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A “People-centered” Approach: The Chinese Deciphering of the Human Rights Theory
September 21,2020   By:CSHRS
A “People-centered” Approach: The Chinese  Deciphering of the Human Rights Theory
 
HE Zhipeng*
 
Abstract: The contemporary Chinese human rights theory can be deciphered based on the “people-centered” concept. “Putting people in the center” is an approach to development, a concept of governance and a ruling orientation, and it is the idea shaping of the governing party, the ideological guideline for administrative organs and the principle of action for relevant personnel. The human rights system is thoughts, theories, systems and practice proposed by social groups and individuals to the social authority, especially the resource provider, around the basic demands for subsistence and development. Fundamentally speaking, the “people-centered” approach and the human rights system, though belonging to different political ethics and political philosophy fields, share many common points or similarities in their specific way of existence and operation process. Therefore, there is coherence between the “people-centered” approach and human rights, and there is systematic compatibility between the human rights-based way of thinking and the people-centered governing concept. The two approaches share many commonalities in the implementation measures and actions, both requiring the integration of concepts, norms, systems and actions. The deciphering helps China to provide wisdom and make contributions in enriching world human rights theories.
 
Keywords: theory of rights    China    “people-centered” approach    human rights    coherence
 
I. Introduction
 
Although similar traces and factors for reference for the birth and development of thoughts on human rights can be found in many civilizations, from perspectives of the historical origins and the main elements of the current systems, it is obvious that the thoughts on human rights dominant at present are based on Western culture, especially the thoughts on human rights gradually developed after the Renaissance and enlightenment, which became parts of the social concepts and rules for governance in Western countries.1 The thoughts and requirements on human rights have gradually been institutionalized, theorized, internationalized and generalized, from ideology to life, going abroad from home after the Western proposition of human rights was presented and shaped.2 In this process, the pedigree of human rights thought was widened and the theoretical framework of human rights was enriched through the collisions, exchanges and mergence among civilizations. Although China was comparatively late in accepting the idea of human rights, it has formed many institutional practices and important viewpoints and principles in human rights through its own profound reflection and its hard struggle for national independence and its people’s liberation over more than 100 years. And the series of ideological achievements and practical efforts with Chinese characteristics have made outstanding contributions to improving the human rights discourse and enriching human rights culture.3 Advancing the human rights theory and system with their own understanding and practice, the political leaders and scholars of China also enrich it with their own perspectives based on Chinese culture. At present, the people-centered approach is an important guiding ideology of China’s ruling party and government to promote social governance and enhance people’s sense of gain, and it provides an important new perspective on human rights.
 
II. The Elements of Coherence Between the People-centered Approach and Human Rights System
 
At the Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the people-centered thought on development was clearly put forward for the first time, serving as the primary principle and fundamental position of development, and it became a red line throughout the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), defining the responsibilities of the Communist Party of China in the new era. This thought, gradually formed, was the inheritance and innovation by the Communist Party of China in the historical practice of governing the country,4 with Marxist thought on the people and the mass line of the Communist Party of China as the theoretical source, historical basis and practical foundation.5 The main points of this thought are as follows: the people’s position is the fundamental political position of Marxist political parties, the people are the real driving force of historical progress, the masses are the real heroes, and the people’s interests are the ultimate goals of all the work of the Communist Party of China.6 In some important discussions, people-centered is regarded as China’s concept of human rights.7 From the whole logic of its generation and its development, with principles, systems and theories, the people-centered system is obviously a system that parallels the human rights system. The idea of people as the center starts from building the party for the public and governing for the people. In essence, it is a thinking mode with focuses on the public interest and the general progress of society, while the human rights system, or the guiding ideology centered on human rights, also includes the ideology guided by individual freedom, demands, happiness and interests to a large extent. That is to say, in the traditional political history of Western countries, the mechanism of human rights can be seen as originating from the tension and struggle from the bottom up based on the people’s suspicion of the government with the belief that power will lead to corruption, with the system of human rights formed through political struggle. Therefore, human rights standards, to a large extent, are a working mode of the government as required by the people, while the idea of people as the center is a basic top down idea which requires that the people as a whole shall be fully considered by the rulers, the governing system, and the participants of the governing system. For example, the people-centered concept in- cludes leading the people and cultivating people’s awareness of the direction of social development to a certain extent. Although there is no one-to-one mapping between the two parallel systems, they can motivate, inspire and complement each other, and such interaction and impact between systems can be summarized as “coherence”.8
 
