From the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to Building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings — The Past, Present, and Future of International Human Rights Protection
April 10,2019   By:CSHRS
From the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to Building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings
— The Past, Present, and Future of International Human
Rights Protection
LIU Hainian*
Abstract: The UN Charter first of all affirmed the basic concept of international protection of human rights and opened up a broad space for international protection of human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an important document in the development of the international human rights cause. It established a set of international standards for basic human rights, represents the world’s most important consensus on human rights, and contributes greatly to the creation of an international human rights legal system. The important theory put forward by President Xi Jinping to build a Com-munity with a Shared Future for Human Beings, as a Chinese program for today’s global major issues, also outlines a new blueprint for national human rights protection and will play a major role in promoting the development of China’s human rights and international human rights protection.
Keywords: Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN Charter, international human rights protection, a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings
In 2018, the world celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948. Legally based on the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Declaration) is a result of the development of the principles of human rights protection in the UN Charter. It is also an important part of the world’s documents on human rights and a fundamental component of the world’s human rights legal system. The birth of the Declaration opened a new chapter in the international human rights cause and has played a historic role in international human rights protection for over half a century. “Building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings”, a concept proposed by President Xi Jinping, is a leap-forward development for the new era of the basic principles of safeguarding international peace and security and protecting human rights in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and outlines a new blueprint for international human rights protection. It plays a new and important role in further promoting China’s human rights development and international human rights protection.
I. The UN Charter First Recognized the Concept of International Protection of Human Rights
Essentially, in initial stages of humanity, people strived for survival out of instinct. In the long age of barbarism, people did not have a clear sense of rights, and could not form a clear concept of rights. After entering the civilized era, this awareness of rights has gradually emerged with the development of society and is reflected in different forms of demands among different groups and classes. All ethnic groups follow generally the same route.
The concept of human rights was proposed by early modern enlightenment thinkers after the Renaissance in medieval Europe against theocracy and feudal monarchy. In bourgeois revolutions, human rights, along with democracy and freedom, served as a slogan against feudal rulers. After the bourgeoisie seized political power, although human rights were confirmed in a legal form, they were not implemented in reality. As Karl Marx pointed out, “bourgeois ownership is declared as one of the most important human rights.”1 The bourgeoisie used the political powers to deprive the rightful rights of workers and peasants who had been allies of the bourgeoisie in the fight against the feudal royal families and the lords, deprived the colonial peoples of their rights, and restricted the rights of women of their own class. Taking the rights of women to participate in public affairs as an example, British women were granted parliamentary suffrage as late as in 1918. The start of women’s suffrage in the United States varied from state to state and nationwide women’s suffrage started in 1919. Women’s suffrage in France started in 1944 when Charles de Gaulle signed a decree during the interim government period. The United Kingdom, the United States, and France have successively granted women the right to vote and lifted restrictions on the qualifications of male citizens to participate in elections. This indicates that more people enjoy a wider scope of human rights. This is the result of the long-term struggle of the masses and is closely related to the influence of the two World Wars of the last century.
The First World War began in 1914. The war was mainly a result of the colonial powers — Great Britain, France, Germany (the Austrian-Hungarian Empire) and other colonial powers — fighting for control of their colonies. The United States and Turkey later joined different sides in the War. The War was mainly fought in Europe and also affected more than 30 countries in West Asia, North Africa and Far East, involving a population of 1.3 billion, accounting for about 75 percent of the world’s total population at that time and causing more than 40 million casualties. In Western countries, the Second World War is generally believed to have begun in 1941. However, the War started much earlier than that if we consider German fascist aggression against its neighbors and the Japanese militaristic war against China. The Anti-Fascist War actually began as early as the September 18, 1931, when the Japanese attacked the North Camp in Shenyang. World War II was fought between the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy and Japan and the Allied Powers of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, and France on Asian and European battlefields, involving more than 80 countries. Germany sent Jews, regardless of gender and age, into concentration camps, and put them into gas chambers and crematoriums. Six million Jews were massacred. The Japanese army used chemical weapons in tests using live humans as subjects in China and Southeast Asian countries, widely recruited comfort women, and in Nanjing alone massacred as many as 300,000 prisoners of war and civilians. The Japanese army carried out indiscriminate bombing and implemented the policy of “burn all, kill all, and seize all” wherever they went. Cities were laid to waste, and villages became uninhabited areas. In World War II, 27 million people were killed in the Soviet Union and 10 million injured. The numbers for China were more than 20 million and 15 million, respectively. With the deaths and injuries in other invaded countries and the victimizing countries, the total number of casualties reached more than 100 million people, accounting for about one-twentieth of the world’s total population at the time.
