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Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Discourse of Community of Common Destiny: China’s Ideas and Experience
July 10,2017   By:CSHRS

Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Discourse of Community of Common Destiny: China’s Ideas and Experience

ZHOU Li*

Abstract: Countries in the world lack the ability to maintain internal independence and to cope with new external risks, sovereign state relations based on respect for diversity are giving way to global solidarity. The concept of a community of common destiny for all mankind emphasizes relative independence along with the integration of human society and the joint liability of states. The basic principle is to recognize and respect diversity so as to maintain and enhance integration. In the discourse of a community of common destiny, we must look at human rights and the promotion and protection of human rights from a relational and symbiotic perspective. The concept of human rights is comprehensive, the universality of human rights does not mean the universality of human rights standards, and the global governance of human rights needs to strengthen both the internal c and external capacities and conditions of countries. In this regard, China’s experience is to form a task-oriented target governance model, enhance the enforceability and evaluability of the legal protection of human rights, substantiate and operationalize human rights principles and proposals at all levels through efforts such as establishing mechanisms andinitiating forums, and continue to implement and enhance the external cooperation mechanism. The vulnerability, diversity, and scarcity of individuals and human societies are the roots of the problems of global peace and security, and a community of common destiny is also a community of rights, obligations and responsibilities. Therefore, the promotion and protection of human rights is not a burden to be distributed, but a responsibility to be shared, a collective responsibility based on shared values.

Keywords: community of common destiny ♦ human rights ♦ promotion and protection ♦ideas and experiences

I. Introduction

The current international situation is complex, featuring one superpower and many strong nations, while the overall economic development remains weak. The deepening of the digital divide, the increasingly frequent confrontations between different cultural values, and the interweaving of traditional security threats and non-traditional security threats all have a bearing on the perception and protection of human rights and affect the basic survival and development of individuals and groups. The characteristics of trans-nationality, changeability of nationality, and uncertainty of subjecthood, seem to indicatethe inability of countries to maintain their internal independence and to cope with new external risks. However, look beneath the surface,they show cracks and imbalance in thecorrelative state relationsthat are based on diversity,and the inevitability of sovereign states becoming more closely related to each other.

On a number of occasions, China has put forward the proposal to jointly build a community of common destiny for all mankind, providing a guideline for the strategic direction of global relations, and putting forth the general ideas for the new path of global governance of human rights. This proposal will better promote and safeguard human rights onglobal scale.

II. Basic Theories to be Followed Concerninga Community of Common Destiny

The concept of a community of common destiny stems from the profound insight into the past experiences and the future development trends of human society. It goes beyond the idea of economic community and political community. It is not simply integration and talking with one voice. Rather, it returns to humanity itself, emphasizing the integrality and relative interdependence of human and the joint responsibilities of states. The basic principles of a community of common destiny will be discussed as follows.

A. Maintenance of stability relying on diversity

The stability of nature depends on biodiversity,1  and this principle applies equally to human societies. This principle was also included in document A/HRC/34/49 issued at the 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

It is necessary to emphasize that this stability is based on the dynamic stability of diversity. There is a constant interaction between each relevant element of the internal structure of the system, but externally it is always in a state of dynamic equilibrium that maintain stable operation. This kind of overall balance is reflected by elements accommodating each other within the system possesses. It is more flexible and has a strong ability to resist external risks. Stability without diversityis only a kind of static stability or rigid stability which is very easy to collapse.

B. Recognition of and respect for diversity

Diversity itself is a neutral natural state, whether in nature or for human societies. It is neither good nor bad. But what we often see is that some strong powerstrying to impose their own strength or values on others, to purposely eliminate the weak and the different, and to create an assessment of disadvantage so as to wipe out diversity, which result in manyhostilities and conflicts.

As far as human societies are concerned, it went through several historical stages, from the stage of human interdependence, to the relative independence of human beings, and then to the stage of human freedom.2 Due to the biological characteristics and social characteristics of individuals and groups, the influence of the external natural environment and social environment, and the differences in the level of political, economic and cultural development of nations, the evolution of human societies led to similarities and differences in the form of manifestation among individuals,ethnic groups, countries and regions.3  Any act that ignores or attempts to destroy this commonality and diversity is unwise and futile.

C. Maintenance and enhancement of the relevance and integrity of diversity

Culturaldiversity, whether recognized and respected or not, exists all the timeand will always be a prerequisite for stability. In this regard, we must understand it from both a positive perspective and a negative perspective. We cannot forcibly wipe out diversityby either impairinga relatively advanced cultural existence or eliminating a relatively less advanced cultural existence; nor should we forcibly treat different thingsin the same way, evaluating diverse phenomena according to the same criteria. If diversity means that each player has its own place and role, then it is necessary to recognize and respect the existence of others, let them fulfil their functions at different levels, and at the same time maintain the overall relations between them.

