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The Construction Dimension and Value Orientation of Contemporary Chinese Discourse on Human Rights
February 02,2021   By:CSHRS
The Construction Dimension and Value Orientation of Contemporary Chinese Discourse on Human Rights
 
LU Guangjin*
 
In his 2016 New Year Address, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that “the world is so big and there are so many problems. The international community expects to hear China’s voice and see China’s solutions. China cannot be absent.” As China increasingly moves toward the center of the world stage, accelerating the construction of the human rights discourse in contemporary China, speaking out on China’s human rights, and putting forward Chinese solutions for human rights protection have become important and urgent tasks. More so in the face of the major changes occurring worldwide, and the fierce and complex international debate around human rights.
 
In recent years, through the hard work of all parties involved and research and discussion on the part of experts and scholars, the construction of China’s human rights discourse has witnessed positive progress. However, we cannot deny that the discourse on human rights in contemporary China still lags behind its great achievements in the development of human rights, and it is far from being proportionate with China’s international status and influence. Based on existing research results, this paper will discuss some basic issues in the construction of China’s discourse of human rights in the new era, and put forward some thoughts and ideas that may help this process.
 
I. New Era, New Requirements
 
Human rights are a historical and ever developing concept. Different times have produced different mainstream discourses on human rights. From the perspective of its historical development, the construction of the contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights is an inevitable requirement of our times.
 
The French historian Marc Bloch once said that “each era redefines the concept of freedom to its own taste.” Since the emergence of human civilization, especially since the modern Western bourgeois revolution, different classes, nations and countries in different times have had different understandings, interpretations and ways to express concepts such as democracy, freedom and human rights, thus constituting the political discourse of these different times.
 
It is not difficult to see that the human rights discourse has developed in synchronism with different eras and follows a historical process of continuous improvement. As people have noted, we can observe such phenomena by looking at the evolution of the world’s human rights discourse in modern times. From the first generation of human rights — which had political and civil rights and other individual human rights as their core — advocated by the bourgeois theory and revolutionary declarations in Britain, the United States and France in the 17th and 18th centuries, to the second generation of human rights after the 1950s — centered on collective human rights such as the right to national self-determination and economic, social and cultural rights — and to the third generation of human rights — centered on comprehensive human rights such as the right to development, peace and a healthy environment — from the 1980s on, such development has reflected the main features of the human rights discourse in different stages of world history. In other words, from the “natural rights” that “all men are created equal and free,” to the “four freedoms,” namely, the “freedom of speech, freedom of belief, freedom from poverty and freedom from fear,”to collective human rights represented by the “rights of special groups” and “national human rights,” and to the unity of collective human rights and individual human rights marked by the claim that “the right to development is an inalienable human right,” this transition reflects the internal evolving logic of the human rights discourse in different times. Every change in the discourse leaves the deep imprint of its era and shows that the discourse on human rights is always developing in a more just and reasonable direction. This also fully shows that human rights discourse is not only the product of the continuous development of human social practice, but also the result of the continuous upgrading of people’s value judgment on their own rights.
 
In today’s world, the development of human society is facing a new situation with novel problems and challenges, and there is an urgent need for a new discourse on human rights. The Beijing Declaration, issued at the first South-South Human Rights Forum held in Beijing on December 8, 2017, states that “human rights are an integral part of all civilizations, and all civilizations should be recognized as equal and be respected.” The use of concepts such as human rights, civilization, equality, and respect expresses a new understanding of the relationship between human rights and the development and progress of human society by developing countries, including China, and reflects the new orientation of the contemporary international discourse on human rights.
 