During the two World Wars, especially the Second World War, the brutal atrocities of Germany, Italy, and Japan outraged the peoples of the world. This also awakened their conscience and aroused the strong desire for peace, security and human rights. These wars also enhanced the consciousness of more people, nations and countries for national independence, national sovereignty and people’s liberation. It was against this background that the UN Charter, signed in June 1945, declares: “We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”
In order to achieve the above objectives, while emphasizing in the main text the maintenance of international peace and security and the promotion of global econom-ic, social and cultural development, the UN Charter also stresses the protection of hu-man rights. In addition to the Preamble referred to above, Article 1, Article 13 (paragraph 1), Article 55 (paragraph 2), Article 62 (paragraph 2), Article 68, and Article 76 of the main text of the UN Charter directly emphasize from different angles a universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms regardless of race, gender, language, and religion. Many other articles of the UN Charter also contain content on human rights. In particular, in order to promote economic, social and cultural development and human rights protection, Article 68 states: “The Economic and Social Council shall set up commissions in economic and social fields and for the promotion of human rights, and such other commissions as may be required for the performance of its functions.” This Article clearly provides for the establishment of the Commission on Human Rights and other organizations, which provides a basis for the subsequent establishment of the Human Rights Commission and the formation of an international human rights legal system based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The above provisions show that the UN Charter was the first international law document that affirms the international protection of human rights.
When the UN Charter was being drafted and adopted, China was still in the period of cooperation between the Kuomintang (K.M.T) and the Communist Party of China (C.P.C). Dong Biwu, an important founder of the CPC, was a member of the Chinese delegation to the United Nations. He participated in the inaugural meeting of the UN and participated in the formulation of the UN Charter. On June 24, 1945, when Chairman Mao Zedong spoke of diplomatic issues in the political report of the 7 th CPC National Congress, he pointed out: “The basic principle of the CPC’s foreign policy is to establish and consolidate diplomatic relations with other countries, and solve all the problems of mutual relations on the basis of thoroughly defeating the Japanese aggressors, maintaining world peace, respecting each other’s national independence and equality, and enhancing the interests of China and her people.” Regarding the establishment of the UN General Assembly and post-war institutions for safeguarding international peace and security, he said: “The Communist Party of China welcomes the San Francisco Conference. The Communist Party of China has sent its own representative to join the Chinese delegation to the San Francisco Conference to express the will of the Chinese people.”2 During the drafting of the UN Charter, the Chinese delegation proposed a series of constructive motions. For example, that international disputes must not be solved by force; all nationalities, regardless of their large or small, should be equal; the integrity and political independence of every country should be respected; the conditions and definition of aggression should be clarified; and safety and welfare should be ensured for trust territories (which are actually colonies), where education should be promoted so as to help them become independent countries as well as the Economic and Social Council should have stronger functions and promote international cooperation in education and culture.3 The Chinese delegation insisted that all nationalities, regardless of whether they are large or small, strong or weak, are equal and stressed that the so-called trust territories would be autonomous until they became countries with complete national independence. This idea, directly related to the history of the Chinese people as victims of long-time aggression and exploitation by imperialism and colonialism and to the reality of existing aggression, reflected the aspirations of the peoples of colonies. However, due to British, French and US interests in their colonies, Article 76 of the UN Charter reads “The basic objectives of the trusteeship system, [...] shall be [...] to promote the political, economic, social, and educational advancement of the inhabitants of the trust territories, and their progressive development towards self-government or independence”. This Article is clearly much weaker than China’s proposition. This was gradually affirmed in relevant international human rights law documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the end of World War II and the rise of the national movement. Despite the shortcomings of the UN Charter in this regard, it is still the first document to affirm the international protection of human rights and thus has significant historical progress.
II. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a Milestone in the Development of Human Rights
As mentioned earlier, before the First World War, human rights were affirmed legally in some countries, but only in one-sided and incomplete formed and only within a certain country. This, however, had virtually no impact at least on those colonial powers and made no changes to the world reality even after the end of the war. The First World War and then the Second World War were on a bigger scale and more horrendous than any before. This made people realize that, since war and massacre were beyond national borders when it came to human rights, it was not possible for a single country to stop such atrocities, which meant that human rights must be protected legally by international organizations. This was why some countries had proposed the motion of including a “Bill of Rights” in the UN Charter before its drafting even start-ed. The motion was not adopted at the San Francisco Conference because at the time war in Asia was still being fiercely fought and the time available for establishing the United Nations was limited.4 This work could only be undertaken by the Commission on Human Rights under the UN Economic and Social Council.
The legal basis for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the UN Charter. According to Article 1 of the Charter, “The Purposes of the United Nations are to maintain international peace and security [...].” Its purpose, as explained in the Preamble to the main text, is to “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small”. It can be seen that the fundamental purpose of the establishment of the United Nations is ultimately for people and for human rights protection. It can be said that the provisions of the UN Charter on the principles, organization, economic and social development, dispute settlement, crisis response, and operational procedures for all work towards the realization of this purpose. In accordance with the special provision of Article 68, the United Nations established the Commission on Human Rights composed of 18 member states in June 1946. The Commission provided organizational basis for the birth of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its activities. At the first meeting of the Commission on Human Rights from January to February 1947, it was decided that Eleanor Roosevelt (United States), chairman of the Commission, Peng Chun Chang (China), vice-chairman, Charles Malik (Lebanon), the rapporteur, and John Humphrey, director of the division of human rights and secretary of the Commission formed a drafting group. In March 1947, as required by the development of the situation and the drafting work, Australia, Chile, France, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom each sent a representative to join the group, which was later decided to be renamed as the Drafting Committee. Because the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has a great impact on the cause of international protection of human rights, many experts have continuously researched into it after its birth. Works including Chinese scholar Professor Sun Pinghua’s The Study of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Peng Chun Chang: A Key Architect of the World Human Rights System and Professor Hua Guoyu’s China’s Contribution to the International Human Rights Cause: Peng Chun Chang and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, while providing a large amount of material, make a more comprehensive evaluation for the first time in China’s research in this area of the historical background of the birth of the Declaration, the drafting process, the contribution of Chinese representative Peng Chun Chang and the representatives of other the countries who participated in the drafting process, as well as its contents and significance.
According to the text of the Declaration, combined with the research results of the human rights and international law scholars who have studies the Declaration, we can see that:
First, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a comprehensive development of the provisions of the UN Charter that considers human rights protection from the perspective of all human beings, and affirms humans are the subjects of human rights in their original sense. As pointed out above, modern enlightenment thinkers have put forward the concept of human rights as opposed to theocracy and feudal monarchy. They propose that people are a universal concept. However, after the bourgeois revolution triumphed and the bourgeois class seized political power, the bourgeois class affirmed the rights of the majority only in principle, but denied and restricted them in reality. As for the slaves and the peoples of colonial and semi-colonial countries, they were regarded as aliens. The legal provisions on democracy and freedom have thus become merely empty talk. Based on the development of the situation, the UN Charter fully affirmed people and their rights. The Declaration affirmed this again and made it clear and concrete. Facing the world and all human beings, the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states the Declaration is “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.” Here, the Declaration emphasizes that the standard of human rights protection be universally recognized and obeyed by all people, everyone in every country, every organization, and the people of a country and the territories under their jurisdiction (i.e., colonies). In addition, the provisions of the main text after the Preamble, all those involving human rights protection are affirmed and expressed using group words such as “all human beings”, “any” and “everyone” and all the provisions that prohibit the infringement of human rights are denied also using such group words. Such expressions in the Preamble and the main text are not repetitive language, but serve as an accurate declaration to the world that the enjoyment of human rights is universal for all the people in the world.
