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On the Right to a Happy Life as a Human Right
July 09,2021   By:CSHRS
On the Right to a Happy Life as a Human Right
 
LIU Zhiqiang* & YAN Naixin**
 
Abstract: A happy life is the pursuit, enjoyment, and realization of ever more complex needs in a circular way under objective conditions. In terms of its constituent elements, the right to a happy life, as a human right, not only has the characteristics of moral rights, universal rights, and rights of prevention and cooperation but also contains the three spiritual values of human rights. From the perspective of the genealogy of human rights theory, the right to a happy life as a human right is a new human rights bundle with basic,comprehensive, and complex characteristics. From the perspective of the basic structure, the right to a happy life, as a human right, constitutes its subject, content, and nature. First and foremost, basic human rights stand for consensus at the current primary stage. They are fundamental and preliminary, and they are relativistic concepts. The largest human right, however, is characterized by complexity,inclusiveness, and systematism, and is an absolute concept. From the basic human rights to the largest human rights is a classic expression in different stages of China's human rights construction. It is not only the obligation and commitment in human rights practice, but also a summary of human rights theory, and more importantly, an important theoretical achievement of China's human rights development in the new era.
 
Keywords: the right to a happy life · human rights · basic rights· comprehensive rights · complexity
 
December 10, 2018 was the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, announced for the first time that “people’s right to a happy life is the largest human right,” the great and profound proposition of human rights, in a letter on the subject of “persisting in taking the road of human rights development in line with China’s national conditions to promote people’s all-round development.” He also pointed out that China’s development sums up to one thing, ‘the improvement in the lives of hundreds and millions of Chinese people.”1 This proposition has significant value for the construction and improvement of China’s human rights discourse.
 
In terms of recent research on achievements in this area among the academic world, some scholars believe that the internalization of “people’s right to a happy life is the largest human right” in the path of human rights development with Chinese characteristics and the view on human rights with Chinese characteristics included. It is an important element of Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, it is also a guide for advancing the development of China’s human rights cause.2 Some scholars focus on the construction of the Human Rights Discourse System of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, including objective fundamentals, basic principles, core concepts, and main perspectives. They interpret “people’s right to a happy life is the largest human right” as emdodying the major guidelines for the core concept of Human Rights Discourse System of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, namely, the rights of the people, the Chinese dream, and a community with a shared future for human beings.3 Some scholars have also compiled a “people-centered” concept of human rights development, interpreting “people’s right to a happy life is the largest human right” as a definition of human rights from the standpoint of the people and that this original aspiration of the development of China’s human rights cause.4 Other scholars look at the achievements of the 70 years of progress in human rights in China. They believe that while looking back, summarizing, and improving, it is more important to promote the innovation and development of the human rights cause with Chinese characteristics for a new era on the current basis, to impeove it by providing it with the strong legal and scientific support. They use the seven main propositions of philosophy as the main logic to discuss the legal principles.5 After the announcement of this theoretical proposition, academia tried to explore the theoretical connotations behind “people’s right to a happy life is the largest human right” from different perspectives including the development of human rights, the discourse system of human rights, and the concept of human rights development. They also integrated it into the theoretical system of human rights in China with in-depth research. However, academia has not extracted and refined from the phrase “people’s right to a happy life is the largest human right” a new category of human rights (that is “the right to a happy life”), to study and explore the hidden development and changes of society that the achievements of human rights development in the new era have brouht about. Therefore, if "the right to a happy life" is to be regarded as a new category of human rights, it is necessary to conduct academic and systematic research on it. This article intends to provide an in-depth summary and analysis of the definition of a happy life, why “the right to a happy life” is a human right, what kind of human right it is, what the basic structure of it is, and why it is the highest of human rights, from the perspective of human rights theory.
 
I. The Definition of a Happy Life
 
What is considered to be a happy life? Many men of wisdom and virtue have asked the same question. Some believe happiness is “longevity, wealth, health and peace, good morals and good endings.”6 Some hold “humbleness” is happiness.7 Some see happiness as “detachment from morals,” and others as “enjoyment of life.”8 Different people have different perspectives on what is a happy life. It’s like looking at a leopard through a tube, everyone sees it differently.
 
As a concept that is dynamic and constantly evolving, the definition of “a happy life” is different in scope for different people. But if you use “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs” as a medium to understand it, it has its commensurability. Maslow divided people’s needs into different levels by studying human motives, which correspond to the different levels of understanding toward a happy life by people at different stages of development. The core ideology of this theory is that the main principle of human life is basically ranked according to priority or strength. The main driving principle that gives life to this model is that, once the basic needs of a healthy person are met, relatively more complex needs will appear.9 If we introduce the concept of “a happy life,” it represents something people are trying to attain, that is, the expectation of a happy life for people in a certain period of time. When their basic needs are met,people do not stop their pursuit of a happy life. Instead, new psychological and social needs appear for personal esteem and feelings of accomplishment. These needs stated by Maslow can be interpreted as the happy life that people are looking forward to.
 