A. The coherence of the people-centered approach and human rights system at the logical starting point
 
From the perspective of causes, the people-centered approach starts from the deep recognition of the important role of the people in historical progress, social development, civilizational advancement and national rejuvenation, and regards the people as the core force for the survival and continuous development of the country, the nation and the national culture. The important historical significance of the people, as the starting point of power, and the great power of the people in shaping society are demonstrated in the wisdom of governance throughout the ages and the world.9 The people-centered approach regards the people as the key to solve the basic contradiction of socialism and realize the goal of socialist production, and as an indispensable part of social development.10 The interests, role and satisfaction of the people have been always put at the center and serve as the realistic and logical starting points of the governance of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government. It must be noted that the people here are a specific historical concept with a diverse composition of many social classes, of which the working-class accounts for the vast majority of the members of society. On this consideration, Marxism and proletarian parties always prioritize the interests of the workers.11
 
This kind of understanding is similar to that on the importance of human beings in the philosophy of human rights. That human rights are recognized, agreed and developed globally is largely due to the recognition of the important status and significance of people by governments and cultures all over the world. This kind of recognition was originally attributed to the natural state and social contract, and then directly to the human dignity and the intrinsic nature of being human. No matter what it is attributed to, without such recognition of the value of people, human rights cannot exist and have effects. As a result, the people-centered approach and the thought of human rights have the commonality of premise and basis, which is the ideological basis for the two systems to be compatible with and linked to each other.
 
B. The coherence of the people-centered approach and the human rights system in content orientation
 
In terms of concrete performance, the people-centered approach expects the government to respond to the people’s requirements and expectations for the existence and development of the country’s economic, social, cultural and political systems. The country shall take measures to meet such requirements and expectations, which are consistent with the obligations of the state or other social authorities in the human rights system to a large extent. This means that the people-centered approach and human rights system are consistent in content orientation and response to needs. For example, in the field of human rights, the government may be required to meet the relevant requirements of people’s civil and political rights, which are also the basic concern of the people-centered approach. At the same time, the people-centered development approach requires that the governing bodies and officials fully consider the requirements of people in all aspects, levels and stages of life, work and education, which can also be understood as human rights requirements in economic, social and cultural fields. In China’s battle against COVID-19 in early 2020, the Communist Party of China and the government have always stressed that people’s life and health shall be the priority.12 That is to say, the specific requirements in economic, social and cultural fields of the people-centered approach are not separate from various pedigrees of human rights. We can better understand that all of these can respond to the claims of environmental rights and development rights in the field of human rights, especially when we consider satisfying people’s needs for development and as healthy environment concerning the people-centered approach. It can be seen that the fields and aspects of the people-centered approach are not separate from the indicators of human rights research.
 
As the prominent features of the view the distinctive characters of the path of the development of China’s human rights in the new era, the right to exist and the right to development have long been regarded by the Communist Party of China as the primary basic human rights.13 China’s human rights cause adheres to the path of comprehensively strengthening the construction of human rights and the rule of law, with the goal of comprehensive and coordinated development of all human rights, earnestly safeguarding the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people, respecting human values and dignity, and promoting the all-round development of human beings.
 
