facilitating the full realization of the right to development. 2. Sustained action is required to promote more rapid development of developing countries. As a complement to the efforts of developing countries, effective international co-operation is essential in providing these countries with appropriate means and facilities to foster their comprehensive development.” Early before the adoption of the Declaration, opening-up was already taken as a State policy in China and played a significant role in the system of institutional support for the right to development. The opening-up policies followed by China in the course of realizing the right to development have been upgraded to a new version of comprehensive deep opening-up. This includes a series of new ideas on promoting the right to development through opening-up: (1) “coordinating domestic and international situations”. “Improving the awareness and capabilities of domestic and international situations, and improving the quality and level of opening-up.”48  (2) About the “awareness of the community of human destiny”. It is necessary to strengthen global connections through cooperation for development, and “reduce inequality and disequilibrium of global development so that people in all States can enjoy the benefits from economic growth in the world”.  49(3) About the “system of international development”. Participation, innovation and optimization of the international development system provide excellent “international public products” for realizing the right to development and assuming international obligations. –The address on the Opening Ceremony of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (January 16, 2016). (4) About “global governance”. This concept was not initiated in China. But China gives it a fresh meaning and adds values such as equality, justice, democracy, opening-up, tolerance, peace and development. “We should encourage equal participation and full consultation and maximally enhance the open and inclusive nature of free trade arrangement”; improve “institutional discourse power in global governance”, and construct an extensive community of interest. (5) About “peace and development”. The five principles of peaceful co-existence are a great invention of China, which still shine in the pattern of human development. The acting principles and method for the right to development is adopted by the Declaration. Article 3 of the Declaration stipulates, “[a]ll States are obligated to cooperate with each other to ensure development and remove barriers for development. All States should promote a new international economic order based on equality of sovereignty, mutual reliance, and cooperation for mutual benefits, and encourage the observation and realization of human rights”. Peace and development depend on each other and cannot be separated. War, invasion, turmoil and armed force cause the greatest damage to the right to development. We should promote development by peace and consolidate peace by development. (6) About “peoples of all States share results of development”. Win-win cooperation for mutual benefits is the basic principle of opening-up. Oriented by the global right to equal development and through an innovation mechanism, we should ensure the free, convenient and rapid flow of production elements in all places worldwide to realize the maximum intersection of all parties’ interest and realize the maximum sharing of the right to development. (7) About “development cooperation”. Cooperation is a means for realizing the right to development instead of an end. Unilateralism is not an end of development cooperation, as development cooperation is for common benefits. In terms of the method of development cooperation, we’re dedicated to realizing the following transformation: first, transition from reduction or exemption of debts of fund and technical assistance in the past to strengthening the construction of development capabilities, to promote the right to development by empowerment. To “enhance all States’ development capacity”, the “international community should help developing countries to strengthen capacity building”. Second, the transition from the mode of rule of man with one discussion for one case to the mode of rule of law featuring good law and good governance. “Improve the international environment for development. Development also needs a fine external system environment. International financial institutions should accelerate governance reform and multi-lateral development institutions should increase resources of development.” Third, the transition from unilateral development cooperation to five-in-one development. Optimize and develop partnerships and construct new modes for multi-dimensional development cooperation with the interaction of five elements with international community guided cooperation, South-North cooperation, South-South cooperation, three-party cooperation and participation in cooperation by such stakeholders as private departments. Fourth, the transition from scattered cooperation to coordinated cooperation. “We should improve a development coordination mechanism: the macro-regulation function of the United Nations, special organizations, regional organizations and all States for development relationship should be further strengthened. Improve overall competitiveness through mutual complementation of advantages within regions and avoid negative overflow effect.”50

