Home > PUBLICATIONS & RESOURCES > JOURNAL >

Outline of the Construction of Chinese Human Rights Culture in the New Era
December 05,2021   By:
Outline of the Construction of Chinese Human Rights Culture in the New Era
 
LU Guangjin*
 
Abstract: In the broadest sense, respecting and protecting human rights is a major achievement in the progress of human civilization. Human rights culture is the most essential feature of human rights. From the perspective of the development of human civilization, human rights culture reflects a country’s thinking and wisdom as well as its civilization level and represents a country’s cultural soft power.Chinese human rights culture in the new era is a socialist human rights culture in a broad sense, a human rights culture in the new stage of development of socialism with Chinese characteristics in a narrow sense, and an ideological spirit and moral strength of Chinese human rights culture in a certain historical period. At a new historical starting point, strengthening the construction of China’s human rights culture in the new era and gathering the strength of China human rights culture have important practical significance and far-reaching historical significance for building China’s human rights theory, developing advanced socialist culture with Chinese characteristics, consolidating the confidence in socialist culture with Chinese characteristics, building a country with a strong socialist culture, and enhancing China’s cultural soft power.
 
Keywords: new era · Chinese human rights culture · socialism
 
I. Questions Raised
 
Human rights is a historical and developmental concept. The ideology, value, and spirit of certain human rights embody the culture of human rights in ideology, which directly affects the practice of human rights. 
 
In the international human rights field, it is quite unfair and unreasonable that the international human rights discourse has long been dominated by the West, which defines, explains, and judges human rights. These just scratch the surface of the problem, while culture is the core issue. The dispute between Chinese and Western human rights is not so much a discourse dispute as a culture dispute, as the human rights culture determines the human rights discourse. Since a relatively mature human rights culture has been formed in the past few centuries, the West has long dominated international human rights affairs by promoting its values through human rights.
 
From the large number of facts obtained, great achievements have been made in the cause of human rights in New China. And yet, in contrast to what we have made, there are still the obvious shortcomings in the construction of Chinese human rights culture, as it has not yet formed a complete and influential system of thinking, theory, concept, discourse and academic discourse, and confidence in socialist human rights culture as well. It is a very urgent task for us to build a Chinese human rights culture with Chinese characteristics, Chinese style, and Chinese manner.
 
Building a modern socialist country in an all-round way, and realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation require both material and spiritual strength, which embodies a high unity between material and spiritual civilization.1 General Secretary of the Communist Part of China Central Committee Xi Jinping has pointed out that, “Culture is a country and nation’s soul. Our country will thrive only if our culture thrives, and our nation will be strong only if our culture is strong. Without full confidence in our culture, without a rich and prosperous culture, the Chinese nation will not be able to rejuvenate itself.” 2 When it comes to cultural confidence, General Secretary Xi has repeatedly emphasized that “cultural confidence is more of a basic, extensive and profound confidence. Cultural confidence is the most basic, deepest, and most lasting force. China has been in the new development stage of building socialism with Chinese characteristics, while at the important juncture of unprecedented changes in a century. China is also in a critical period to realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, so the CPC stands at a critical juncture where the timeframes of its two centenary goals converge. It is of important practical and far-reaching historical significance for building Chinese human rights culture in the new era, gathering strong human rights cultural power, developing an advanced socialist culture with Chinese characteristics, consolidating confidence in socialist culture with Chinese characteristics, building a country with a strong socialist culture, and enhancing the national cultural soft power.
 
On the basis of summarizing the practical experience of human rights in China, this paper will explore and study the inherent laws and characteristics of the development of human rights in China in the new era, aiming at actively constructing a Chinese theory of human rights for the new era that is based on a more basic, broader, and deeper human rights culture.
 
II. The Basic Model
 
In the broadest sense, respecting and guaranteeing human rights is a major achievement of human civilization’s progress. Human rights culture is the ideological, moral, and spiritual wealth created by human beings in the course of their practices of respecting and guaranteeing human rights. To be more specific, human rights culture is a sum of cognitive awareness, values, institutional structure, and practice patterns of the rights that are due to human beings as social beings. A society’s human rights culture embodies that society’s people’s knowledge about human rights under its particular social and historical conditions. From the perspective of the development of human civilization, human rights culture, in a certain sense, reflects the wisdom, level 
of civilization, and the cultural soft power of a country.
 