C. The coherence of the people-centered approach and human rights system in judging indicators
 
The “people centered” approach consistently puts people first in the basic view of social structure and development, taking people as the historical driving force in the process of social evolution and institutional changes, insisting on serving the people’s interests when making policy and the specific designs for development, relying on the people for implementation of all projects. The issues that people are most concerned about shall be taken as the starting point in the fields and modes of development, the enhancement of people’s interests and the realization of people’s free and all-round development shall be the value goals in the macro political framework, the results with people’s satisfaction shall be the final result in the development effect, with the basic scale of achievements and problems to be tested by the people. With the people-centered approach reflecting the general trend of society, “the characteristics of the socialist social system make the law further return to the people, serve the people, safeguard people’s rights and meet people’s interests.”14 Therefore, the people-centered approach particularly reminds us to take people’s satisfaction, acceptance and sense of gain as the final standard for evaluation. Such satisfaction and sense of gain are the measurements of human rights to a large extent. That is to say, when we consider to respect and protect human rights, the final evaluation standard shall not be what actions the government has taken or what rules have been adopted, but whether the legitimate rights and interests of the people, such as life, health and freedom, are effectively protected at last, and whether the rights of subjects in all aspects are satisfied.15 Such recognition is the ultimate and most effective evaluation standard of human rights, which is superior to all kinds of objective evaluation indicators.
 
D. The coherence of the people-centered approach and human rights system in the governance requirements
 
Both the people-centered approach and human rights thought aim at governance ability and social progress. Adhering to the people-centered development philosophy and the overall concept of national security conform to the people’s expectations for a better life.16 The “compass” promoting the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics is the “power bank” to promote the construction of grand new projects by the Communist Party of China and the “booster” for the great struggles with many new historical characteristics.17
 
The realization of human rights is guaranteed by development. The people-centered development philosophy is closely connected with the new vision of “innovative, coordinated, green, open and inclusive” development. That development philosophy is the internal regulation of the development idea, which indicates the nature of development, while the development idea is the external display of the development philosophy, which indicates the direction of the development. The people-centered development philosophy is the soul of the new vision of “innovative, coordinated, green, open and inclusive” development, and the latter is the correct path to practice the people-centered development philosophy.18 It is an indispensable part to uphold the people-centered development philosophy and promote shared development.19 We call for the establishment of a people-centered governance survey model, the implementation of a precise governance model, the innovation of governance theory and technology to act appropriately to the situation with definite purposes, and to realize the modernization of national governance. The core idea of the modernization of national governance is people-centered, with the ultimate goal to promote the all-round development of the people and the all-round progress of society.20 Under the new historical conditions, we shall adhere to the overall leadership of the Communist Party of China and create conditions to promote the free and all-round development of human beings from the perspective of the integration of economy, politics, culture, society and ecology.21
 
The realization of human rights depends on the improvement of the philosophy and ability of governance, and a deep understanding of the people-centered development philosophy is the premise and basis for the coordinated promotion of the “four-pronged” strategic layout.22 To solve the major social contradictions of China in the new era, we must take multiple measures, such as fully developing the economy, solving the issues concerning people’s practical interests and winning the final battle of targeted poverty alleviation for the improvement of people’s livelihood and social governance.23 There is a preliminary correspondence between the ideology of governing the country and the ideological system of human rights. In terms of the starting point, both of them reflect a high degree of recognition of the status and significance of people; in terms of the process, both of them contain policy requirements; in terms of the end point, both of them take the recognition and satisfaction of people needs as the standards. Specifically, many aspects of the people-centered approach can be interpreted as “human rights as the standard”; similarly, in many cases, the specific requirements of “human rights as the standard” are consistent with the philosophy of people-centered governance.
 
III. The Significance of People-centered Approach in Promoting Human Rights System
 
As a development philosophy and a guiding ideology, the people-centered approach holds a very important position and plays a significant role in deepening people’s understanding of human rights, deepening the human rights system and improving the quality of human rights. The people-centered approach, as the guiding principle of China’s human rights development, with safeguarding people’s interests as the purpose of China’s human rights development and satisfying people’s expectation for a better life as the goal of China’s human rights development,24 will contribute to the in-depth coordination between the ruling principles and the human rights system.
 