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs includes these five levels from basic to complex: physiological, safety, belong and love, esteem, and self-actualization.10 The first four are “deficiency needs,” they are the foundations of a happy life. As deficiency needs, the fulfilment of these needs depends on acquired cultural conditions and social environments. They often take the form of daily necessities and desires, for example, air to breath, water to drink, food to eat, safety, health, friendship, sex, respect, etc. While self-actualization is a “growth need” which is a relativistic concept, because in terms of its relationship with the outside world, it can be independent of other people and the environment to a certain degree. The five levels and two major classes show that a happy life is not an acquired state, but a three-step cycle of pursuit, enjoyment, and realization, and happiness derives from them. Happiness is an emotion generated at the moment when one leaps from the low-level need to high-level pursuit. Therefore, Maslow’s theory is able to provide a theoretical reference for us to define “what is a happy life”: A happy life is a state in which one pursues, enjoys, and realizes ever-higher needs under objective conditions.
 
Since a happy life is a state in which one pursues, enjoys, and realizes everhigher, then if we extract “the right to a happy life” from it, can it be justified as a human right? Demonstrations and arguments are as follows.
 
II. Why “the right to a happy life” is a Human Right
 
Human rights have their own operational logic and basic elements. The establishment of each human right has stood the test of history and has been repeatedly and theoretically demonstrated. “People’s right to a happy life as the largest human right” contains deep and profound jurisprudence. As a human right in the new era, its human rights attributes should be revealed.
 
A right needs to have three attributes and characteristics to become a human right. From the subject and content of human rights, it is a universal right. From the basis of human rights, it is a moral right. From the socio-historical process of the generation of the concept of human rights, it is a self-defense right. 11 At the same time, the reason why human rights are regarded as a great concept is that the spirit of humanity, rule of law, and the great harmony within them are consistent with the requirement of human progress. Human rights have become the driving force of human progress.12 Therefore,a happy life includes the spirit of humanity, rule of law, and the great harmony. It is the best rule for being the judgement of the value of human rights.
 
A. Attributes of human rights
 
1. Universal right
 
In Anti-Dühring, Friedrich Engels pointed out that when rights “have acquired a universal nature beyond the scope of individual countries,” it will “naturally be declared as a human right.”13 No matter how broad the subject of a right is, as long as there is one person excluded from the subject of right, it cannot be considered as a human right.14 As stated in paragraph 1, article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration,without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” This reflects that the universal attribute of human rights has become a consensus, which means that an individual’s appeal on certain issues related to human rights is not based on identity, but on one's basic rights as a person. First, the right to a happy life has filtered the non-homogeneous attributes of human beings during its conceptual deduction, it only takes the common divisor characteristics of humans into consideration, naturally including universal characteristics. Second, from the perspective of rights, being universal means being qualified. The right to a happy life is within the pursuit of the subject of human rights, individual or people, either ethically or legally. Then, from the perspectives of time and space, the so-called happiness is the emotion generated at the moment when one leaps from the low-level need to high-level pursuit. Although each individual has different understandings and requirements toward happiness, the feeling of happiness from a happy life is universal. Thus, the right to a happy life is universal in its content, and it has the attributes of a universal right to qualify it as a human right.
 
2. Moral right
 
The essence of human rights is moral rights, not legal rights. Human rights can and should be expressed as legal rights, but legal rights are not equal to human rights.15 The “self-evidence” of human rights advocated by rationalism can only appeal to beliefs due to the lack of reliable sources, and the conflict between beliefs has led this “self-evidence” into antinomy. On the contrary, morality, which has long been ignored by ideological enlightenment, has become the basis of tracing the origin of human rights. Morality exists in the mutual concern among human beings, and it is a social practice. According to Adam Smith, “No matter how selfish you think a man is, it’s obvious that there are some principles in his nature that give him an interest in the welfare of others.”16 Moral emotions allow people to feel and understand others under certain conditions, and the awareness of human rights is recognized through the mechanism of empathy.17 The rise of the concept of human rights is a realistic “historical coincidence” rather than a prior “rational inevitability.” It relies on the social psychology of people affected by the culture in which they live, hence the awareness between “human” and “non-human.”18 Happiness has a strong attribute of empathy, and it can easily affect others to form a social atmosphere that is upwardly motivated. On the one hand, a happy life creates this kind of moral atmosphere, and on the other hand, being in this kind of atmosphere gives each individual an obligation to leave the happy life of others undisturbed. This obligation stems from the moral responsibility under the empathy attribute of a happy life. Thus, the right to a happy life has the attributes of a moral right to be qualified as a human right.
 
3. Defense and cooperation right
 
The so-called “defense and cooperation right” stems from the core elements of human rights – the combination of defense right and cooperation right.19 Here, the “defense and cooperation right” should not be interpreted in a narrow sense, its relationship with the national power should be understood both positively and passively. As a saving clause in the social contract, human rights have become a powerful weapon protecting individual territories from national power. On the other hand, it means the cooperation between public right and private right, by protecting the survival and development needs of the lowest level and satisfying high-level needs. In other words, human rights are both the right to defense and the right to cooperate. As a passive right, the right to a happy life means its subject has the right to not be disturbed, which includes the right to be protected from individuals who may threaten the subject’s happy life. It also includes threats from the public power. When an individual is threatened by an unjust public power, the state is required to provide compensation according to human rights. The right to a happy life is also a positive right. On one hand, it requires the public power to provide stability for the present happy life, and gradually provide protection; on the other hand, it requires cooperation between individuals and the public power to jointly promote the realization of this right. From a passive right to a positive right, the right to a happy life requires cooperation in defense, and defense in cooperation. Thus, the right to a happy life has the attributes of a defense and cooperation right to be qualified as a human right.
 