Some researchers believe that human rights culture contains three main structural forms: first, human rights culture in the form of a normative system, such as human rights rules, principles, and mechanisms. Second, human rights culture in the form of ideology, such as human rights psychology, concepts, and thought. Third, human rights culture in the form of practical activities, such as human rights institutions, policies, and education. In terms of value goals, human rights culture takes the liberation of human beings and the release of personality as the ultimate goal. A culture of human rights that concerns the freedom, equality, and dignity of every human being has always centered on the respect, protection, and implementation of human rights. It is in this sense that the culture of human rights is not only a legal culture above the culture of rights, but is expressed as a human faith that is a higher form of human cultural development. 3
 
Western capitalist human rights culture, a product of the development of Western capitalist economy and politics at a certain historical stage, indicates the ideological theory, value doctrine, institutional structure, social behavior, and civic cognition generated by the bourgeoisie’s pursuit of natural rights and individual freedom. Western capitalist human rights culture explains the understanding of human nature and the ideology, basic laws, and practical activities of respecting, safeguarding, and developing human beings in the form of capitalist civilization.
 
Chinese human rights culture in the new era is a socialist culture in a broad sense, and a human rights culture in the new stage of development of socialism with Chinese characteristics in a narrow sense. This human rights culture embodies the ideology, basic principles, institutional framework, and practice model of respecting, guaranteeing, and developing human beings generated in the great practice of the new stage of the development of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the 21st century in China, a large developing socialist country with a population of 1.4 billion in the East.
 
A. Chinese human rights culture in the new era comprises a part of Chinese culture
 
Chinese human rights culture in the new era, which has originated and developed in China, is none other than Chinese culture. Chinese culture, with its long history, rich connotations, and unique spirit, is an endless source of ideas for the Chinese nation, which continues to draw on it to innovate with the development of the times. China’s human rights culture in the new era adheres to China’s position, bases itself on the reality of contemporary China, and meets the wishes and requirements of the Chinese people. The human rights culture that embodies the Chinese spirit, Chinese values, and Chinese power has distinctive Chinese characteristics, Chinese style, and Chinese manner.
 
B. Chinese human rights culture in the new era is a socialist human rights culture
 
Taking Marxism as its origin, the Chinese human rights culture in the new era follows Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, in keeping abreast with the great practice of building socialism with Chinese characteristics. It embodies the understanding of the essence of human beings and the ideology, basic laws, and practical activities of respecting, safeguarding, and developing human beings in the socialist market economy and socialist civilization. The institutional and political foundation of Chinese human rights culture consists of the trinity of the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC), the socialist system, and respect for and protection of human rights. In the ideological system of scientific socialism, socialism and human rights are not exclusive, but on the contrary, can better guarantee and develop human rights. According to Marx’s theory of the free and full development of individuals, greater space should be generated in the guarantee of human rights. Compared to capitalism, the greatest advantage of socialism lies in the higher and better protection of people’s rights which enables them to enjoy human rights to a fuller extent.
 
C. Chinese human rights culture in the new era embodies the human rights culture of the 21st century
 
In the context of globalization, human rights, as the mainstream discourse of the international community today, demonstrates the global character of a culture. At a new historical starting point in the 2020s, Chinese human rights culture in the new era, based on the understanding of the development and progress of human society, can determine the development direction of human rights culture by integrating the achievements of various human rights cultures, in the face of many problems and contradictions in the development of human society. Chinese human rights culture, geared toward modernization, the world and the future, and with strong vitality, has become an advanced human rights culture that has a significant impact on the development of human society and continues to contribute to the enrichment of the diversity of human civilization.
 