A. Connecting Western achievements with local resources
 
There are differences in the understandings of human rights in China and in Western countries, not only in the official position, but also in the human rights concept of the public.25 From the accumulation of China’s human rights system, China’s people-oriented concept26 in traditional political and legal thought provides precious local resources27 for human rights legislation and practice. As an important source of China’s political ideas, Marxist human rights concepts also help break through the narrow vision of Western traditional human rights concept and enrich and promote people’s understanding of human rights. Based on the basic principles of historical materialism, the people-centered approach is the unique feature and fundamental position of Marxist political economics.28 At the same time, it has been developed on the basis of the spiritual core of Marxist development theory, with the new elements of the times, overcoming the limitations of Western development theory.29 It serves as practical guidance with a distinct position, realistic pertinence, systematic layout and specific actions for economic and social development due to its consistency with the ruling party in leading the country and guiding the society, avoiding the defects of other the- oretical thoughts that lack of consideration of social development strategy, especially the predicament of separation in humanism and the people-centered approach for lack of the consciousness of overall social responsibility.30
 
Therefore, the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people, guided by Marx’s view of human rights and combined with China’s national conditions, established the socialist philosophy of human rights with Chinese characteristics through the inheritance and development of the Marxist thought on the status of people as subjects and benefit sharing.31 This is embodied in a clear recognition of the important position of the people in the process of human historical development by constantly taking people as the key words of all social activities with an emphasis on the goal of development for the people, with the people as the source of strength and achievements of the development shared by the people, which is a significant distillation of traditional development philosophy.32 The content of human rights is constantly enriched and improved in modern Chinese society, mainly reflected in the rise and development of economic and social rights.33 The experience summed up through repeated trials and error is that we shall hold high the banner of Marxism in the cause of human rights and follow the road of human rights with Chinese characteristics.34 The key to the development and progress of China’s human rights cause lies in the integration of human rights philosophy and China’s practice, and the scientific development road of human rights concepts and human rights system in China shall be followed.35 The unity of universality and particularity of human rights, the unity of economic, social and cultural rights and political rights, the unity of individual human rights and collective human rights, and the unity of human rights and sovereignty36 can be realized through the integration of the people-centered approach and the human rights system.37 Human rights, with their commonality and class nature, are undergoing a gradual historical process, and their realization and development are restricted by various practical conditions. Therefore, we need to find a way to promote and develop human rights that is suitable for China’s reality.38 The local resources of China’s view  of human rights lie in clarifying whether it is for the majority or for the minority, and  dealing well with the relations among individuals, collectives and the country.39 The  essence of views of human rights with Chinese characteristics, based on China’s historical development and reality, is to safeguard the interests of the working people,  protect the rights of the majority, and mobilize the enthusiasm and creativity of the  people.40 The modernization is the basic connotation of the Sinicization of the Marxist  view of human rights, while respecting and protecting human rights is the right choice  to realize national prosperity, national rejuvenation and people’s happiness.41 This  view of human rights opens up a new realm of Marxism, demonstrates the adherence  to and inheritance of the party’s fundamental purpose, embodies the essential requirements for building a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way and realizing the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and strengthens the code of action of Party members, especially the leading cadres of the Party.42 We shall adhere to the political belief of seeking happiness for the people, the political position  of the people being the masters of the country, and the political orientation of solving practical problems for the people.43 Respecting and protecting human rights is the right choice to realize national prosperity, national rejuvenation and people’s happiness; the establishment of a socialist human rights system with Chinese characteristics is China’s important contribution to mankind.44 The formation and development of the concept of human rights in developing countries, represented by China, have become an important driving force to promote the contemporary theory and practice of human rights.45
 