At present, the coexistence of developed countries, developing countries and less developed countries constitutes the diversity of the international community. The less developed countries and developing countries may solve some of the old problems through development, while the developed countries may face some new problems because of their development. Therefore, each country has to reflect honestly on its own situation, and play its own role in the international community. More importantly, uniformity should not be imposed on another. Any evaluation should be conducted on the premise of respecting national sovereignty and development characteristics of each nation, fully assessing and considering the level of development of each country, and continuously making amendments to this evaluation. Each nation should be committed to maintaining relations with other nations and promoting the integrity of the international community.

Confucian ideas like “[m]aintaining harmony while respecting differences”, and “[i]f beauty represents itself with diversity and integrity, the world will be blessed with harmony and unity”express these notions. Rooted in these ideas, the proposal for all countries to jointly build a community of common destiny highlights the understanding of the importance of global solidarity. On the basis of diversity,this notions calls for strengthening cooperation among sovereign states without undermining their independence and reinforcingthe basic responsibilities of each state in the international community.

III. Ideas of Human Rights in the Discourse of Community of Common Destiny

Recently we have seen the refugee tide caused by the unrest in the Middle East, and successive financial crises in East Asia and the Latin America that originated from one country and ultimately spread to the entire region, affecting the basic human rights of citizens in terms of survival, development, employment, social security etc. There are also some non-traditionalactors of security threats such as al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group and other terrorist organizations, which have “web-based” distribution. Although there are no subordinating relations among these groups, they are closely related and have operational flexibility, which always poses a threat to regional security and global stability. All of these indicate that human society is a community of internal associations that exists on the basis of diversity. One type of conflict may trigger a series of problems, the problems of one country may expand into the dilemma of multiple countries, local threats may disruptoverall harmony, and the political environment and the international political situation will inevitably affect human rights. In the discourse of the community of common destiny, human rights as well as the promotion and protection of human rights must be viewed from a correlation perspective.

A. Human rights are comprehensive and integrated

The ultimate goal of human society to pursue the security and peace, guarantee the subsistence, and commit to the development is to achieve a happy life that “[e]veryone can enjoy rights and dignity”. However, the understanding of human rights and happiness may vary among individuals and nations.

The concept of human rights in the discourse ofa community of common destiny for all mankind is, first of all, a comprehensive concept, which involves politics, economics, culture, society, environment, development and other fields. At the same time, it is a mapping concept, which means that the interests, demands, qualifications, powers, and independent choices involved in the aforementioned fields are expressed in the discourse of human rights, forming the mutual construction of rights and facts; and it is more of an integrated concept, which means that various human rights values, different types of subjects, as well as basic rights at all levels are integrated together. The basic attributes of this kind of human rights are rights, morality, universality, and inclusiveness.

B. Universality of human rights values does not imply universality of human rights standards

"Today, not a single country can openly deny human rights. Human rights have become a sacred idea, and the whole world is advocating the protection of and respect for human rights.”4  The legitimate claim of human rights is the value system that is universally acknowledged today, but there is more than one standard and one path to realize these claims.

In the eyes of some western scholars, the universality of human rights refers to the universality of the West’s human rights standards as well as the system and mode for protecting human rights. Its connotation is not the subject of “person”, but rather the “standard” and “norm”. While Western civilization is remarkable in terms of science, technology and industry and commerce, it does not support the conclusion that it is justified to establish a series of rights together with certain systems and models as the universal standard. This standard may be the best for Westerners, butmay not be the best for the rest. There isroom for improvement in promoting and protectinghuman rights in all countries. To recognize human rights is to recognize certain value, and the ideal standards for realizing this kind of valuescan only be coherent and effective if they stem from a certain social form, cultural tradition and development level.

C. Global governance of human rights needs to strengthen both domestic and external capacities and conditions

Developing countries lack the ability to resist and recover from external interference, but they are now faced with more interference from developed countries and increasing external risks. These problems reflect the global order and will also affect its stability.

From the perspective of the global governance of human rights, all sovereign states should strive for internal stability and development, enhance their internal governance capacity and the ability to resist external risks, respect the sovereignty of other countries and help maintain peace and security of other countries. This requires respect for the social system and development path of each state, respect for each state’s legal system,andmaintenance of diversity in human society in terms of politics, economy, culture and development level.

IV. China’s Experience of Promoting and Protecting Human Rights

The initiative to build a community of common destiny is the general idea behind all the initiatives put forward by China. China’s practice in recent years shows how this idea has been guiding the promotion and protection of human rights.

A. To form a task-oriented target governance model and to enhance the hierarchy, enforceability and assessability of legal protection of human rights

We have seen that over the past 30 years since the reform and opening up took place in China, 700 million Chinese people have been lifted out of poverty and the rural poor population has been reduced to 55.75 million by 2015. In addition, the country’s White Paper on Poverty Reduction and Human Rights Progress, issued in October 2016, provides a large amount of data and analysis which prove that while China is focusing on in its poverty alleviation, poverty reduction and poverty elimination, it also pays attention to citizens’ right to know, right to participate, right to express, right to supervise and other rights. The task-oriented mode for the promotion and protection of human rights has been formed. It will not only promote human rights, but will also improve democratic participation and people’s livelihoods, ensuring the indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of human rights.