Sharing is an inevitable result for realizing the right to development. The Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC National Congress put forward, “[w]e should stick to shared development. We must stick to the guidelines that development is for people, development relies on people, the fruits of development are shared by the people, and more effective institutional arrangements should be made so that all the people can have a stronger sense of acquisition, the drive for development is enhanced, people’s solidarity is strengthened, and all people stably march towards the direction of common prosperity”. To share the right to development is mainly reflected as: (1) Sharing the right to development among subjects. Everyone sharing the benefits of development is the essence of sharing. All the people and each individual, regardless of their innate or acquired differences, should all share the possibility of acquiring the right to development. Qualification sharing, opportunity sharing and sharing of rights and capacity are the essential nature of everyone sharing. “Chinese people jointly share the opportunity for a brilliant life, the opportunity for turning dreams into reality and the opportunity for growing and progressing together with the motherland and time.” We should correctly deal with the relationship between overall development and individual development. “Only when the country is good and the nation is good will everyone be good.” 51 On the other hand, the right to development is the right of each individual. It mainly strengthens the protection of the right to development of women, children, old people, persons with disabilities, and migrant workers. (2) The right to shared development in contents. Common prosperity is the prerequisite for sharing. On the basis of the right to share economic developments, to realize the right of comprehensive development is the basic content of the right to sharing development. “People’s yearning for a good life is the goal of our struggle.” Sharing the right to development means that people can enjoy “better education, more stable jobs, more satisfactory income, more reliable social security, a higher level of medical care services, more comfortable living conditions, and a better environment”.  52“Social construction should have joint construction and sharing as a basic principle.” “The construction of a housing security and supply system is an inevitable requirement for promoting social equality and justice and guaranteeing that the people share the results of reform and development.” 53“China should firmly implement the strategy of rejuvenating the State by science and education, strive to enable each child to share the opportunity of education, and strive to enable 1.3 billion people to enjoy better and more equal education and acquire the abilities to develop themselves, contribute to the society and benefit the people.” “Let millions of children share excellent education under the blue sky and change their fate with knowledge.” 54 (3) The right to sharing development in space. The right to sharing development requires that all people are equally treated and respected without differences in space and region and have an equal sense of acquisition. “Former revolutionary base areas” have drawn world attention as a special Chinese term. The right to development of rural areas, especially poverty-stricken areas, has become the “most difficult and heavy task” for China to realize the right to development. “If a well-off life is not developed for rural areas, especially poverty-stricken areas, a well-off society is not built in an all-round manner.” 55 “To construct a well-off society, no ethnic group can be left out.”  56“Development will not be complete without “former revolutionary base areas” becoming well-off, especially the poverty alleviation of poor people in these areas.” 57 To sum up, sticking to innovative development, coordinated development, green development, open development and sharing development is a serious reform concerning the overall situation of development in China, which endows unprecedented rich contents and fresh characteristics to the right to development and upgrades the theory of the right to development to a new realm.

 

*WANG Xigen ( 汪习根 ),executive director at Human Rights Institute, Wuhan University.

1According to the poverty standard of the World Bank, USD 1.25 a day (PPP in 2005), the poor population in the world amounted to 1.938 billion in 1981, was reduced to 1.212 billion in 2010, with a reduction of 726 million in the world. In the same period, the poor population in China was reduced from 835 million to 157 million (2009), with a reduction of 678 million. 93.3% of the poverty reduction comes from China. (The State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development,“China’s Contribution to Poverty Alleviation in the World”, accessed June 17, 2016, Xinhua Net http://news.xinhuanet.com/politics/2014-10/11/c_127086679.htm.)

2Deng Xiaoping, Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, Vol. 3 (Beijing: People’s Press, 1993), 125.

3Jiang Zemin, Selected Works of Jiang Zemin, Vol. 2(Beijing: People’s Press, 2006), 52.

4“China’s Human Rights Conditions 1991”, The Bulletin of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China39 (1991).

5“Since 1981, China has participated in each meeting of the government expert team for the drafting of the Declaration on the Right to Development by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and actively proposed opinions until the adoption of the Declaration on the Right to Development in 1986 at the 41th United Nations General Assembly. China also actively supports taking the problem of the right to development as a separate topic to be deliberated in the Human Rights Committee. China has always been a co-sponsor for the resolution of problems concerning the right to development in the Human Rights Committee.”(“China’s Human Rights Conditions 1991”)

6“China’s Human Rights Conditions 1991”, The Bulletin of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China 39 (1991).

7“The Progress in the China’s Human Rights Cause 1995”, The Bulletin of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China 32 (1995).

8“50 Years of Human Rights Development in China 2000”, The Bulletin of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China 10 (2000).

9Deng Xiaoping, Selected Works, Vol. 3, 364.

10Ibid., 225.

11Ibid., 229.

12Ibid., 255.

13Hu Jintao, Speech at the Seminar on Provincial and Ministerial Main Leading Cadres Improving their Capability for Constructing a Socialist Harmonious Society (Beijing: People’s Press, 2005), 12.

14Xi Jinping, “Jointly Eliminate Poverty and Promote Joint Development—A Keynote Speech on the 2015 High-level Forum on Poverty Alleviation and Development”, People’s Daily, October 16, 2015.

15Deng Xiaoping, Selected Works, Vol. 3, 377.

16Ibid., 277-278.

17Jiang Zemin, Selected Work, Vol. 2, 538-539.

18Hu Jintao, “Speech at the 12th Academicians’ Congress of the Chinese Academy of Science and the 7th Academicians’ Congress of the Chinese Academic of Engineering” (June 2, 2004), in Selected Important Literature Since the 16th CPC National Congress (Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2008), 113-114.

19Xi Jinping, “A Speech at the Welcoming Dinner Hosted by Local Governments and Friendly Organizations in the United States”, People’s Daily, September 24, 2015.

20Xi Jinping, “The Suggestion of the CPC Central Committee on Preparing the 13th Five-Year Plan for National Economy and Social Development”, People’s Daily, November 4, 2015.

21Xi Jinping, “Towards a Mutually Beneficial Partnership for Sustainable Development — a Speech at the UN Sustainable Development Summit”, People’s Daily, September 27, 2015.

22Xu Junzhong, “The Far-reaching Significance of Re-stressing ‘People’s Position as Subjects’”, Guangming Daily, April 23, 2016.