B. Rectifying individualism with communitarianism
 
The people-centered approach provides guidance for the coordination of human rights, with special attention to the coordination of human rights in social integration. It pays more attention to the harmony of society,46 so as to resolve the conflict of rights. Through macro coordination and top-level design, it achieves good governance of society and seeks to satisfy individual needs. In the pedigree of human rights, although there is the first generation of human rights, the second generation of human rights, the third generation of human rights, and some scholars even put forward a more novel human rights staging, in essence, the core and basis of human rights are still individual rights. The concept of human rights based on individual rights has positive and progressive significance in a certain historical period, but as society has becomes increasingly complex, many practical problems have emerged, revealing some theoretical difficulties. The “conflict of rights” is the core and foundation of these difficulties. In other words, human rights theory only gives answers to the legitimacy, importance of rights and ways to safeguard rights, but does not provide an effective explanation and solution for conflicting claims between different claimants for the same right, or conflict claims among different rights. On the premise of limited resources, such conflicts of rights are inevitable. At this time, the ideology, theoretical system and institutional arrangement of human rights based on individualism cannot effectively solve these conflicts. The people-centered approach has a strong sense of “communitarianism”, which is not entirely dependent on the needs of individuals, but considers the feelings, needs and aspirations of the “people” as a group in the statistical sense. On the one hand, this kind of community-based thought requires the auhorities, especially the state, the government, the ruling departments and government officials, to consider the allocation of resources and the proper arrangement of the development pace, so that it is possible to arrange the social development opportunities more appropriately to a large extent, and solve the contradictions resulting from the scarcity of resources in the social development at the meso and macro levels; on the other hand, it also attaches great importance to human rights in the collective sense,that is to say, it highly advocates the rights of peace, environment and development. The fact that China attaches great importance to the collectivism also makes it easier for us to understand why China always advocates sovereignty as a prerequisite for the realization of human rights, and there is no human rights without sovereignty.47
 
The people-centered approach to governance means a distinction between love and hate rather than blind unity. The ruling party and government have both friends and enemies in the international community. For a small number of enemies and those who hate the development of their own country and regard the prosperity of their country as a thorn in their sides, the ruling party and government of the country must take a tough attitude. Opposing hegemonism and safeguarding world peace is a view of human rights from the leaders of the former generation of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping to the new generation of leaders like Xi Jinping.48 China's history of being invaded and bullied by imperialism for more than 100 years is especially helpful in understanding China’s philosophy of national independence and national liberation.49 Blind kindness will only indulge evil thoughts and actions, not effectively protect the rights of the people. Appeasement before World War II was the weakness and hypocrisy that was the flaw in peace. Therefore, the people-centered approach means that we shall identify the enemy and counter their attacks with effective and powerful measures.
 
C. Planed development to avoid blind exploration
 
The people-centered approach highlights the basis for the foundation and construction of China’s human rights cause, points out the future path of China’s human rights cause, and clarifies the operation mechanism of human rights, which is mainly led by the government, improves human rights in the country’s overall planning and development, and creates a sound environment for the respect, protection, realization and promotion of human rights through development.
 
Not every society can adhere to the people-centered approach like the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government who have always placed the people in an important position, ensuring respect for and protection of human rights at the conceptual, normative and practical levels. The people-centered development philosophy that the people’s expectation for a better life shall be the goal of the work proposed in the report of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China shows the distinct party spirit of socialist political economics with Chinese characteristics.50 “Development is the key to solving all problems in China, as well as the first priority of the Communist Party of China in governing and rejuvenating the country. China adheres to the integration of universality of human rights and its own reality, and constantly takes the right to exist and the right to development as the primary basic human rights”.51 The way to put people first is to practice the new vision of in- novative, coordinated, green, open and inclusive development, with the fundamental guarantee from the strengthened and improved leadership of the party.52 Social stability is the foundation for the realization of human rights, economic development is the basis for the promotion of human rights, continuous reform is the power to promote human rights, and the construction of the rule of law is the shield of human rights protection.53 “China adheres to the people-centered development philosophy, takes promoting people’s well-being, ensuring people's ownership and promoting people’s all-round development as its ultimate goals, effectively guarantees people’s rights and interests for development, and embarks on a path of human rights development with Chinese characteristics.”54
 
Although the “people-oriented” philosophy put forward by the Communist Party of China confirms people’s dominant status in the social existence and development, it is fundamentally different from them in the content of social relations, the “people” here are people with specific social regulations, and the “people-oriented” philosophy is essentially the fundamental position and value orientation that the Communist Party of China has always insisted on in serving the people. Of course, no ruling party or government can be perfect in meeting the satisfaction of all social subjects. In a world with limited resources and rationality, meeting the expectations of all people is just an ideal. However, the people-centered approach gives top priority to the people and clearly answers the fundamental questions of who plans for development, who participates in it, and who inspects it. Adhering to the fundamental purpose of serving the people wholeheartedly is the most obvious distinction between the Communist Party of China and other political parties.55
 
D. The government service substituting the people’s struggle
 
The orientation of people-centered human rights is to implement human rights into all aspects and the whole process of governance to improve governance and respond to people’s expectations, in which human rights indicators and human rights indexes serve as important indicators of governance achievement and indexes of government performance.
 