B. Spirit of human rights
 
1. Humanitarianism
 
From the point of view of human development and improvement, the right to a happy life is a human right with humanitarianism. First, the right to a happy life is considered as a human right from the perspective of purpose. By emphasizing that as a human, one should have the right to pursue, enjoy and fulfill its needs, men are entitled to human dignity, in order to “prevent and restrain any utilitarianism or consequentialism considerations from using human as a mean or tool.”20 Second, from the perspective of subjectivity, the right to a happy life focuses on each individual’s need for a happy life, implements requirements of humanitarianism for specific and concrete individuals. “For everyone to fully enjoy human rights, we must uphold the people-centered approach, prioritize the people's interests before anything else, and ensure a good life for the people. We must ensure that the fruits of development offer greater benefits to all the people in a fair way, enable every person to enjoy opportunities for self-development and a good life, and prevent them from fear and threat.”21 This indicates the rights-holder status of human beings as the subject of humanitarianism. Third, from the perspective of authority. Human rights without the protection of power are merely empty words and they may be sacrificed for other interests at any time. Before a happy life is elevated to the level of human rights, there are plenty of guarantee systems needed for a happy life, including medical care, education, pensions, ecology, employment, democracy, etc. Instead of saying that a happy life expands the legitimacy of power for its guarantee system, it is better to say that a happy life is elevated to the level of human rights through the continuous development of the guarantee system. These systems that maintain people's happy life are empowered by the country, and these powers and authorities indirectly guarantee the needs of a happy life and the basic conditions to meet these needs.
 
2. Rule of law
 
From the perspective of the rule of law, the right to a happy life is a human right and has the spirit of the rule of law. First, it is the foundation of the legitimacy of the social political order. As a human right, the right to a happy life not only strengthens the legitimacy of maintaining national order and stability by protecting individual rights but also as a moral right, allows citizens to participate in politics and provides legitimacy for the operation of the rule of law. Second, it stabilizes a harmonious society. From the perspective of dialectics, the rule of law can be summarized into rule governance and good governance, freedom and human rights and equality and harmony, co-governance by authorities and the people, and observance of the law by all citizens, active performance of responsibilities and constraint public authorities, punishment of the evil and the promotion of the good and putting people first, fairness and justice and efficiency.22 The essence of the rule of law is essential to maintain the stability and regulation of the social order.As a state of upward pursuit, a happy life requires multiple connections between each level, so it has a rather high requirement for internal order. In the context of the new era, the right to a happy life as a human right must be promoted in a stable order and protected by the rule of law as it develops.
 
3. Spirit of solidarity
 
From the perspective of the progress of mankind, the right to a happy life is a human right and has the spirit of solidarity. First, the development of the concept of human rights itself is the product of mutual recognition to a certain degree, which means despite the differences of race, gender, intelligence, and wealth, etc., sharing the same value as human beings. As a human right, the right to a happy life transcends differences and gives everyone the right to pursue, enjoy, and fulfill a happy life. The right to a happy life looks at different states of happy life equally, and each subject shares the same dignity, which is the best embodiment of the spirit of human solidarity in the concept of human rights. Second, “the world is equally shared by all”23 is deeply rooted in traditional Chinese culture. According to Confucius, a gentleman's responsibility is to cultivate himself, regulate the family, govern the state, and then lead the world to peace. It relies on the concept of “benevolence” to advocate for a harmonious society. He believes that people should not be in a relationship of competing interests, but a moral relationship full of mutual love and assistance where people treat each other with sincerity and virtues. As a human right, the right to a happy life inherits excellent Chinese cultures and traditions. Internally, it provides hierarchical harmony; externally, it provides equal social harmony, which can bring the function of human rights — stopping evil acts and promoting good ones—to a greater extent.
 
In conclusion, the right to a happy life as a right not only fits the attributes and characteristics of human rights, but alsoholds the the spiritual values of human rights. Its human rights attribute is self-evident.
 
III. What Kind of Human Right Is “the Right to a Happy Life”
 
With the development of the times, people need to look into the principles of law to understand the internal aspect of human rights. Thus, we need to delve into the question of “what kind of human right is the right to a happy life.”
 
A. The fundamentals of the right to a happy life
 
The legitimacy of human rights stems from human dignity. Holleman once said: “In the history of the human rights movement, there is one theme that proves the basis for advancing human rights more than all propositions. That theme is human dignity.”24 Changing from the concept of rights to the concept of human rights is an important sublimation for the realization of human dignity, showing that the subject of rights has a kind of ultimate support while safeguarding their own interests and dignity.25 Therefore, for the realization of human dignity, analysis from the freedom of development and rational growth can powerfully explain that the right to a happy life is the foundation of human rights.
 
1. Free development of a person
 
Freedom, as an element rooted in human nature, drives people to engage in activities with the purpose of developing ability and promoting their individual happiness. The free development of a person represents the basic stratum for the realization of human dignity. From the perspective of negative freedom, the right to a happy life implies a right to be undisturbed, which basically falls within the context of freedom that is free from restraint. From the perspective of affirmative freedom, it is about pursuing goals and achieving personal fulfillment in a certain social environment. It is also consistent with the subjective needs of a happy life. Therefore, as a concept of rights, a happy life fits the pursuit of freedom in human nature, that is, it meets the basic stratum conditions for the realization of human dignity.
 