Second, the Declaration affirmed civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights with equal and non-discriminatory principles. From the history of human rights development, the concept of human rights, which was first promoted from a mere idea to part of the law, in Britain’s Habeas corpus Act of 1679, America’s Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1786, or France’s Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen of 1789 (included in the French Constitution of 1793), all deal with civil and political rights, traditionally also known as the first generation of human rights in the academic community. Although these rights are actually limited, they are at least legally regulated. The economic, social and cultural rights that involve most people (known as the second generation of human rights in the academic community) have not yet been part of legislature. “Food is the paramount necessity of the people.” Satisfying the minimum standards for maintaining life, such as food, clothes, housing, and traveling, is the prerequisite for the enjoyment of human rights. The economic, social and cultural rights of workers and peasants at the lower levels of society are not protected, which necessarily cause social and ethnic divisions and political instability. In the waves of people’s struggle for their rights, the bourgeoisie began to understand this home truth. Economic, social and cultural rights have gradually been legally affirmed. In Mexico and Germany, due to the stronger power of workers as a class, the 1917 Mexican Constitution and the 1919 Weimar Constitution first recog-nized citizens’ labor rights, education rights, work rights, property rights, copyrights, and invention rights and provided for state relief for the unemployed and the lives of the elderly and the disadvantaged.5 After the “October Revolution” of 1917 in Russia, the Soviet Russia’s Constitution and constitutions of other socialist countries further affirmed this right. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly affirmed civil, political and economic, social and cultural rights, thus laying the foundation for the formulation of the two human rights covenants of 1966. The Preambles to the two covenants both affirmed the importance of the protection of first and second generations of human rights using the same language. They only differed according to the content of the respective Convention in which civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights were emphasized but in different orders. This shows that the Declaration as a development of the UN Charter is not only reflected in the expansion of the scope of subjects in human rights, but also in the wider variety of human rights themselves.
Third, the Declaration is a collection of multicultural elements, to which Mr. Peng Chun Chang, the representative of China, made an important contribution. The Preamble of the Declaration has clearly stated that the savage atrocities committed against humanities in the two World Wars as a development of contempt for human rights have resulted in fear and deficiency that stigmatize human conscience. This has made it the earnest desire of the people to enjoy human rights, personal dignity and protection by the rule of law after the wars. The formulation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is precisely to promote social progress, improve people’s lives, and protect human rights in a universal and effective manner. The Declaration shows that human rights protection is the desire and demand of social development by the peoples of the world. This desire and demand come not only from capitalist countries, but also from socialist countries and colonial and semi-colonial countries. They have different social systems, levels of development, history, culture and religion, although they are all members of the United Nations. Their representatives sat together to develop a document that is universally applicable throughout the world for the pursuit of the goals of world peace, human liberty, happiness, and human rights. To this end, it is necessary to draw on different cultures when drafting general principles and specific provisions and to make necessary compromises to integrate different view-points in order to reach a consensus. This requires a consensus within the Drafting Committee, within Commission on Human Rights, and all or at least a majority of the representatives of the member states before they can reach the agreement to draft the Declaration. The drafting process was challenging and complicated. Mr. Peng Chun Chang, the representative of China, made an outstanding contribution to the drafting, which Professors Sun Pinghua and Hua Guoyu have systematically examined in their works and Professors Cui Guoliang and Cui Hong have analyzed in their Mr. Peng Chun Chang on Education and Drama Art. What needs to be added here is that, when drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with superb organization and leadership, Mr. Peng Chun Chang not only drew on his rich knowledge and love for Confucianism-centered Chinese traditional culture and incorporated its essential part into the Declaration, but also respected Western and Islamic culture with a modest attitude, and promoted the integration of multicultural elements in the Declaration. His style won praise from representatives of other countries he worked with.
In the autumn of 1991, when my colleague and I visited North America, at a symposium in Montreal, we met Mr. John Humphrey, the former Director of the Division of Human Rights and Secretary of the Commission, who drafted the Declaration together with Peng Chun Chang. He recalled Mr. Peng Chun Chang with a very respectful and affectionate tone, praising him for his profound knowledge and his ability to use the Confucian concepts of “benevolence” and “harmony” to handle the relationship with his colleagues and to resolve many disagreements arising from the drafting process. He said that the representatives who participated in the drafting were from countries with different historical and cultural backgrounds and different ideas and concepts and this often resulted in disagreements on some issues, which Peng Chun Chang could always help bridge. Sometimes, when they could reach no agreement and the work could not be continued, them he would suggest to Mrs. Roosevelt that they stop to learn the golden mean advocated in Confucian philosophy and thinking and urge the two sides to listen to each other’s opinions and suggestions, and learn from each other’s strengths. Thanks to the efforts of him and other colleagues, the disagreements were resolved one by one and the drafting work continued until it was successfully completed. Mrs. Roosevelt, who presided over the drafting work, spoke highly of Peng Chun Chang’s talent and his organization and leadership in the drafting work. In the mid-1990s, I met Susan Roosevelt Weld, granddaughter of Mrs. Roosevelt in Beijing. When talking about the Declaration and her grandmother’s contribution, she also praised Mr. Peng Chun Chang. It can be seen that Mr. Chang’s contribution to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had a profound influence. It is precisely because of the unremitting efforts of Peng Chun Chang, Mrs. Elena Roosevelt, Charles Malik and John Humphrey that the multiculturalism of the Dec-laration was made clear. Multiculturalism enhances the universality of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the human rights legal system based on it.