The occurrence mechanism of human rights is a social balance system estab- lished in the advocacies or struggles of the actors who have less resources or have difficulties to obtain resources in society to a large extent. Specifically speaking, it is the concept system and institutional system established at the request of the lower and middle income groups in society who have awakened to rights that they were denied in the past. The specific content of the requests is to change the existing resource allocation structure so that they can have certain rights and access to certain opportunities.56 In the process of historical development, after the struggle of these classes, the above-mentioned proposition has been recognized by the social authority to a certain extent before being transformed into a legal system. Such a system is likely to be transmitted among countries, leading to the transplantation of laws and inheritance of the system. Different from that, the people-centered approach is the view put forward by the ruling party through active innovation and revolution, which to a great extent puts forward the basic concepts, thoughts and principles of building and maintaining a good order upon the historical experience and lessons of the past at home and abroad, is conducive to largely avoiding violent social conflicts, and effectively resolving social conflicts, thereby forming a better social order at a lower cost.
 
In the traditional human rights system, the government reactively deals with or responds to and sees to the needs of the people. In many cases, the government will be bombarded with questions from irritated people, to which it will respond with lies and deceptions. Therefore, the view of human rights in Western countries often leads to an abundance of lies, exaggerations and empty words that paralyze people and whitewash problems; the government’s decision-making and conduct are often for the interests of small circles and elite groups, and the voice of the people is only a cover for hypocrisy to a large extent, “safeguarding the rights and interests of the people” is also often transformed into a gentle excuse to realize the wills of the rulers.
 
In contrast, the people-centered approach of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government presents the opportunity to effectively promote the protection of human rights. Some scholars have proposed that the history of the Communist Party of China is a history of struggling for the rights of the Chinese people.57 Especially after the rule of law is linked with the people-centered approach, for example, with the Criminal Law applied to maintain social order and protect the people,58 and the Criminal Procedure Law applied to safeguard the basic human rights of suspects, the rule of law provides the structure for the system for the protection of human rights.59 Of course, we must understand that the people-centered approach is not a panacea for all problems, nor a “trump card” to improve things in an instant. In the panorama of widespread risks and dangers, any government that wants to effectively solve the contradictions and problems in social development has to face the dilemma of resource scarcity, multiple demands and short supply. Even with the good idea and policy of governing the country in place, it still needs to be put into practice to realize the idea of governing for the people and building the party for the people and ensuring people enjoy a happy life. A good concept and good thought on human rights alone will not necessarily lead to a good human rights system and human rights practice. However, the people-centered approach has changed from being reactive to active in the order of thinking, and established the status of the people from the perspective of source, goal and operation mode of the power. Such an active thought system is different from the reactive governance structure in mentality and expression.
 
In practice, we also need to seriously face such problems: all actions of responsive governance will be based on people’s needs and targeted to meeting them. The mechanism for activation is largely based on anticipation, which may deviate from the actual situation, which may lead to misjudgment and proceeding in the wrong direction. In order to avoid such circumstances, a lot of fact-finding field investigations need to be carried out to win the right to speak. Government staff shall not only always have a strong sense of caring, loving, serving and benefiting the people, but also observe the people’s situation, stay close to the people, listen to the people’s voice and reflect the people’s demands.60 There is story about one Chinese emperor asking “why not eat pork” when people were short of rice,61 illustrates the fact that if rulers do not understand the situation and lack the means to hear people’s voices and thus have no understanding of the problems people face, the whole society could be paralyzed in a crisis. It should be borne in mind that we can never do too much in human rights pro- tection; good law and good governance will never be final but always in progress. All countries, regions and civilizations are on the way in either the protection of human rights or the management and administration of state affairs, which can only be done through unceasing self-improvement and continuous struggle along with social commitment. Taking the people as the center is conducive to better shaping the positive interaction between the government and the people, and promoting the harmonious, stable and healthy development of society.
 