2. Rational growth of a person
 
According to Kant, rationality is a symbol of human nobility and dignity, and people act only out of rationality. Human rights are the external sign of this purely rational human freedom.26 Dialectically, the relationship between rational growth and the pursuit of a happy life are two sides of the same coin. People are constantly selfcriticizing, during which rationality grows. What one experiences in the process of growth is a state in which one pursues, enjoys, and realizes ever-higher needs. From the perspective of a happy life, the needs at different levels are constantly met, thus generating new needs. That is the reflection and growth of humans toward their own rationality. Therefore, a happy life is in line with human’s needs for rational growth, that is, to meet the requirements of stratum leap for the realization of human dignity.
 
The free development of a person and the rational growth of a person represent the two-level structure for the realization of human dignity. The free development of a person is the foundation, and the rational growth of person is the stratum leap. The right to a happy life is in line with human dignity content-wise and system-wise, which proves that it is the latest description of this value orientation of human dignity in the context of the new era. It covers a wider range and is more extensible. But fundamentally, it has the core value of a human right. Thus, the right to a happy life is fully qualified as a human right.
 
B. The comprehensive characteristic of “the right to a happy life”
 
The right to a happy life is different from specific human rights in the current human rights framework, such as the right to subsistence, the right to development, and the right to vote. It is a bundle of rights under diversified value orientation, including the overall overlapping consensus and the respect for diversified values of individuals. In terms of specific human rights, its comprehensive orientation reflects a more comprehensive recognition and protection of human rights in the context of the new era.
 
1. Bundle of rights
 
The right to a happy life is not a single or independent right in the Constitution or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a general right, more precisely, a “bundle of rights.”27 As far as the conceptual composition of a happy life is concerned, it can be broken down into three rights: the right to pursue a happy life, the right to enjoy a happy life, and the right to fulfill a happy life. The internal structure of the type of specific human rights is not constant, rather, it varies with the realities of practice in various places. For example, being the right to subsistence, the right to enjoy a happy life for people living in China or in developed countries is more about
the attribute of the right to defense.For people in impoverished areas, it is the right to fulfill a happy life; for people in extremely impoverished areas, it is closer to the right to pursue a happy life, which focuses more on the attribute of the country’s or the government’s right to cooperate.28
 
A happy life, as a bundle of rights, does not expand endlessly so that it is close to human rights as a superior concept. The bundle of rights is more like the concept of “set” in mathematics. It lies between specific human rights and human rights. It is a collection extracting from existing and forthcoming human rights that fit the “common factors” of a happy life. However, focusing on the context of the new era, the right to a happy life as a “bundle of rights” also includes people’s pursuit of a better future, including the condensing of all bundles of rights within the scope of the human rights system.
 
2. Diversified value orientation
 
Diversified value orientation is the basic feature of modern society. Each individual's personality has been publicized and recognized in geometric multiples more than ever compared to any time of history, and the value is increasingly fragmented, liberalized, and diversified. Isaiah Berlin believed that “the most basic meaning of diversified value is value, that is, things that people consider to be good, kind, and worth pursuing.”29 However, under diversified value orientation, how to objectively evaluate the right to a happy life as a bundle of rights is a problem. To solve this problem, we can rely on the plan of “overlapping consensus”, that is, “the legitimacy of the determination of the status of each human rights and the choice of solutions to conflicts between human rights are not derived from the consistency of value but from overlapping consensus.”30 The “overlapping consensus” plan, from the collective perspective, encompasses more clear and concrete content of the right to a happy life. It also respects the diversified value of the right of inviduals to enjoy a happy life.
 
Comprehensiveness is the inherent positioning of the right to a happy life in the current human rights framework. It clarifies the future direction of the development of the right to a happy life and its status in the human rights system. It also provides strong support for the pursuit of a happy life.
 
C. The complexity of “the right to a happy life”
 
As far as the depth of the right to a happy life is concerned, it is a complex form comprising multiple structures of rights, that is, the complex of existing rights and expectancy rights, the complex of political rights and economic rights, and the complex of legal rights and moral rights. The multiple complex nature allows it to be more comprehensively protected and realized, and to clarify its connection with existing human rights. It highlights its claim as the largest human right.
 
1. The complex of existing rights and expectancy rights
 
Different from the traditional classification of natural rights, actual rights, and legal rights, existing rights and expectancy rights are classified relatively across time and space. The right to a happy life is based on realistic practice. On one hand, it is a high-level overview of existing human rights; on the other hand, it is also an expectation for the future development of human rights. The right to a happy life has characteristics that span time and space. It not only focuses on the realization and protection of existing human rights, its continuously generated higher-level needs also determine the content of future expectancy rights. As time and space pass, the needs of a happy life are constantly met, and expectancy right is constantly shifting into an existing right. The relationship between the two is relative and they transform into one another as people’s needs change. In this regard, the right to a happy life is a combination of existing right and expectancy right.
 
2. The complexity of political rights and economic rights
 
Since the release of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the two accompanying covenants (ie, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) have been widely recognized internationally representing political and economic rights as human rights. Political rights represent the negative human rights with freedom as its core and reject intervention by national power; the economic rights represent the positive human rights with survival as the core and emphasizing the support of national power. The right to defense and the right to cooperation are factored from the attributes of the right to self-defense within the right to a happy life. They correspond to the passive political right that emphasizes freedom and the active economic right that emphasizes survival. Therefore, the right to a happy life is the complexity of political rights and economic rights
 
3. The complexity of legal rights and moral rights
 
The key to differentiating legal rights and moral rights is whether they provide justification for human rights. Winston believes that “because of the simple fact that all people are human beings, we often interpret human rights as the universal moral rights that belong to all humans equally.”31 However, Rousseau believes that “rights are by no means natural but based on agreements.”32 The right to a happy life is not limited to a certain justified reason. From the perspective of the satisfaction of a happy life for different levels of needs, a happy life is within morality and manifested by law. From the perspective of the subject of human rights, the overlapping consensus of the
right to a happy life comes from the law, while the diversified values of a happy life come from morality. Thus, the right to a happy life is the complexity of legal rights and moral rights. 
 