Contemporary China is not only the current historical development stage of China, it is also a reflection of the world. Contemporary China cannot avoid the construction of its discourse on human rights. First, the construction of a contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights is an inevitable requirement for the development of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era. In today’s China, “respecting and protecting human rights” has been enshrined in both the Chinese Constitution and the Communist Party of China Constitution, and has become the will of the state and the program of the CPC, as well as the right and responsibility of every citizen and Party member. To respect, protect and develop the people, to promote their allround development and to maximize their value on the basis of fully protecting their rights and interests is the fundamental purpose of developing socialism with Chinese characteristics. Second, the construction of a contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights is an inevitable requirement for the modernization of China’s national governance system and governance capacity. In order to realize the modernization of China’s national governance system and governance capacity, it is necessary to achieve the good governance of the country through the rule of law, democracy and other means, enforce good order in society, promote social equity and justice, and then guarantee the realization of every person’s basic rights. We need to better integrate the modernization of China’s governance system and governance capacity with respect for and protection of human rights through strengthening the rule of law on human rights, so as to realize all-round human development and build China into a great modern socialist country. Finally, the construction of a contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights is an inevitable requirement to strengthen China’s soft power. The realization of human rights protection is linked to the construction of both a material civilization and spiritual civilization, which are deeply connected. A country’s influence can be manifested through both hard power and soft power, and neither should be neglected. To realize the Chinese dream of the great renewal of the Chinese nation, China needs not only fuller and more balanced development, but also a better and more influential image. Today’s China, more than ever before, needs to enhance its voice in human rights matters, so as to enhance its soft power.
 
From the perspective of the relationship between China and the world, it is inevitable that China should move toward the center of the world stage and build a contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights. Today’s China is very different from what it was before. Today’s world is a very different one as well. And, our era is a very different one too. China is making steady progress toward the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Our world is undergoing major changes unseen in a century. This is an era of major development, major changes and major adjustments.
 
At present, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors, the downside risks in the world economy are increasing. Economic globalization is facing retrogression. Protectionism and unilateralism are prevalent in some countries. Geopolitical risks are on the rise. Uncertainties in China’s foreign relations are increasing. And the global landscape is undergoing profound changes. However, peace and development remain the themes of our times. The trend toward a multi-polar world, economic globalization, cultural diversity and the social application of information technology has not changed. The basic trend of China’s economic stability and long-term improvement has also not changed. And the trend of China’s international status and influence expanding remains unchanged. At present, there are still more opportunities than challenges in constructing a Chinese discourse on human rights for a new era that
will influence the world.
 
On the one hand, China continues to reach out to the world and its international influence continues to grow. China’s open policy to embrace the international community, its adherence to the path of peaceful development and its efforts in advocating multilateralism have given it greater initiative in international affairs. For many years,China has been the world’s second-largest economy, and it is growing ever closer to becoming the largest economy, playing an increasingly prominent role in world economic,political, cultural and other affairs. The resulting rise in China’s international influence is both comprehensive and profound. The charm and appeal of China to the world is growing day by day. The Chinese language, Chinese food and Chinese culture have become more and more popular over the years, and many foreigners have fallen in love with them. It has become fashionable to look toward the East and China.And how the outside world views China is undergoing major changes. The Belt and Road Initiative and the proposal for countries to jointly build a community with a shared future for human beings and other cultural products with distinctive Chinese features have become influential in international communication. China’s weight and influence in the United Nations and other international organizations are growing, and the world is increasingly relying on China.
 
On the other hand, the international system dominated by the United States is undergoing the most profound changes since World War II. Such changes are as much economic as political, with a marked decline in US global dominance. The current US government’s “America First”, white supremacy and various conservative and racist practices have seriously undermined international norms and the universal principle of human rights. In recent years, the United States has withdrawn from the World Trade Organization, the United Nations Human Rights Council, the World Health Organization and many other international organizations, which has significantly reduced the country’s international standing and damaged its international image. In particular, starting from this year, as a result of serious problems in the US response to the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide demonstrations triggered by the killing of George Floyd, an African-American, by a white police officer, serious human rights problems in the fields of health and racial equality in the United States have been further exposed. This not only puts the “defender of human rights” in a very awkward situation, but also makes the world more aware of the hypocritical nature of the double standards of human rights upheld by the United States. As a result, the “West-centered theory”, which has been touted for hundreds of years, is now more seriously questioned than ever before. And the “end of history” theory of the West’s dominance, once regarded as the unshakable truth, has become a joke.
 
It should be specially noted that, under the international background of a rising East and falling West, the United States and other Western countries have a growing sense of crisis in the face of China’s rise. They have stepped up their efforts to contain China’s development, even engaged in “de-Sinicization” and used so-called “human rights issues” to pressure and challenge China. The card of human rights is exactly what the United States and a number of other countries have been trying to use in their China policy recently. They regard themselves as moral judges, uphold double standards for human rights, and wield the stick of human rights in an attempt to put down China. Under such circumstances, it is particularly necessary to carry out in-depth thinking about how to strive for the initiative of human rights discourse, and occupy the international moral high ground. There is an urgent need to strengthen the agenda setting in this regard.
 