The people-centered approach requires that all social governance and national construction measures shall ultimately be targeted at people’s happiness, which is exactly the pursuit of human rights thought and systems. According to the theory of human rights, all social development shall ultimately be targeted at the freedom, security and happiness of human beings. Therefore, the people-centered governance model and development strategy ultimately serve the progress of human rights.
 
IV. The Value of Human Rights System in Complementing the People-centered Approach
 
The firm people-centered position of Party members highly conforms to the fundamental requirements of promoting the all-round development of human beings, the all-round progress of society and the realization of national rejuvenation.62 The ideas expressed in this position can be extended and deepened in cultural connotation, evaluation scale and discourse identification through the supplement of human rights system.
 
A. The significance of human rights thought as cultural reference to the people-centered approach
 
The people-centered approach is the core value concept explored and interpreted by China in the process of governing the country. It runs through all its new concepts, thought and new strategies,63 drawing nutrients from the long history of human rights  development. From the perspective of the development mechanism, the ideological  system of human rights has a long-term historical tradition and to a large extent influenced by Western culture. The integration of the ideology and system based on  Western culture can complement and enlighten China’s people-oriented ideology and  systematic practice. Although the people-oriented thought existed in ancient China, it  had the characteristics of a feudal society, which reflected the dependence of people  rather than the real subjectivity of the people; that is to say, people did not take the  initiative to become the mainstream of social development, but were only recognized  and a concern of the ruling class, and people were not really in the dominant position, but only the historical foil and the chess piece of the game power. In contrast, humanism, the theory upon which human rights in Western countries relies, is based  on the Renaissance and the enlightenment. It advocates the subjectivity and the important status of human beings. Humanism, the core of which is the abstract individual, will irrepressibly tend to individualism or extreme individualism; the essence of  the “people-oriented” thought is people without subjectivity.64 The “people-oriented” philosophy in Chinese traditional culture and the humanism put forward in the rising period of Western capitalism have commonality as a social value. They recognize the dominant position of human beings in the existence and development of society, but different in social relations. In essence, both regard people as a tool to maintain their own existence and dominant position. Humanism in the rising period of Western capitalism emphasizes the subjectivity and important status of human beings. As Marx said, though still based on the dependence of human beings on capital, it goes beyond the identity-based system and shall be regarded as progress and development. In other words, the traditional Chinese thought embodies the relationship of personal dependence, while Western humanist thought represents the enhancement of personal independence based on the dependence on things, from which it can be seen that the humanism in Western countries, human rights thought and Chinese people-oriented philosophy can complement each other.
 
The people-centered concept formulated on the basis of the two has a more profound and thorough theoretical basis and social cognition in culture. So the people-centered approach can draw lessons from and integrate with the positive and beneficial parts of human rights ideas to supplement the healthy, mature and excellent aspects in Chinese traditional culture, and make it the ideological and institutional system of China’s governance, people’s development and social evolution.
 
B. The normative system of human rights helps to refine the indicators for the people-centered approach
 
From the perspective of the cultural background and discourse system of human rights, it is conducive to the implementation of the people-centered approach. The reasons are as follows: although the idea that development is for the people, development depends on the people, and development achievements are shared by the people has been put forward after the questions about the fundamental purpose, the fundamental power and the fundamental value of development65 were solved by the people-centered approach, however, we still need to implement the idea in practice, which calls for us to build the practice path to serve the people wholeheartedly from the three levels of establishing the concept, following the route and establishing the system,66 so as to focus on meeting the needs, anxieties and expectations of the people, ensure that the development achievements in economy, politics, culture, society, ecology and other aspects are shared by the people, and people will gain higher, more direct and truer sense of gain, happiness and security. China’s continuous promoting of the all-round development of people and common prosperity of all people has become the goal for the development of China’s human rights cause.67 This requires the practice of the rule of law and the establishment of a system environment through democratic legislation, scientific legislation for the citizens to fully enjoy human rights.68
 
A relatively complete domestic and international legal system has been formed in the human rights cause. From the perspective of China, a series of legal rules and corresponding systems have been formed. With coordination between soft law and hard law, and coordination between norms and practice, this mechanism has obviously formed a complementary situation with the human rights centered on the concept and mode of action. This means it is possible that the people-centered development philosophy and governing ideology be elaborated and deepened through the human rights system. At the same time, the implementation mechanism of human rights can help the people-centered approach to be truly implemented, rather than becoming a vague and impractical system of ideas and principles. In this sense, the human rights standard, human rights concept and human rights system are likely to become the extension of people-centered thoughts and ideas, and the system supplement of people-centered ideological system. A sound institutional system can thus be formed by these two systems that correspond, respond to and promote each other.
 