D. Chinese human rights culture in the new era is a human rights culture developed through innovation
 
There can be no development without innovation, since innovation drives the development of a culture. The Chinese human rights culture in the new era not only inherits the excellent tradition, it also differs from the traditional Chinese human rights culture. While drawing on the achievements of the Western human rights culture, it also differs from it. And while adhering to the Marxist view of human rights, it is also different from the traditional socialist human rights culture. This advanced human rights culture conforms to the development requirements of the times, and constantly puts forward new concepts, new categories, and new expressions of human rights in line with the requirements of the times. Following economic globalization, it actively proposes Chinese solutions and Chinese wisdom to enhance the level of global human rights protection while bravely facing the challenges to the development of human society. 
 
E. Chinese human rights culture in the new era is comprehensively developed
 
Advancing the comprehensive development of human rights is a prominent feature of human rights culture. The comprehensiveness of Chinese human rights culture in the new era is mainly manifested in the following aspects: first, the comprehensiveness of the concept. The concept in contemporary China includes both the rights to subsistence, life, development, peace, and environment, and the rights to liberty, democracy, security, personal dignity, and privacy. It covers the basic points of the concept of human rights in human society so far. Second, the comprehensiveness of content. The content of human rights in contemporary China includes not only economic, social, and cultural rights — the right to labor, social security, education, etc., — but also civil and political rights — the right to vote and to stand for election, the right to participate in political consultation, supervision, freedom of expression, etc., — and also the rights of specific groups — the rights of women, children, as well as persons with disabilities, the elderly, and the ethnic minorities, etc. — it covers the fundamentals of global human rights protection nowadays. Third, the comprehensiveness of practice. China has established a comparatively comprehensive institutional system to respond to human rights, all of which show the majestic power of advancing the cause of human right in all respects, from the Party Constitution to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, from national laws to administrative rules and regulations, from the ruling policy of the Party to various policies and measures of the government, from the national development plan to the national human rights action plan, from the Four Pronged Comprehensive Strategy to the Five-Sphere Integrated Plan, from building a moderately prosperous society in all aspects to embarking on a new journey to fully build a modern, prosperous socialist country.
 
F. Chinese human rights culture in the new era is developing in an inclusive way
 
Chinese human rights culture in the new era is an inclusive culture that meets the requirements of the development of the times. It embodies the spirit of respecting and protecting human rights in China, and embodies the diversity of human civilization.
 
Adhering to the principle of combining universality and particularity of human rights, it respects and protects the rights of its own people in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the spirit of international human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). It has embarked on a path for human rights development suited to its reality, emphasizing that the development of human rights is inseparable from the national conditions and practice of a country. It respects countries’ choice of human rights protection models suited to their national conditions in light of different historical and cultural backgrounds, levels of economic and social development and national systems, while opposing the of politicization and human rights issues and the applying of double standards, and intervention in other countries’ domestic affairs by using human rights. It aims to build socialism with Chinese characteristics internally, insisting that the fruits of development be shared by all, while externally promoting the building of a community with a shared future for human beings, and striving to make people of all countries share human grandeur and dignity. 
 
III. Value Connotation
 
Whether a culture is vital and influential and can be understood and recognized by the world depends on whether the values it upholds are characterized by humanity, rationality, a scientific consciousness, and the spirit of the times. Chinese human rights culture contains the humanistic spirit and moral power of Chinese civilization, which is a human civilization with a long history that is now in the new development stage of the new century, and has a rich, profound, and far-reaching value connotation.
 
A. In terms of value core, Chinese human rights culture in the new era takes socialist values as its core values
 
The socialist core values, first proposed in the report of the 18th National Congress of the CPC, which serve as the spiritual pillars and moral norms of, as well as the soul and the core spirit of contemporary Chinese human rights culture, play a fundamental, guiding and decisive role in the construction of Chinese human rights culture in the new era, directly acting on the Chinese view of human rights and the cognition, philosophy, practice, and orientation of China’s human rights culture. The contemporary Chinese human rights culture, featuring democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, the rule of law, and friendliness as its core, has at least the following three layers under the framework of values and morality. First, it embodies the virtue of human humaneness, implying a noble pursuit of humanity; second, it shows the rational power of human beings, implying an eternal light of wisdom; third, it reflects the value of human justice in the moral high ground. To know and understand, cultivate and construct Chinese human rights culture in the new era from the above perspectives can both promote the comprehensive development of Chinese human rights cause, and play a good role in advancing and practicing socialist core values.
 