Fourth, the Declaration is the basic document of the legal system of international human rights. In the Preamble to the Declaration, it states that “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world, [...]”, in order to prevent human rights from being violated again, “it is necessary to protect hu-man rights by the rule of law.” This passage shows that the Declaration attaches great importance to the protection of human rights by the rule of law. As mentioned earlier, however, in the previous stage of drafting it was hoped that a “bill of rights” could be made, and then a Declaration could be drafted while making a Convention with im-plementation measures. Finally, after the opinions were solicited on a larger scale, due to the urgency of time, only the Declaration was formulated.6 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is more significant and plays a more important role than other general declarations, because it is not just an extension of the human rights principle of the UN Charter and adopted by the UN General Assembly, but also, more importantly, it is in line with the trend of international development after World War II, the independence and freedom of people of all countries, and their yearning for a peaceful and happy life, and proposes the rights protection standards that individuals, countries and international organizations should abide by. It can be said that it is a set of “general rules” of the international human rights legal system which has gradually formed, becoming the most basic document of international human rights law. It remains today an important basis for newly developed international human rights conventions and documents.
III. Building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings is a New Blueprint for the Development of International Human Rights Cause
The purpose of forming the United Nations, as proclaimed in the Preambles of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind” by German fascism and Japanese militarism, and unite the nations and peoples of the world to join hands to oppose any new aggressions, jointly defend peace and security, prevent people from falling into fear and want, and safeguard basic human rights, personal dignity and value. Unfortunately, although, with the support of the peoples of the world, the UN Charter and the Declaration have played an indelible historical role in accordance with their purposes, the world entered a state of Cold War soon after the end of World War II in 1945. Before that, the United States had been more open-minded on the issue of anti-colonialism in order to compete with Britain for global hegemony. However, in order to compete for the sphere of influence in the Cold War, in the face of the vigorous struggle of colonial and semi-colonial peoples for national liberation and independence, the United States did not hesitate to side with the old colonial powers, act as their backer, and provided people and material support. When the old colonial powers were unable to cope with the situations as in Indochina, the United States simply acted in its own capacity and publicly acted as a bully against national liberation movements, and waged wars of aggression against countries such as Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. In addition, racism remains a problem even after slavery was abolished more than 100 years previously with the end of the American Civil War. The United States was also the most powerful supporter of South Africa’s white apartheid regime. The UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights state that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, regardless of race, color, religious and other differences. However, these countries turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to such human suffering and go their own way.
In the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union disintegrated and some countries in Eastern Europe experienced drastic changes, the United States became the only su-perpower. It believed that it was the world hegemony and it intensified its efforts to instigate so-called “color revolutions” in other countries with different ideologies. In addition to secretly instigated revolutions, the United States and other countries have declared that human rights are the cornerstone of their foreign policy. But, in fact, they use double standards and even multiple standards to demonize societies of different systems, use economic and political means to contain these countries, and attempt to enforce the Western institutional model. When these measures do not work, they resort to bully tactics and openly launch armed incursions or wars. For example, in the Balkan region, the West first incited color revolutions to dismantle Yugoslavia, then bombed and divided Serbia by military means; in North Africa, it subverted the government of Libya; in Central Asia and the Gulf region, and it launched wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. Even today, the wars continue in Afghanistan and Syria. Where war is ravaging, the bustling city are laid to waste, the beautiful countryside becomes scorched earth, the precious cultural and historical relics are looted, hundreds of thou-sands of lives are killed, millions of people and civilians, young and old, are forced to leave their homes or drift across the sea, flee to foreign countries as refugees, creating major humanitarian crises. Eventually, the United Nations and regional international organizations and some countries have to be called in to clean up the mess. Even so, since the 1980s, by fabricating national human rights reports, the United States has blamed countries for so-called “human rights issues” in countries with different ideologies. In the new century, the United Nations established the Human Rights Council, which implements a regular universal review of the human rights situations of member states in accordance with the Constitution. The United States sees fit to review the human rights of other countries, but when its own violations of human rights are exposed, it was so anger that it withdrew from the Human Rights Council after making an announcement. It is then obvious to see its hegemonic behaviors.