Complexity is a unique feature of the right to a happy life, which not only reflects its all-encompassing substance but also explains its internal logic. As far as its relationship with the existing human rights are concerned, the right to a happy life is not a "casket in the sky", but a product based on existing human rights theories. It explains the connection with existing human rights in a complex and generalized way, and at the same time highlights its proposition as the “largest human rights”.
 
To sum up, as a human right, the right to a happy life is a burgeoning bundle of human rights with basic, comprehensive, and complex characteristics in the genealogy of human rights theory.
 
IV. The Basic Structure of “the Right to a Happy Life”
 
The right to pursue happiness is a human right. Although previously the attributes and characteristics of the right to a happy life as a human right have been discussed, its subject, content, and nature still need to be determined.
 
A. The subject of “the right to a happy life”
 
As mentioned previously, the right to a happy life is a bundle of rights, and the scope of the subject can vary due to differences in perspectives. Without attributes, the right to a happy life is undoubtedly a human right. It is for every individual and collective who pursues, enjoys, and fulfills their own needs. This is also a proactive identity of the diversified orientations of value. If there is a proactively modified attribute, the main needs of the collective right to a happy life can be clarified based on the "overlapping consensus.” First, from the definition of a happy life, it describes a state of individual needs. From a teleological point of view, the scope of protection of the right to a happy life should also cover the protection of the particularity of individual and collective happy life. Second, when the right to a happy life has an attribute, its proactively implied individual subject is replaced, by group or collective scope qualifiers such as “child”, “nation”, “people” and “human.” Then at this point, the contents protected by the right to a happy life shift from the state of a happy life for the individual to the state of a happy life of the collective. This kind of state of being describes the dynamic equilibrium relationship formed by the happy life of each individual in the collective. What it relies on is no longer the strict protection of each individual, but the protection of the overall state of the collective. Therefore, from this perspective, the right to a happy life is a collective human right or group human right. In short, the subject of the right to a happy life changes based on the limitation of its scope. It is the right to a happy life for both the individual and the group.
 
B. The content of “the right to a happy life”
 
The content of the right to a happy life is multi-dimensional, including material needs, spiritual needs, and institutional needs. First, the right to a happy life has material needs. From the perspective of motives, the first four levels of needs in Maslow's hierarchical theory of needs are “scarcity needs”, and they are all material requirements. From the perspective of the hierarchy of human rights, Luo Longji believes that human rights can be divided into four levels, among which the first level is the most basic needs of humans for clothing, food, and housing.33 Therefore, material needs are the foundation and an essential part of the right to a happy life. Second, the right to a happy life has spiritual needs. As a human right, the right to a happy life naturally contains the spirit of humanity, the spirit of the rule of law, and the spirit of great harmony. This is not only a measure of the value of human rights but also a constitution of the basic needs of the right to a happy life. Third, the right to a happy life has institutional needs. The right to a happy life requires regulations from all aspects to protect the fulfillment of current material needs and to maintain future opportunities for happiness. It also requires punishment for behaviors that interfere with the enjoyment of a happy life. From the perspective of the right to not be disturbed, the right to a happy life should include a reasonable range of the definition of a happy life, so that one can trace back to these rules and justifications when conflicts occur.
 
Therefore, as a human right, the content of the right to a happy life still has complex characteristics, and it is a synthesis of material needs, spiritual needs, and institutional needs. During the protection and application of such a practice, a balanced approach is very important. The content of the right to a happy life must be fully grasped and understood in order to achieve the effective realization of human rights.
 
C. The nature of “the right to a happy life”
 
The dichotomy theory of “subjective rights” and “objective method” in Germany’s Basic Law can be used as a reference for the fundamental nature of the right to a happy life as human rights. In Germany’s Basic Law, “Individuals must claim to the country” that the fundamental rights is a kind of “subjective rights,” and the fundamental rights are considered to be the “order of objective value” established in German’s Basic Law. Public authority must abide by this order of value and create, as well as maintain, conditions that benefit the realization of basic rights as much as possible. In this sense, basic rights are an “objective method” that directly restricts public authority.34 Under the framework of this dual nature theory, German constitutional theory and practice have constructed a strict rights protection system, which enables the effective integration of rights.
 
Thus, as a human right, the right to a happy life should also have such a dual nature, namely subjectivity, and objectivity. First, living a happy life is a relatively subjective feeling. Everyone has different understandings of a happy life and happiness. It is difficult to have objective standards for the answer to questions such as whether a person is happy or how happy or who is relatively happier. Although it is complicated to predict the variables of a happy life directly, the right to a happy life focuses on the protection of rights, which can be answered from the opposite side as to what is unhappiness. As Tolstoy said, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The right to a happy life is a right given to the individuals to ask their country to prevent themselves from misfortune. In this sense, the right to a happy life has the nature of a subjective right. Second, the right to a happy life means differently for each individual at different times, but it always follows certain objective rules. For example, although we cannot accurately define all aspects of a happy life, we can divide it into different levels through Maslow's hierarchy of needs in order to pay attention to the needs of each individual at different levels of needs. From this perspective, the right to a happy life is also an objective rule of social operation. These two properties are both embedded in the right to a happy life, forming an internally organized order to maintain the status of a happy life.
 