From the perspective of China’s own development, it is an important time to construct contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights.
 
First, Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era provides an ideological basis for constructing contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights. Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era is the latest achievement of the modernization, Sinicization and popularization of Marxism, in which the idea of people-centered development constitutes the core of the contemporary Chinese concept of human rights.
 
General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important remarks on human rights, particularly his recent four congratulatory letters to important international human rights conferences and events such as the Beijing Forum on Human Rights and the SouthSouth Human Rights Forum, have set forth many important ideas such as “it is the great dream of human society for everyone to fully enjoy human rights,” “the times are changing and human rights are making progress,” “there is no best protection of human rights, only a better one,” and “the people’s happiness is the greatest human right.” Such ideas provide the basic standards for constructing the discourse on human rights in the new era. General Secretary Xi said that “the Chinese people are ready to work with people of other countries to uphold the common human values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom, uphold human dignity and rights, promote more just, reasonable and inclusive global human rights governance, jointly build a community with a shared future for human beings, and open up a better future for the world.” In doing so, he has pointed out the direction for constructing the contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights.
 
Second, the successful path of socialism with Chinese characteristics provides an institutional basis for the construction of the contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights. From the historical perspective of the development and progress of human society, socialism with Chinese characteristics is undoubtedly a great innovation in the history of human political civilization, which has greatly enriched the diversity of human civilization and opened up a new horizon for the development of human society. Socialism with Chinese characteristics ensures that the people are masters of their country, and enables all of them to enjoy more extensive and fulfilling rights and freedoms. It keeps all of them free from poverty and war, and enables them to have a greater sense of gain, happiness and security. The achievement of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects in a large developing country with a population of 1.4 billion is unprecedented in human history. Undoubtedly, it is a great feat in the history of human civilization to respect and protect human rights on such a large scale. The significance of this feat alone deserves praise. Socialism with Chinese characteristics has released institutional, development, cultural and security advantages and opened up broad prospects for the development of China’s human rights cause.
 
Third, new achievements have been made in the development of China’s human rights cause, which provides empirical support for the construction of the contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights. In just a few decades since the launch of reform and opening-up, China has lifted more than 800 million people out of poverty,contributing over 70 percent to global poverty reduction over the same period. China’s Human Development Index (HDI) increased from 0.410 in 1978 to 0.752 in 2017, making it the only country that has made the leap from a low human development level to a high one since 1990, when the United Nations Development Program first measured the HDI of countries. The development of China’s human rights cause is comprehensive, holistic, coordinated and sustainable. Historic progress has been made in the rights to life and subsistence and the development, economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights, as well as the rights to peace, to a good environment and happiness. The Civil Code of the People’s Republic of China, adopted at the Third Session of the 13th National People’s Congress, is known as a declaration of the people’s rights. It is a new milestone in the history of China’ national construction of human rights under the rule of law, marking the entry of China’s civil rights protection into the “codification era.”
 
Fourth, the important achievements made in the construction of China’s human rights discourse system provide theoretical support for the construction of the contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights. Since the launch of reform and opening-up,especially since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, new achievements have been made in the construction of the human rights discourse in China, and a human rights discourse system with distinctive Chinese characteristics has taken shape. This discourse system properly unifies upholding the leadership of the CPC, taking the socialist road and respecting and protecting human rights. It not only follows the principle of universality of human rights, but also adheres to China’s national conditions and realities. It is fundamentally different from the so-called “universal” discourse of human rights put forward by the West. Specifically, China’s human rights discourse follows the basic understanding that human rights are historical and still under development.It adheres to the combination of the universality of human rights with China’s reality, and pursues a people-centered concept of human rights. It upholds the rights to life and development as the primary basic human rights, integrates the development of collective human rights with the protection of individual human rights, and promotes the coordinated development of economic, social and cultural rights with civil and political rights. It seeks to strengthen the rule of law in the field of human rights, to ensure that the people are masters of their country, improve people’s well-being, promote social equity and justice, and achieve all-round human development.
 
II. Construction Process
 
Since the modern Western bourgeois revolution, a particular concept of human rights has been put forward and become the mainstream discourse in the international community for hundreds of years. If we explore the origin of the idea of human rights,we can trace it back to two thousand years ago. As mentioned above, both the construction of modern human rights discourse in Europe and the United States and the construction of modern human rights discourse after World War II are the products of a certain historical period. The discourse of human rights in an era is not only the reflection of this era’s social practices, but also a requirement for the development of the given era.
 