As pointed out above, the formation of the United Nations, the enactment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and a series of international human rights laws were originally intended to unite the countries and peoples of the world in joint efforts to safeguard world peace and security, promote common development and protect basic human rights. However, the United States, out of concern for its own interests, has been reluctant to stop bullying other countries and deviate from the basic principles of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Especially, after President Donald Trump took office, he pursues an “America First” policy and violates the principles and rules of the WTO his country took the lead to build, and has unilaterally announced tariff increases on products imported from many other countries. In modern economic development, international division of labor means that a product is made, shipped, and finally sold to the consumers, which often involves an industrial chain composed of many countries. Unilaterally raised tariffs and destroyed industrial chains harm not only the workers of a certain country or a certain business, but also the workers of many enterprises in many countries. It is not only a tit-for-tat that benefits neither side, but involves a wider range of areas, slowing the development of the world economy, reducing employees’ income, increasing prices, worsening the burden on the people, and violating human rights. Unilateralism violates the basic spirit of the UN Charter and the Declaration. It has caused chaos in international order and brought harm to the international human rights cause. If this continues unchecked, it will undoubtedly endanger more countries and create a wider range of human rights disasters.
The world today is very different from 70 years ago. Economic, scientific, and technological development, the widespread use of the internet, and the changes in the natural environment bring people both unprecedented opportunities and daunting challenges. Everyone lives in the global village and is each other’s neighbor as the distance between the countries and peoples has been greatly reduced. Through global governance, people can realize their potential, help others do so, and work together for common goals. This is not just a dream. It can be realized through hard work. This is a common cause of the peoples of all countries in the world. Big countries and de-veloped countries should make greater contributions in accordance with the spirit of the UN Charter, the Declaration to the Right to Development, and a series of United Nations resolutions for development. History has proved that, in global governance, people always stand at the core and human rights are an eternal theme. Hot wars cause destruction while cold war cause division while trade war brings downward pressure on economic development or even results in stagnation. This deviates from the spirit of the Charter, the Declaration and many other international documents on human rights. We need to figure out a solution. President Xi Jinping has proposed to “build a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings”, which draws a new blueprint for the international human rights cause. This concept, as its name implies, is to unite the peoples of the world, to proactively respond to the ever-changing natural world and the ever-evolving human society, to seek advantages and avoid disadvantages, and to achieve universal harmony.