The subject, content, and nature of the right to a happy life, form the basic structure as a human right. We believe that the right to a happy life is undoubtedly the "highest human right" in terms of the scope of its subject, the tolerance of its content, and the dual expression of its nature. It is an important achievement of China's human rights development in the new era.
 
V. Why “the Right to a Happy Life” is the Highest Human Right
 
The question that cannot be avoided in the theoretical system of human rights in China is, what is the highest human right? What is the primary human right? How to define the relationship between the primary human rights and the highest human rights is a problem that needs to be solved as soon as possible. Otherwise, it will be difficult to integrate the relationship between the new achievements of China's human rights development and the original human rights theories.
 
A. Similar but divided — the difference between the primary human right and the highest human right
 
1. Dimension of different interpretation
 
The concept of primary human rights was first formally referred to in 1991, when the white paper titled Human Rights in China was published by the State Council Information Office.35 From the principles of human rights, human rights cannot be divided into primary and secondary. All human rights have the same value. However, countries can choose how to develop their own human rights. Focusing on the development of one certain human right for a period of time is a manifestation of a country’s human rights policy and is determined by the historical stage of that country’s human rights development. Since the 1990s, China has always been a developing country, and the issue of survival and development is still an important factor that limits China's development and the realization of the Chinese dream. Therefore, China focuses on the right to survival internally and is committed to the construction of a better life for its people. China also focuses on the right to development externally, and is committed to the development of national strength, and has constructed the path of socialist human rights with Chinese characteristics.
 
The concept of the largest human rights was formally announced by General Secretary Xi Jinping in his statement at the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “people’s right to a happy life is the highest human right.”36 From the content of human rights, the right to a happy life, as a bundle of rights, is a complex of material, spiritual and institutional human rights. It covers almost all human rights concepts that have been proposed so far. From the openness of its concept, the right to a happy life has a dynamic characteristic. It continuously updates its own scope of interpretation with the development of the times, which gives it unlimited vitality in the new era.
 
It can be seen that the interpretation of primary human rights is mainly based on the different focuses of human rights in a specific period of time, it is a relativistic concept from the perspective of time. While the highest human rights are mainly based on the interpretation of the scope of human rights, it is an absolute concept from the perspective of time.
 
2. Different level of development
 
Primary human rights are one of China's important achievements in advancing the development of international human rights. Its development over the years has gained recognition by most countries in the world that the right to subsistence and the right to development are considered a part of human rights. The famous jurist Karel Vasak proposed the theory of “three generations of human rights,” which are respectively attributed to freedom-based human rights (negative rights), survival-based human rights (positive rights), and development-based human rights (joint rights). This is the best proof of its recognition.37 As the basic human rights proposition in China, primary human rights have become a consensus among the human rights academia in China, and it is an essential part of the human rights theory. Relatively speaking, the highest human rights are an emerging human right. Through previous analysis and demonstration, we know that in-depth research and hands-on practice are needed before the right to a happy life as a human right is recognized at the international level. The highest human rights is the latest achievement in China's human rights discourse system in the new era. Its development and establishment still require practice and theoretical improvement over time.
 
B. Harmony in diversity — the connection between the primary human right and the highest human right
 
1. Progressive development
 
The primary human rights consist of two parts, the right to subsistence and the right to development. These two are closely related. The right to subsistence covers the basic elements from “the right to life” to economic, social, and cultural rights. In the white paper on human rights published by the State Council in 1991, it stated that human rights are, first and foremost, the right to subsistence. Without the right to subsistence, all other human rights will not be possible.38 China is a populous country. Over thousands of years of history, the problem of food and clothing of the people has long been a “wake-up call” when it comes to the development of the country. After the founding of New China, social productivity has been substantially increased, and the problem of food and clothing has been stably overcome. The average life expectancy has been extended, and the infant mortality rate has been reduced. These achievements are the results of China’s long-term commitment to making the right to subsistence paramount. Engels once said, “People must first have the access to food, water, house, and clothes before engaging in politics, science, art, religion, etc.”39 In 1986, the United Nations passed the Declaration on the Right to Development. It pointed out 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.40 The issue of development is the Communist Party of China’s top priority for ensuring the governance and revitalization of the country. Since the launch of the reform and opening-up policy in 1978, China has persisted in taking economic development as the central task. It maintained a GDP growth rate of 10% for more than a decade and it has become a legend in the history of world economic development, rising to be the second-largest economy in the world. In his congratulatory letter to the “International Symposium to Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development”, General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized that “China insists on a combination of the principle of human rights’ universality and the nation’s actual conditions and insists that the right to subsistence and development are primary basic human rights.”41 Thus, the right to subsistence and the right to development are both fundamental and preliminary.
 