When General Secretary Xi Jinping addressed the Philosophy and Social Science Symposium on May 17, 2016, he pointed out that “the sweeping social changes that China is undergoing are neither simply the extension of China’s historical and cultural experiences, nor the application of templates conceived by classical Marxist writers,nor the repetition of socialist practices by other countries, nor the duplication of modernization endeavors elsewhere. There is thus no textbook of predetermined solutions to which we can turn. China’s philosophy and social sciences should focus on what we are doing and dig out new materials, discover new problems, put forward new ideas and build new theories from our reform and development practice.” In his speech, Xi also pointed out that “to give play to the role of China’s philosophy and social sciences,attention should be paid to strengthening the construction of the discourse system. We should have more say than anyone else when interpreting Chinese practices and constructing Chinese theories. The truth is, however, that our voice is still weak on the international stage, due to our inability to make potent arguments and reach broader audiences. To remedy this shortcoming, we must hone our skills in formulating iconic concepts and creating new concepts, domains and expressions that can be readily understood and accepted by the international community, thereby inclining international academics into relevant research and discussions.” General Secretary Xi’s remarks are of great guiding significance not only for the construction of the discourse system of contemporary Chinese philosophy and social sciences, but also for the construction of the discourse system of contemporary Chinese human rights.
 
Standing at the starting point of China and the new era and the commanding height of international morality, with a foothold in China, facing the world and looking to the future, the construction of the contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights should be the latest achievement that integrates the best of all human rights achievements.
 
A. The construction of the contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights must be based on China’s national conditions and realities
 
China’s national conditions and development realities are the basis for its discourse on human rights, without which it is impossible to put forward a persuasive discourse on human rights. To construct the discourse on human rights in China for the new era, we should first clarify its civilizational attributes, which is a new concept, new category and new expression of Chinese civilization in the new era. Therefore, special attention should be paid to the construction from the perspectives of institutional advantages, cultural characteristics and development strategies.
 
In terms of institutional advantages, we should first uphold the advantages and characteristics of socialism with Chinese characteristics, strengthen our confidence in its path, theory, system and culture, and take the core values of socialism as the main axis for the construction of our human rights discourse. This means that we must integrate upholding the Party’s leadership and taking the socialist road with respect to human rights. We must ensure that the Party’s leadership does not waver, that we do not deviate from the socialist path, and that we do not slacken our efforts to respect and protect human rights. It means that we should put the people first, put their fundamental interests first, focus on the realization and protection of the basic rights of all the people, and enhance their sense of gain, happiness and security. Guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, we should constantly enrich and develop the Marxist concept of human rights, and create a discourse on human rights that not only adheres to the universal principle of human rights, but also conforms to China’s reality.
 
From the perspective of cultural characteristics, we should pay attention to discovering the excellent cultural factors, humanistic spirit and humanistic symbols in traditional culture, especially reasonable elements in people-oriented ideas, as well as the essence of traditional humanistic thoughts such as benevolence, harmony, a welloff society and ensuing people’s livelihoods, so as to retain the roots of traditional Chinese humanistic thought. This means we should keep pace with the times, combine China’s fine traditional humanistic ideas with the practice of contemporary civilization, and make it the spiritual nourishment of human rights culture in the new era. It means we should promote the transformation of Chinese human rights discourse from localized expression to international and universal conceptual categories and logical relations, so as to make the Chinese human rights discourse more relevant and more acceptable to the international community.
 
From the perspective of development strategy, we need to start from completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, from realizing the “two centenary goals,” and the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and construct a discourse on human rights consistent with the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. It means we should start from the goals of the world’s largest developing country, of basically realizing socialist modernization and of building a great modern socialist country, and construct a discourse on human rights that is compatible with the country’s social development and progress. It means we should construct a Chinese discourse on human rights that will enable everyone to enjoy fuller human rights from the perspective of the sustained development and progress of human rights in the world’s largest developing country and the continuous promotion of all-round human development. It means we should build a Chinese discourse on human rights that is compatible with the enhancement of China’s soft power from the perspective of China’s increasing international status and expanding international influence.
 