President Xi Jinping has elaborated on the idea of “building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings”. First, we should insist on sovereign equality. The sovereignty and dignity of all countries, large or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, must be respected. No country should interfere in the internal affairs of another coun-try. Every country has the right to choose social systems and development paths according to their own national conditions and accommodate each other’s core interests. Second, we should maintain common security. The security of each country should be respected and protected and a common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security concept should be established. The world should work together to deal with the harm to human beings and nature caused by traditional and non-traditional security issues and maintain peace and security in various regions and across the world. Third, we should ensure common development. While pursuing self-development, a country should actively promote common development in cooperation with other countries. A country should not benefit itself at expense of others, stop zero-sum games, abandon the old thinking of “you lose, I win”, adopt the new concept of win-win or cooperation and mutual benefits, promote South-South cooperation, North-South dialogues, enhance the ability of developing countries to develop independently, and bring the fruits of development to everyone in every country in the world. Fourth, we should be tolerant and learn from each other. In our world, we have different races, religions and cultures and even contradictions. However, the good nature of human beings means that the commonalities exist between them. Civilizations are not distinguished between good and bad, just have different features. As long as civilizations learn from each other, their people can transcend civilizations through exchanges, avoid confrontations, and coexist with each other, understand, respect, and trust each other. This will drive social progress and maintain world peace. Fifth, we should adopt a green approach to development. Nature is where human live, work and develop. Earth is the only home of mankind. Protecting the natural environment and realizing the harmonious coexistence between man and nature offer best protection for human beings. We must help each other, share responsibility, and work together to address climate change, advocate green, low carbon, recycling, and sustainable development, protect the mountains and rivers and all living things, and safeguard the homeland on which humans depend. Sixth, we should safeguard equity and justice. We should jointly promote democracy in international relations, improve existing international human rights laws and relevant international rules of conduct, and promote the rule of law in international relations, “promote all the parties in international relations to abide by the basic norms of international relations recognized by international law, and use uniform and applicable rules to understand the truth, promote peace and seek development.”7
It can be seen from the above that Xi Jinping’s ideas and theories on a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings are a new plan for the revival of the Chinese nation and the happiness of all human beings, which is based on the efforts of several generations since the adoption of the UN Charter and the Declaration to build a legal system of world peace, security and human rights, guided by Marxism, inspired by history and contemporary experience, based on the situation of China and world, built on reality and designed for the future. In today’s modern world, there are some countries or some people disregarding the rules of international conduct, taking the interests of their own country as first above others’, staying in international organizations if they fit their ideas, but simply withdrawing from them if they do not, or obeying international agreements if they are in their own interests, but simply withdrawing from them if they are not. This has caused the world order to suffer. In this context, this concept of building a Community with a Shared Future for mankind is clearly an answer to the major question raised by our times. Due to the scientific nature of this idea, it has won approval from many countries, the United Nations, and many regional international organizations. It has become a new goal and new impetus to drive the development of the international community.
As an advocate of the concept of building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings, China also actively promotes this concept in practice. In China, Xi Jinping and the Party Central Committee with Xi Jinping as the core have suc-cessively put forward the Chinese dream of realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and proposed to “strive to build a community with a shared future for the Chinese nation.”8 China is a unified multi-ethnic country and has a specific social development reality. China insists that the right to life and development are primary human rights, economic, social and cultural rights are as important as civil and po-litical rights, human beings should pay attention to ecological civilization and green economy development. China is determined to build a moderately prosperous society by the end of 2020 and achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation by the middle of this century. To achieve this goal, China is further changing the imbalance between different regions and between urban and rural development. As for regional imbalances in development, with the development of the Southeast, China tries to realize the rise of central China, the development of the western regions, and the rejuvenation of the old industrial bases in Northeast. According to the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), China will strengthen reform and opening-up in the border areas. China will make Northeast and Inner Mongolia into the hub for opening to northern neighboring countries and the hub for cooperation with Northeast Asia; the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region will be made into a transport center for opening up to the western neighboring countries; the Tibet autonomous region will be made into a passage for opening up to South Asia; Yunnan province and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region will be at the forefront of opening up to South Asia, Southeast Asia; and Hainan Province will be a free trade zone. In the future, provinces in Northeast and Southwest, and Hainan will become the corridors and hubs for economic and cultural friendly exchanges between China’s inland and dozens of countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and Oceania. Cities there will become economically and culturally prosperous international metropolises. Also according to the 13th Five-Year Plan, China will further accelerate the development of rural and ethnic minority areas. As pointed out by the Party Central Committee and the State Council, development should focus on “improving people’s livelihoods as the primary task, prioritize poverty alleviation, focus on education, employment, industrial restructuring, infrastructure construction and ecological protection... make development work towards solving regionally common problems, promoting the well-being of the masses, enhancing national unity, and strengthening the harmonious coexistence, unity, and development of all ethnic groups.”9 Through the efforts of the Communist Party and the people of the whole country, the number of people living in poverty in China has decreased by 740 million from 1978 to 2017. However, there are still more than 30 million people in poverty in rural areas. The Communist Party and the State are determined to accelerate rural construction, overcome challenging difficulties, implement poverty alleviation measures of science and technology, education, and medical care, invest more manpower and material resources in implementing targeted and deep poverty alleviation. China is determined to lift more than 30 million rural people out of poverty by the end of 2020. By then, China’s nearly 1.4 billion people will have lived in a moderately prosperous society in all aspects including material and cultural rights, enjoy greater democracy, freedom, and equal rights, and thus realize the all-round development of human beings. This great achievement in human rights performance will go down in history as vast success.