From the perspective of the deep meaning of human rights, the right to a happy life not only is the people’s hope and vision of a happy life, but also shows the peopleoriented governance principle which the Chinese Government follows. It highlights that the principal contradiction facing Chinese society has evolved. What we now face is the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life. It also includes a strong agreement with China's governance policy and its direction forward. It is an affirmation of the development of human rights in the past, and also a confidence in the future development of human rights. From this perspective, the right to a happy life as the largest human right is complex in nature. From the perspective of the breadth of human rights, the right to a happy life has not only the subjective nature of its individual perspective, but also the objective nature of the overall perspective. It includes the low-level needs of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, the high-level needs of human consensus recognized by the people of the world, and also the specific characteristics of the cultural consensus unique to the Chinese people.
 
From this perspective, the right to a happy life as the highest human right is inclusive. From the perspective of the order and structure of human rights, the various levels of the right to a happy life need to be in the hierarchy from low to high. And within the human rights system, the right to a happy life is structured through the decomposition of the hierarchy of needs. In terms of human rights protection, the high-level laws and low-level policies are all in a relationship of order and progress, including medical care, education, housing, poverty alleviation, etc. From this perspective, the right to a happy life as the highest human right is systematic. Therefore, the right to a happy life has the characteristics of complexity, inclusiveness, and systematization.
 
2. People-oriented philosophy
 
The people-centered philosophy is coherent with the concept of human rights. The primary human rights and the highest human rights are two profound propositions proposed by the Communist Party of China in different eras. The philosophy of “people-centered” is behind these two human rights propositions. Since the founding of the Communist Party of China, it has upheld the concept of serving the people, which is the philosophy of people-centered human rights protection. However, the human rights path of every country is different, there is no fixed template that works universally. The Communist Party of China has always taken the “people-centered” approach, combining the universal principles of human rights with the specific situation in China, and has formed a system of people-centered human rights theories. The achievements of the human rights cause in the past 71 years are the best answers to the Chinese people. Therefore, whether it is the primary human rights or the highest human rights, the right to a happy life is coherent with the concept of the peoplecentered approach within the human rights theory system of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
 
Thus, the primary human rights and the highest human rights are both different from but connected to each other. They are both valuable results from China's human rights theory. By determining the relationship between the two, we can see that from the primary right to the highest right, the right to a happy life as a human right is a classic expression of the different levels of construction of human rights in China. It is not only an obligation and commitment but also a summary of human rights theory. It provides the wisdom of Chinese people for the development of human rights for all people.
 
VI. Summary
 
To summarize, through the above arguments, we believe that a happy life is a state in which one pursues, enjoys, and realizes ever-higher needs under objective conditions. In terms of its constituent elements, the right to a happy life, as a human right, not only has the characteristics of moral rights, universal rights, and rights of prevention and cooperation but also contains the three spiritual values of human rights. From the perspective of the genealogy of human rights theory, the right to a happy life as a human right is a new human rights bundle with basic, comprehensive, and complex characteristics. From the perspective of the basic structure, the right to a happy life, as a human right, constitutes its subject, content, and nature. First and foremost, basic human rights stand for consensus at the current primary stage. They are fundamental and preliminary, and are relativistic concepts. The highest human right, however, is characterized by complexity, inclusiveness, and systematism, and is an absolute concept. From the basic human rights to the highest human rights is a classic expression in different stages of China’s human rights construction. It is not only the obligation and commitment in human rights practice, but also a summary of human rights theory, and more importantly, an important theoretical achievement of China’s human rights development in the new era.
 
(Translated by YU Jiangyue)

* LIU Zhiqiang ( 刘志强 ), Professor and Ph.D Supervisor, Institute for Human Rights, Guangzhou University; Distinguished Professor of Guangzhou Scholars Program.
 
** YAN Naixin ( 闫乃鑫 ), Researcher, Institute for Human Rights, Guangzhou University. This article is a milestone of China Society for Human Rights Studies’ 2020 key ministerial research topics “Interpretation of the Human Rights Discourse System with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era” (approval number: CSHRS2020-02ZD) and the key research project of Guangzhou University “Research on the Human Rights Discourse System with Chinese Characteristics” (approval number: YM2020010).
 
1. Xi jingping, “Xi Jinping’s letter to the symposium commemorating the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights emphasized persistence in taking the road of human rights development in line with China’s national conditions to promote people’s all-round development”, China Daily, December 11, 2018.
 
2. Li Junru, “A Main Embodiment of the Chinese Communist Party’s Human Rights Ideology in the New Era — a Study of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s Letter on Human Rights”, Human Rights 1 (2019): 12-13.
 
3. Zhang Xiaoling, “On the Core Meaning of the Human Rights Discourse System of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”, Human Rights 1 (2019): 22-23.
 
4. Liu Huawen and Huang Zhenwei, “An Analysis of the New Concept of ‘People-centered’ Human Rights Development”, Human Rights 1 (2019): 30-33.
 
5. Zhang Wenxian, “The Legal Principle of Human Rights in the New Era”, Human Rights 3 (2019): 12-27.
 
6. Cong Xiaobo, “What is Happiness: On the Socio-cultural Prerequisites of Happiness”, Journal of Northeast Normal University (Philosophy and Social Sciences) 2 (2014): 211.
 
7. Xu Shen, Shuowen Jiezi, notes by Duan Yucai (Shanghai: Shanghai Classics Publishing House, 1981), 3.
 
8. Shangshu Hongfan, “There are five happinesses and six tragedies in one’s life”. The five happinesses are “longevity, wealth, health and peace, good morals and good endings”. Liji Jitong, “Those who are blessed are prepared; those who are prepared will be blessed with success, and those who do everything successfully will be blessed with happiness”. The pursuit of morality stems from Aristotle’s concept of happiness. Hedonism is mainly based on the viewpoint of utilitarianism represented by Bentham.
 