B. The construction of the contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights must draw on the achievements of human civilization
 
The achievements of human civilization are precious treasures accumulated over the long course of human society and shared by all mankind. Exchanges and mutual learning are essential to the development of all civilizations. In his speech at the opening ceremony of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations on May 15, 2019, President Xi Jinping pointed out that “the diversity of civilizations call for exchanges; exchanges lead to mutual learning; and mutual learning is the prelude to development. Only through exchanges and mutual learning with other civilizations can a civilization maintain its vigor and vitality.”
 
The contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights belongs to both China and the rest of the world. Therefore, the contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights must be based on the principles of openness, universality and commonality, and it must be a new concept, new category and new expression of human rights that can integrate the ideas of China with those of other countries. To this end, we must adhere to the principle of openness, strengthen human rights research, expand human rights exchanges, enhance human rights awareness and cultivate a human rights culture on the basis of mutual respect and mutual learning. We must abide by the principle of universality of human rights, honor our commitments in earnest, take an active part in international human rights affairs, and coordinate global governance of human rights in accordance with the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration on the Right to Development and other international human rights documents. We must carry forward the common values of mankind, such as peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom, seek the common ground between Chinese values and the common values of mankind, internationalize China’s view on human rights, and strive to enhance the international expression and acceptance of China’s discourse on human rights.
 
C. The construction of the contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights must remain focused on innovation and development
 
Only innovation can bring vitality and hope. In his speech at the Symposium on Philosophy and Social Sciences, General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that “the life of a theory lies in innovation, which is the perpetual theme of the development of philosophy and social sciences and requisite of social, practical and historical progress. Without the creation and application of new thoughts, concepts and methods through timely study, theories will be impotent in the face of reality.”
 
Innovation needs to make the discourse of human rights relevant to the times, and propose a new discourse of contemporary human rights. In his speech at the opening ceremony of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations, President Xi Jinping said that “sustainable development of civilizations requires not only passing on fire and protecting it from generation to generation, but also responding to the trend of the times and making innovations.” The history of world civilizations reveals the law that any civilization should keep pace with the times and absorb the essence of the times. We should constantly create a human rights discourse that reflects the new requirements of the new era, so as to embellish it with the qualities of our times.
 
Innovation means we should make the discourse on human rights deeper and enrich it with new thoughts. We should draw on the achievements of human civilization, take advantage of the great practices of the new era, innovate our thinking and methods,and strengthen the logical construction of the discourse, so that it will become more theoretical, critical and universal, more easily accepted by all parties, and eventually turn into a global public good. We should continue to make theoretical innovations and use thoughtful dialogues to stimulate the vitality of China’s discourse on human rights, so as to make it appealing, attractive and influential to the international community.
 
D. The construction of the contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights must adhere to a problem-oriented approach
 
An important step to enhance the influence of the human rights discourse is to excel at putting forward new proposals, suggestions and views to solve current global human rights issues, offering timely and forward-looking solutions, and adhering to moral guidance. The development of human society is still confronted with many problems and challenges, including pandemic prevention and control, the widening wealth gap, anti-globalization, terrorism and racial discrimination and the challenges to environmental protection, peace and security. These issues are closely related to the protection of human rights and the protection and realization of the right to life, health, survival, development, peace and a good environment for people all over the world.
 
The sudden outbreak of the novel coronavirus is the most serious global public health event experienced by mankind since World War II. It is also a major human rights test faced by all countries. In the fight against the virus, China has advocated putting the people‘s lives and health first, as well as proposed the idea of building a community of health for all, which demonstrates the value orientation of China in terms of human rights and plays an important role in safeguarding the lives of the Chinese people and people around the world and promoting global cooperation to safeguard people’s health.
 
In today’s world, science and technology are advancing by leaps and bounds. The relationship between technology and human rights is attracting more attention from the world. In his book A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari writes that for nearly 4 billion years, every organism on earth has evolved according to the laws of natural selection, and none was designed by the creator of a specific intelligence. At the dawn of the 21st century, however, things have changed: Homo sapiens have crossed these boundaries, and the laws of natural selection have begun to be broken and replaced by the laws of intelligent design. In laboratories around the world, scientists are transforming life of all kinds. People have begun to worry that genetic engineering might be used to create some kind of super humans, with the result that everyone else would become their slaves.
 