C. The mode of human rights discourse is conducive to promoting the international recognition of people-centered approach
 
The people-centered approach marks not only the exploration of China’s human rights ideology, upon which a new concept of human rights development centering on the people has been formed in the process of building a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way, striving to realize the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and in the grand practice of developing China’s human rights cause in an all-round way,69 but also the construction of China’s human rights discourse system, the promotion of theoretical innovation of human rights concept and the construction of human rights discourse system with Chinese characteristics by China’s ruling party and government upon lessons drawn from the outstanding achievements of human rights civilization of the human society.70 From the perspective of the mode of discourse, there are similarities between the people-centered approach and the dem- ocratic thought in Western countries, as well as the relationship between the people and the state demonstrated in Western political science. However, these ideological theories are subject to the political judgment of realism to a large extent, which will leave the thought vulnerable to suspicion and prejudice and attacks for the integration of relevant claims and the implementation of power. Some scholars have put forward that the people-centered philosophy has deepened the understanding of the rule of law of the Communist Party of China, the law of socialist construction and the law of human social development, manifested the fundamental purpose of the development thought of the Communist Party of China, clarified the intrinsic requirements of adhering to the dominant position of the people, and highlighted the people’s supreme value pursuit.71 However, this is still a political discourse, which is likely to be  doubted and rejected, while the discourse on human rights is a discourse that has been  widely recognized and followed since the middle of the 20th century.72 In this sense, the people-centered development philosophy and governing concepts of the ruling party and government in China are expressed with the human rights discourse, which is conducive to the more widespread recognition of China’s progressive and positive thinking,73 making it a positive model for the international community. If we only emphasize the people-centered approach, on the one hand, we may be subject to the understanding deviation and dialogue gap caused by the lack of common ideological and political discourse; on the other hand, it may be rejected by some countries as a political way.74 The commonality of human rights discourse can make the people-centered political concept more easily recognized and supported in the cross-cultural, cross-political, cross-regional and cross-border systems, which will be more conducive to smooth cultural communication.75
 
V. Conclusion
 
The people-centered approach and the idea of human rights standards and cognition are not equivalent concepts. The elements between the two sets are not in a one- to-one correspondence, so they do not form a mapped relationship. However, there is a theoretical and practical compatibility between the people-centered approach and human rights system, and these two systems can interact and influence each other in their operation, which can be understood through their coherences. Since there are many coherences between the people-centered approach and human rights system, they must go through processes of low-level coordination, antagonism in some aspects, running-in, to high-level coordination. As a concept of development in the thought and strategy of governance since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the people-centered approach, with the historical materialism and the fundamental purpose of the Party as its theoretical origin, is tested and confirmed by the successful practice of reform and opening-up in China,76 and is deepening with the social development and the further construction of the rule of law. China understands and interprets the problems and challenges in people’s livelihoods from the perspective of shared development for all, which embodies the respect for the people’s dominant position, the encouragement and promotion of the people’s initiative, and the practical maintenance of people’s interests. It constructs the core logic of the concept of shared development for all from the perspectives of ontology, power theory, goal theory and orientation theory, and actively promotes the sound development of the global human rights cause through international cooperation for the people of all countries to enjoy human rights more widely. The “people-centered” approach enriches the culture of human rights, promotes the implementation of human rights, and makes great contributions to the enrichment and evolution of the world human rights cultural system.
 
(Translated by DONG Lianghe)
 
* HE Zhipeng ( 何志鹏 ), Dean of School of Law, Executive Director and Professor of Human Rights Research Center, Jilin University. 
 
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