23Xi Jinping, “To Realize the Great Revitalization of the Chinese Nation Is the Greatest Dream of the Chinese Nation in the Modern Era”, in Xi Jinping About State Governance, eds. the State Council Information Office, the Party Literature Research Center of the CPC Central Committee, and the China International Publishing Group (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2014), 35-36.

24Xi Jinping, “A Speech Delivered at the First Meeting of the 12th National People’s Congress”, People’s Daily, March 18, 2013.

25AMADOU-Mahtar M’Bow, People’s Time, trans. Guo Chunlin and Cha Rongsheng(Beijing: China Translation Corporation, 1986), 97.

26Central Compilation and Translation Bureau, Complete Works of Marx and Engels (Vol. 2)(Beijing: People’s Press, 1960), 61, 330.

27Xi Jinping, “A Speech Delivered at the First Meeting of the 12th National People’s Congress”, Guangming Daily, March 18, 2013.

28Xi Jinping,“Effectively Unify Thoughts by the Spirit of the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC National Congress”, Truth Seeking 1 (2014).

29Ibid.

30John Rawls, The Law of Peoples, With the Idea of Public Reason, Revisited, Cambridge (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1999), 65.

31Thomas W. Pogge, “An Egalitarian Law of Peoples”, Philosophy and Public Affairs 23 (3) (1994): 215.

32Gillian Brock, “Recent Work on Rawls’ Law of Peoples: Critics versus Defenders (I)”, trans. Chen Ke, Foreign Theoretical Trends, Vol. 11, 2010.

33Thomas Pogge, Kant, Rawls and Global Justice, trans. Liu Xin and Xu Xiangdong (Shanghai: Shanghai Translation Publishing House, 2010), 529.

34Xi Jinping, “The Suggestion of the CPC Central Committee on Formulating the 13th Five-Year Plan for National Economy and Social Development”, People’s Daily, November 4, 2015.

35Excerpts of President Xi Jinping’s Discussions on Comprehensive State Governance through Rule of Law(Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2015), 10, 115.

36Ibid., 6.

37Ibid., 28-29.

38Ibid., 5.

39Ibid., 10.

40Ibid., 12.

41Xi Jinping, “A Speech in the Seminar of Major Provincial and Ministerial Main Leaders and Cadres on Learning and Implementing the Party’s Spirit of the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC National Congress and Comprehensively Promoting Law-based Governance”, People’s Daily, February 3, 2015.

42Xi Jinping, “The Suggestions of the CPC Central Committee on Formulating the 13th Five-Year Plan for National Economy and Social Development”, People’s Daily, November 4, 2015.

43Amin, A., “The Difficult Transition from Informal Economy to Marshallian Industrial District,”Area 26 (1994): 13-24.

44Xi Jinping,“A Speech on the Colloquium of Some Main Provincial CPC Party Committee Leaders in Changchun on July 17, 2015”, People’s Daily, July 20, 2015.

45Xi Jinping,“A Speech on the Colloquium of Main CPC Party Leaders in Seven Provinces and Cities in East China”, People’s Daily, May 29, 2015.

46Xi Jinping, “A Speech in His Inspection Tour in Hainanon April 8-10, 2013”, People’s Daily, April 11, 2013.

47Xi Jinping, “A Speech when the Jiangxi Delegation Participated in Deliberationon March 6, 2015”, People’s Daily, March 9, 2015.

48Xi Jinping,“A Speech on the Opening Ceremony of the Seminar of Major Provincial and Ministerial Leaders and Cadres Learning and Implementing the Spirit of the Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC National Congresson January 18, 2016”, People’s Daily, January 19, 2016.

49“Xi Jinping’s Address on the Summit of the G20, 2016”, People’s Daily, December 1, 2015.

50Xi Jinping, “Towards a Mutually Beneficial Partnership for Sustainable Development — a Speech at the UN Sustainable Development Summit”, People’s Daily, September 27, 2015.

51Xi Jinping, Excerpts of Statements on the Chinese Dream of Realizing the Great Revitalization of the Chinese Nation(Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2013), 3-4.


52Xi Jinping, “People’s Yearning for a Nice Life Is Our Goal of Struggle”, People’s Daily, December 16, 2012.

53Xi Jinping, “Accelerate the Construction of Housing Security and Constantly Realize the Goal of People’s Housing Security”, People’s Daily, October 31, 2013.

54On May 23, 2015, Xi Jinping sent a letter to congratulate the opening of the International Education IT Application Conference, People’s Daily, May 24, 2015.

55Xi Jinping,“A Speech When Visiting People in Straitened Circumstances in Fuping County, Hebei Province”, People’s Daily, December 31, 2012.

56Xi Jinping, “A Speech when Meeting Cadre and Mass Representatives in Gongshan Dulong Nationality and Nu Nationality Autonomous County of Nujiang Prefecture”, People’s Daily, January 23, 2015.

57Xi Jinping, “A Speech at the Colloquium on Poverty Alleviation in Shanxi, Gansu and Ningxia Revolutionary Area”, People’s Daily, February 17, 2015.