With the rapid development of internet technology, the relationship between information and human rights has become more and more close, thus attracting people’s attention more than ever. It is an inevitable requirement for human beings to protect their dignity and reputation and an important option to enhance the voice of human rights to be good at proposing ideas or propositions conducive to the protection of human rights in accordance with the progress of technology.
 
III.Value Orientation
 
Throughout history, human beings have constructed several important and symbolic human rights discourses, all of which have occupied justifiably the moral commanding heights and become powerful spiritual forces. In its turn, the construction of the contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights will undoubtedly take the high-est position.
 
A. people-oriented nature is the core value of the contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights
 
According to the nature of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese state,the relationship between China and the rest of the world, and the historical position of the world today and the general trend of human social development, there is no doubt that the core value of the contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights is its people-oriented nature. Such value orientation requires upholding and promoting a people-oriented concept of human rights. Such nature is the basis and the apex of contemporary human rights value. This is also the essence of contemporary human rights.
 
John Rawls points out at the beginning of his book A Theory of Justice that “justice is the primary virtue of a social system, just as truth is the primary virtue of an ideological system.” To judge whether a country or the world has made progress in the cause of human rights, we must examine whether the rights of the people have been respected, protected, and developed. To uphold the people-oriented nature of human rights is to uphold the justice of human rights.
 
1. To uphold and promote the people-oriented nature of human rights is in line with the basic foundation of Marxism
 
Marxism believes that the people are the creators of human history and that the driving force for the development of human society ultimately comes from the people. In his speech at the meeting commemorating the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth on May 5, 2019, President Xi Jinping pointed out that “Marxism is the theory of the people and for the first time created an ideological system for the people to realize their own liberation. The reason why Marxism has been so influential across countries and times is that it has taken root among the people and pointed out the right way to advance history by relying on the people.” Its people-oriented nature is the most distinct character of Marxism, and is also the most fundamental value orientation of Marxism. Marx explored the path of human liberation from the standpoint of the people, and pointed out the direction for the ultimate establishment of an ideal society of equality and freedom that is free from oppression and exploitation. Marxism regards the realization of the free and comprehensive development of man and the liberation of man as its own duty, and believes that the society of the future “will be a union where the free development of every man is the condition for the free development of all men.” From “the free development of everyone” to “the free development of all people,” we will finally realize the all-round development of the people and make them the masters of the world.
 
2. To uphold and promote the people-oriented nature of human rights is in line with purpose of exercise of state power of the CPC and the fundamental requirements of socialism with Chinese characteristics
 
As a major Marxist party approaching its centenary, the Chinese Communist Party has, throughout its history, stood for the people and served the people wholeheartedly. The CPC comes from the people, has its roots in the people, and serves the people. The fundamental purpose of the CPC in rallying and leading the people in revolution, development, and reform is to enable the people to live a better life. This people-oriented position is the fundamental political position of the CPC. In the great cause of building socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, General Secretary Xi Jinping has put forward the idea of “people-centered” development, and made it clear that “development is for the people and depends on the people,” which has strengthened its people-oriented position. According to statistics, the word “people” was used 203 times in the report to the 19th National Congress of the CPC. In his report, Xi said that “the original aspiration and the mission of Chinese Communists is to seek happiness for the Chinese people and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation.” He added that “we must always put the people’s interests above all else, ensure that the fruits of reform and development benefit all our people in a more equitable manner,and strive for common prosperity for all.” He said that “leading the people to create a better life is the unswerving goal of our Party.” He also said that “to develop socialist democracy means to reflect the will of the people, protect their rights and interests, and stimulate their creativity.” All of these ideas reflect the fact that the CPC takes people as starting point and goal of its policies, and that the value orientation of its governance and development is its people-oriented nature.
 
Socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era adheres to the people-centered development philosophy. Its basic points are as follows. We should set as our goal the people’s aspiration for a better life and rely on the people to create great historical achievements. Efforts should be made to enhance people’s well-being and improve people’s livelihoods through development, so as to safeguard people’s rights to life, health and development. We should ensure that the people are masters of their own country and constantly meet their needs, especially in the areas of democracy, the rule of law, fairness, justice, security and the environment. We should strengthen the rule of law on human rights, protect the people’s rights in accordance with the law,and fully guarantee their rights to equal participation and development. We should coordinate efforts to protect the economic, political, social, cultural and environmental rights of all our people and achieve all-round human development.
 