The great progress and success of China in building a community with a shared future for the Chinese nation further confirms the scientific nature of building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings. Such a concept has already been and is having a wide-ranging impact on the international community. If China’s success provides a basis, then the countries and international organizations that agree with this idea might serve as fulcrum. We are not saying that other countries should copy the Chinese model in practice. Rather, we believe that if recognized by other countries and their people, the concept exert tremendous material power and more countries and international organizations will work together to seek benefits for the peoples and to meet the challenges.
When building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings, identification with this concept is important, but common interests are more important. Interests are the foundation. A Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings is actually a community with shared interests for human beings. Following a principle of common interests, China has signed bilateral and multilateral agreements with many countries and international organizations on the basis of win-win, which has promoted the healthy development of economy and culture. This is not only the fulcrum of the concept of the community with a shared future for human beings, but also provides the platform for its development. The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by Xi Jinping and supported by China and many other countries serves this purpose. More than 100 countries and regional organizations around the world are actively supporting and participating in the Initiative, and the UN General Assembly and the Security Council have incorporated the initiative into their important resolutions. It will connect with development strategies of many countries along the Belt and Road routes, such as the Eurasian Economic Union (EEC) proposed by Russia, the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 proposed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Bright Road New Economic Plan proposed by Kazakhstan, the Middle Corridor Initiative proposed by Turkey, the Prairie Road Development Initiative proposed by Mongolia, the North-South Economic Corridor (NSEC) / Two Corridors and One Circle proposed by Vietnam, the Northern Powerhouse strategy proposed by the United Kingdom, and the Amber Railway Freight Corridor proposed by Poland.10 The connection of the Belt and Road Initiative with the development plans of the participating countries will form a huge connectivity network, which is already being realized and promoting the connectivity of trade, technology, financial resources, culture, people-to-people exchanges and the faster development of economic, social and cultural undertakings in various countries. This will ultimately enable the people of the world to enjoy peace and security and promote the continuous improvement of human rights protection. It can be seen that the Belt and Road Initiative as an important development platform will bring solid benefits to the people of all countries and regions, thus laying a solid foundation for building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings.
The idea of building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings as a new vision of human development in the new era, proposed by Xi Jinping, is guided by Marxism, follows the law of historical development, and is a development of the principles of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which safeguard peace, security and human rights. Its realization is a great historic task. It is inevitable that we will encounter difficulties and obstacles during the process. But as long as it is understood that it is for the welfare of the people of China and the world, as long as we have a strong determination and confidence, we will turn the vision into reality after struggling with people all over the world.
* LIU Hainian ( 刘海年 ), Honorary Member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and Distinguished Professor of the Institute for Human Rights, China University of Political Science and Law.
1. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, vol. 3 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1960), 406.
2. Mao Zedong, Selected Works of Mao Zedong (one-volume edition) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1944), 1085.
3. Hua Guoyu, China’s Contribution to the International Human Rights Cause: Peng Chun Chang and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Beijing: China University of Political Science and Law Press, 2015), 90-91.
4. Liu Jie, The United States and International Bill of Human Rights (Shanghai: Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Press, 1996), 50. Sun Pinghua, Research on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Beijing: Peking University Press, 2012), 74.
5. The author would like to provide gratitude to Wang Cuiwen, Associate Professor of Nankai University and Dr. Han Han of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who provided information and materials on the provisions of the Mexican Constitution on economic, social and cultural rights.
6. Sun Pinghua, Research on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 74-84. Hua Guoyu, China’s Contribution to the International Human Rights Cause, 134-145.
7. Xi Jinping, “Promoting the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and Building a Win-Win World ? Speech at the Commemorative Meeting of the 60th Anniversary of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence,” People’s Daily, June 28, 2014.
8. Opinions of the Party Central Committee and the State Council on Strengthening and Improving Ethnic Work in the New Situation, run in Selected Works of Important Documents since the Eighteenth National Congress, vol. 2 (Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2016), 104.
9. Ibid., 106.
10. Xi Jinping, “Join Hands to Promote the Belt and Road - Speech at the Opening Ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation,” People’s Daily, May 15, 2017.
(Translated by CHANG Guohua)
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