9. Abraham Maslow, Motivation and Personality (Third edition), trans. Xu Jinsheng (Beijing: China Renmin University Press, 2013), 32.
 
10. Ibid.
 
11. The original text here refers to“the right to resist”, Based on other considerations, we have changed it to “self-defense right”. Xia Yong, The Origin of Human Rights Idea — a Philosophy on the History of Rights (Beijing: China University of Political Science and Law Press, 2001), 169-170.
 
12. Xia Yong, The Origin of Human Rights Idea — a Philosophy on the History of Rights (Beijing: China University of Political Science and Law Press, 2001), 181.
 
13. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Selected Works of Marx and Engels, vol. 3 (Beiing: People’s Publishing House,2009), 145.
 
14. Xu Xianming, “An Analysis of the Universality of Human Rights and Human Rights Culture”, Law Review 6 (1999): 17.
 
15. Xia Yong, The Origin of Human Rights Idea — a Philosophy on the History of Rights (Beijing: China University of Political Science and Law Press, 2001), 170.
 
16. Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, trans. Xie Zonglin (Beijing: Central Compilation & Translation Press, 2018), 2.
 
17. Liu Han, “Equality, Empathy and Imagining the Other: The Moral and Emotional Basis of Universal Human Rights”, Tsinghua University Law Journal 4 (2017): 61.
 
18. Richard Rorty, Human Rights, Sentiments, Rationality, in Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 170.
 
19. Liu Zhiqiang, “On the Cooperative Right of Human Rights”, Journal of Sichuan University (Philosophy and Social Sciences) 5(2020): 153.
 
20. Xia Yong, The Origin of Human Rights Idea — a Philosophy on the History of Rights (Beijing: China University of Political Science and Law Press, 2001), 176.
 
21. the State Council Information Office, “Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China”, People’s Daily, September 23, 2019.
 
22. Jiang Bixin, “The Attribute, Aonnotation and Promotion of the Spirit of Rule of Law”, The Jurist 4 (2013): 7-8.
 
23. See Gongyang Zhuan. The theory of three generations originated in Gongyang Zhuan, which divided the rise and fall of social chaos into three generations: decay & chaos, pleasures and peace. Later, Kang Youwei combined the “Great Harmony” thought in Liji Liyun and systematically proposed the theory of social evolution — the “three generations” theory. It pointed out that social progress follows the generations of decay & chaos, pleasures and peace.
 
24. W. Holleman, “Universal Human Rights”, trans. Wang Xiaodan, in The Human Rights Movement: Western Values and Theological Perspectives, vol. 2 (Chengdu: Sichuan People’s Publishing House, 1994), 318.
 
25. Xia Yong, The Origin of Human Rights Idea — a Philosophy on the History of Rights (Beijing: China University of Political Science and Law Press, 2001), 6.
 
26. Immanuel Kant, Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten, trans. Miao Litian (Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Publishing House, 2005), 130-133.
 
27. Huang Aijiao, “On the Teleological Explanation of the Right to Happy Life”, Human Rights 1 (2020): 46.
 
28. Liu Zhiqiang, “On the Cooperative Right of Human Rights”, Journal of Sichuan University (Philosophy and Social Sciences) 5 (2020): 153.
 
29. Hu Chuansehng, The Illusion of Freedom-A Study of Berlin’s Thought (Nanjing : Nanjing University Press, 2001), 230.
 
30. Jack Donnelly, Universal Human Rights: In Theory and Practice, 3rd edition (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2013), 22.
 
31. M. Winston, “The Nature of Human Rights”, in The Human Rights Movement: Western Values and Theological Perspectives, vol. 2 trans. Tao Kai (Chengdu: Sichuan People’s Publishing House, 1994), 163.
 
32. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, trans. He Zhaowu (Beijing: The Commercial Press, 2003), 8-9.
 
33. Liu Zhiqiang, “On Luo Longji’s Concept of Functional Human Rights”, Modern Philosophy 2 (2011): 112.
 
34. Zhang Xiang, “The Dual Nature of Fundamental Rights”, Legal Research 3 (2005): 21.
 
35. Dong Yunhu and Liu Wuping, The Sequel to the Overview of Universal Human Rights (Chengdu: Sichuan People’s Publishing House, 1993), 656-682.
 
36. Xi Jinping, “Xi Jinping’s letter to the symposium commemorating the 70th anniversary of the publication of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights emphasized persistence in taking the road of human rights development in line with China’s national conditions to promote people’s all-round development,” People’s Daily, December 11, 2018.
 
37. Yan Hailiang, The Transformation of the Paradigm of Human Rights Argumentation-from Subjectivity to Relationality (Beijing: Social Science Academic Press, 2008), 9.
 
38. Dong Yunhu and Liu Wuping, The Sequel to the Overview of Universal Human Rights (Chengdu: Sichuan People’s Publishing House, 1993), 658-659.
 
39. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Selected Works of Marx and Engels, vol. 3 (Beiing: People’s Publishing House, 2009), 601.
 
40. Lu Desheng and Ji Rongrong etc., Human Rights Awareness and Human Rights Protection (Beijing: China Chang’an Publishing House, 2014), 544.
 
41. Xi Jinping, “Xi Jinping’s letter to the ‘International Symposium to Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development’”, Xinhua News Agency, December 4, 2016. 
 
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