3. To uphold and promote the people-oriented nature of human rights conforms to the connotation of building a community with a shared future for human beings
 
President Xi Jinping’s vision of building a community with a shared future for human beings is an important ideological contribution China has made to the prosperity and development of human society in the new era. By putting people first and respecting their rights to life and health, this important concept embodies justice and occupies the moral high ground. It meets the requirements of human development and progress, and has contributed Chinese wisdom and put forward Chinese solutions to a series of major problems in human development. In line with the humanistic spirit of “one world, one family” and “a benevolent world,” this major vision cares about human development and places greater emphasis on inclusiveness, cooperation, joint development and shared benefits. In terms of value, it has gone far beyond the narrow liberal scope of Western human rights concepts, and avoids excessive emphasis on individual
interests and rights or confrontation over interests.
 
At the same time, the building of a community with a shared future for human beings not only embraces the values shared by humans over the years, such as democracy, freedom, equality and equity, but also keeps pace with the times. It highlights the values of the times, such as common prosperity and mutual benefits, joint contribution and shared benefits, balance and inclusiveness, and peaceful co-existence. It meets the aspirations of people around the world for peace, development, cooperation, and common progress.
 
Common development is the essence of building a community with a shared future for human beings. Joint development is the basic approach. Shared benefits is the goal. To build a community of shared future for human beings is to ensure that all people are equal and everyone shares the same opportunities for development, the fruits and benefits of global governance, peace and security, development, and values and dignity.
 
4. To uphold and promote the people-oriented nature of human rights conforms to the fundamental interests of people all over the world
 
To put people first and seek peace, development and happiness for humankind is the international expression of the position of the Communist People of China. Over the years, the international community and countries around the world have made unremitting efforts and achieved gratifying results in their efforts to seek the survival and development of humankind and to build a peaceful, stable, happy and beautiful world. However, from the perspective of human rights, mankind still faces many problems,among which the realization and protection of people’s right to development are the most prominent.
 
In today’s world, people in developing countries make up more than 80 percent of the world’s population. The development of global human rights cannot be achieved without the participation of the people of developing countries. In developing countries, more than 36 percent of the population lives on less than $3.10 a day, and more than half of children under 15 years of age live in poverty. Take the human development level as an example. The 2019 Human Development Report recently released by the United Nations Development Program focuses on the research and analysis of human development inequality in the 21st century, and concludes that human development inequality in today’s world is a serious issue. According to the report, in 2000 about 17 percent of children born in countries with low levels of human development died before the age of 20, compared with 1 percent in countries with very high levels of human development. More than half of the 20-year-olds in countries with very high human development levels are in higher education, compared with only 3 percent in countries with low human development levels. In recent years, some realistic and critical films that have left great influence in the world, such as Shoplifters, I,Daniel Blake, Hunger, Joker, Parasite, etc., all reflect the cruel reality that basic rights of ordinary people living at the bottom of society cannot be guaranteed. There is still a long way to go to ensure the right to life and development of people around the world, especially when it comes to those in developing countries.
 
5. To uphold and promote the people-oriented nature of human rights is in line with the basic spirit of the universality of human rights
 
The people-oriented nature of human rights is interlinked with humanism. Here are some of the universal principles of human rights: All human beings are born free and are equal in dignity and enjoy the same rights, human rights are inalienable and it is the common responsibility of all countries to protect and promote them, and everyone has a responsibility to others and to society, and the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms must be balanced by the fulfillment of corresponding responsibilities. These have been repeatedly reaffirmed and elaborated in a series of important UN human rights instruments, fully reflecting the international consensus on the people-oriented nature of human rights. The Charter of the United Nations states that “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.” In the provisions on the purposes of the United Nations, it is clearly stated that “to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character,and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights further clarifies that “now, therefore the general assembly proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as 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.” The United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development makes it clear once again that “the right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized.”
 
B. The people-oriented nature of human rights contains and enriches the common human values of and evolves with the times
 
The people-oriented nature of human rights is eternal, and it evolves with the times. In the context of globalization, the people-oriented nature of human rights contains common human values such as democracy, freedom, equalit, fairness and justice,and it shows the following characteristics:
 
1. Human rights with a people-oriented nature pay more attention to equality
 
Equality is the core of human rights. Contemporary human rights place more emphasis on equality and advocate the spirit of equality. Non-discrimination is at the heart of contemporary equality. The equality of human rights in contemporary times means equality for all, mutual understanding and mutual respect. The equality of human rights in contemporary times means equal opportunities, equal participation and equal development. The equality of human rights in contemporary times is comprehensive equality, which is reflected not only in the equality between people, but also in that between collectives, between nations, and more importantly, between states.
 