We have also seen that China is also actively responding to the initiative of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and has issued three action plans in succession since 2009, and that the evaluation of the first two was satisfactory. The action plans set out specific indicators on two types of rights, including citizens’ political rights and citizens’ economic, social and cultural rights.Rights of specific groups, human rights education and research, human rights cooperation and exchanges, implementation and evaluation and other aspects, have reflected the target-based governance model which aims to comprehensively promote the development of China’s human rights. 5 In addition, the advancement of thematic guideline documents and policies in various industries and fields such as the Outline on the Implementation of a Law-Based Government (2015-2020), the China National Program for Child Development (2011-2020), and the China National Program for Women’s Development (2011-2020) promote the multi-layered human rights protection, and make the rights more enforceable and accessible, highlighting the government’s pragmatic approach to human rights protection.

B. To promote and strengthen human rights dialogue through mechanisms and forums

A multi-layered legal system of human rights has been initially formed in China , including recognition of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the convergence and application of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, China’s active participation in signing and implementingthe regional conventions, improvement of  the domestic legal system, and the implementation of the action plans and programmatic documents.

We have seen that China has also been actively involved in the United Nations Universal Periodic Review and various United Nations mechanisms to improve and facilitate the existing international mechanisms. It is also committed to promoting the Shanghai Cooperation Organizationand APEC. Through participating in the G20 and BRICS and promoting South-South Cooperation and its Belt and Road Initiative, China is committed to promoting the mutual cooperation between developing countries and finding global consensus. China adheres to friendly consultations from the perspectives of the economy, development and national self-determination, abides by the principle of combining the universality of human rights with specific national conditions, materializes and operationalizes the principles and initiatives of human rights at all levels through the establishing mechanisms and launching forums, and constantly strengthening and making the full use of the external cooperation mechanism.

V. Conclusion

The vulnerability and diversity of individuals and human societies and the scarcity of resources are the roots of the problems of global peace and security. Efforts should be made to seek a just, inclusive and peaceful external environment, and countries should continue to promote development, listen to the voices of others, promote dialogue, exchanges and understanding, and seek more common interests and common values.

We should be aware that “the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all."6 A community of common destiny is also a community of rights, obligations and responsibilities. In the past, the narrow view of national or state interests highlighted the independence of the interests, while ignoring the relevance, coherence and integrity of all national and state interests, resulting in many undesirable consequences. The promotion and protection of human rightsin the discourse of a community of common destiny should not only emphasize the rights, but also emphasize obligations and responsibilities and emphasize the dignity of state sovereignty and the respect for individual values. As President Xi said: “In the pursuit of its own interests, each country should accommodatethe reasonable concerns of other countries, and in the pursuit of its own development, each country should promote common development for all.”

This is not to share the burden, but to share the responsibility, the collective responsibility of a shared value.

 (Translated by MA Jing)

*ZHOU Li ( 周力 ), director of Management Department of Center for Human Rights Education and Research, research fellow of Research Center for Legal Sociology and Legal Anthropology, Southwest University of Political Science and Law.

1R. H. MacArthur, a Canadian born American scholar, first proposed the correlation between species diversity and stability in a natural community in 1955. The stability of a natural community depends on two factors, one is the number of species, and the other is the amount of interaction between species. According to a study of species invasions, the famous British animal ecologist CS Elton proposed a hypothesis similar to that proposed by MacArthur in the book Animal Ecology: First, under experimental conditions, it is easier for species in communities with a simple composition of species to go extinct than inn complex communities, although, at the same time, some habitat complexity is needed for the coexistence of predator and prey. Second, small islands are more susceptible to alien species. Third, the invasion of alien species and the explosion of a certain species are more common in farmland ecosystems where species are simple (especially a single crop).

2Marx put forward three major forms of development for human society: “Human dependency (which is entirely natural at first) is the original form of society in which man’s productive capacity develops only in a narrow range and in isolated places. The independence of human beings based on their dependency for things is the second form. In this form, comprehensive relations and comprehensive ability is formed. The free personality, based on the comprehensive development of the individual and their common, social productive capacity becoming subordinate to their social wealth, is the third stage. The second stage creates the conditions for the third stage. ”

3For each country, geographical location, climate state, its own historical process, cultural traditions, economic level, political form, etc., will affect the current existence and presentation.

4OnumaYasuaki, Human Rights, States and Civilizations: From the Universalist View of Human Rights to Cultural Compatibility of Human Rights, trans. Wang Zhi’an (Beijing: SDX Joint Publishing Company, 2003), 75.

5Fu Zitang, “Comprehensively Promoting the Development of the Cause of Human Rights in China by Means of Targeted Governance”, People’s Daily, November 25, column 21.

6Selected Works of Marx and Engels (Volume 1) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2012), 422.