2. Human rights with a people-oriented nature pay more attention to fairness
 
Fairness is a virtue of human beings and an important symbol of human civilization. Equality of opportunity, process and distribution of results in the participation of all peoples in economic, political and other social life is an inevitable requirement for the realization of the enjoyment of human rights by all. For a country, fairness means to improve the cultural, moral and legal education of all citizens and build a fair and just society. To the international community, fairness means the establishment of a just and reasonable international order. All countries, big or small, should be treated as equals, oppose bullying and power politics, and realize democracy in international relations.
 
3. Human rights with a people-oriented nature pay more attention to inclusiveness
 
Contemporary human rights uphold the spirit of win-win cooperation, abandon the traditional Western “jungle law,” and go beyond the zero-sum game mentality. Contemporary human rights do not define a rich and colourful human society as a single civilization. Instead, different civilizations should embrace inclusiveness, respect each other, draw on each other’s strengths and make common progress. Contemporary human rights focus on the protection of the rights and fundamental freedoms of specific groups, including ethnic minorities, national, racial, religious and linguistic groups, as well as migrant workers, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, refugees and displaced persons. We in the world today oppose politicization, selectivity and double standards on human rights issues and the abuse of military, economic or other means to interfere in the affairs of other countries. All these run counter to the purpose and spirit of human rights.
 
4. Human rights with a people-oriented nature pay more attention to balance
 
Contemporary human rights follow the principle that all human rights are universal,indivisible, interdependent and interlinked, valuing both individual and collective rights. They attach importance to civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights. They attach importance to the rights to life and development, as well as the rights to peace and a healthy environment, and strive to promote the allround and balanced development of human beings. Contemporary human rights adhere to the unity of democracy and centralism, freedom and discipline, rights and obligations, and realize the coordinated development of all basic human rights.
 
5. Human rights with a people-oriented nature pay more attention to security
 
Security is the precondition and guarantee for the realization of all human rights. Without security, there is no peace. Without peace, there are no human rights. In the face of such problems as poverty, disease, terrorism, regional conflicts, local wars, natural disasters and environmental protection, and especially in the face of threats to people’s rights to life and health, the international community should join hands and respond to various challenges, so as to keep people everywhere free of fear, hunger, disease, disaster and war, to build a peaceful, stable, healthy and happy home and share the peace and prosperity of the times. The international community should, in a spirit of universal benefits, ensure that the people of developing countries have the right to an adequate standard of living, adequate food, clothing, safe drinking water,housing and the right to work and education.
 
6. Human rights with a people-oriented nature pay more attention to sustainability
 
Contemporary human rights take the rights to subsistence and development as the primary basic human rights. Efforts should be made to solve the problems of unbalanced, inadequate and unsustainable development. To this end, we should promote cooperation through solidarity, development through cooperation, and human rights through development, constantly improve the level of global human rights protection, and strive to promote comprehensive and sustainable human development. Contemporary human rights are human rights oriented toward the future. They advocate a green,low-carbon, circular and sustainable way of production and life. We should work together to tackle the challenges facing mankind, such as weak economic growth, the spread of major infectious diseases, the threat of terrorism, the refugee and migrant crisis and climate change, so as to achieve sustainable development.
 
IV. Conclusion
 
Discourse is a kind of capital and power. Socrates once said, “A man of thoughts is the measure of all things.” It is the same for a nation or a state. To construct a contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights and to propose China’s human rights program to the world is also a kind of “yardstick” that will help measure the world and influence it with China’s view on human rights. 
 
The development of China today has provided the necessary conditions for the construction of the contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights. The development of the world today has provided a rare historical opportunity for the construction of the contemporary Chinese discourse on human rights. As long as China makes good use of its advantages, seizes the opportunities, remains bold in the field of innovation and takes proactive actions, it will surely be able to raise its voice on human rights, strengthen its soft power and make new breakthroughs.
 
(Translated by CHEN Feng)

* LU Guangjin ( 鲁广锦 ), Secretary-General of China Society for Human Rights Studies.
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