B. In terms of value subjects, Chinese human rights culture in the new era adopts a people-centered human rights philosophy
 
The subject of the values is explained as the fundamental issue of socialist human rights culture, which solves the problem of who to rely on and who to serve. Peoplehood was identified as the distinctive characteristic of Marxism and socialist human rights culture. According to the basic view of Marxism, history is written by the people, and the people are the creators of history. Chinese human rights culture taking the people as the subject is mainly embodied in the following aspects: first, the fundamental stance of the CPC in the new era and the tenet of building socialism with Chinese characteristics is that the Party puts the people first, adopts a people-centered, people-oriented approach, strives to bring happiness to the people, and ensures development for the people, by the people, and of the people; second, in terms of logic, it upholds “the right to subsistence and development as the primary and basic human right”, “the people-centered concept of human rights”, “the ultimate human right that people can lead a happy life,” and “promoting the comprehensive development of the cause of human rights”, in which the “primary”, “basic”, “central”, “ultimate” and“comprehensive” are all people-oriented; third, in practice, it ensures that people are the masters of the country, constantly unleashes the creative power inherent in the people, and works hard to guarantee the rights of all the people to equal participation and development, so that all can share the fruits of development. The most significant human rights discourse and symbol is to insist on a people-centered human rights philosophy. 
 
C. In terms of value goals, Chinese human rights culture in the new era takes “free and full development of human beings” as its highest pursuit
 
Marx scientifically expressed the value and meaning of human beings in the future society, as well as his core tenet about anthropology by the theory on the free and full development of human beings, which we must pursue as the highest value goal in order to cultivate Chinese human rights culture in the new era. The free and full development of human beings is a complete expression of the rights enjoyed by human beings in the future but we have to work for it nowadays, and the goal in context includes at least the following layers of meaning: first, freedom is termed as the highest level of being human and it is necessary to fight for the realization of human freedom. Second, someone who is free is someone who is fully developed, and “the condition for the free development of each person is the free development of all.” The comprehensive development of each person is the comprehensive development of all in the union. Third, the all-round development of human beings is not only the comprehensive development of human personality, ability, and knowledge, but the full development of all rights of human beings, moreover, the sustainable development of human beings. In the great cause of building socialism with Chinese characteristics, by striving to build China into a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced,harmonious, and beautiful, promoting the allround development of the cause of human rights and the people, we are creating and providing conditions for the realization of the free and full development of human beings.
 
D. In terms of value judgment, Chinese human rights culture in the new era is measured by whether the people are satisfied or not
 
There are no best human rights, only better; it’s a never-ending project, always ongoing. We must adhere to the basic views of historical materialism and dialectical materialism, and insist that human rights are the product of certain social and historical conditions in developing China’s human rights cause. There is no universal human rights standard in the world, which is rich and colorful, and has diverse civilizations. The development of human rights cannot be separated from a country’s specific national conditions and realities. What matters most is whether the people are satisfied, in particular, whether the contradiction facing Chinese society between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life has been better solved, and people’s sense of fulfillment, happiness, and security has been continuously enhanced. To this end, by adhering to development as its priority, China constantly improves its ability to show respect for, protect and promote human rights in the course of development.
 
E. In terms of value identity, Chinese human rights culture in the new era is in line with the spirit of common values of mankind
 
China, as a part of the world, is interconnected and interdependent with the world. As a form of human civilization, human rights culture today is a part of the diversity of human rights civilization, not isolated. It is related to, but distinct from other human rights cultures, and has similarities and differences with them; together they constitute the human rights civilization of mankind. The Chinese human rights culture is interlinked with the common values of all mankind, such as democracy, freedom, equality, rule of law, fairness, justice, and equity, which have been recognized in Chinese human rights culture and have become its important ideological source. Meanwhile, Chinese human rights culture in the new era follows the principle of the universality of human rights and strives to be in conformity with the basic spirit of a series of UN instruments on human rights in terms of values and concepts. It is on the basis of the common values of mankind that China joined the United Nations, signed the UN Charter and several UN conventions on human rights, and respected and protected human rights in accordance with the spirit of a series of important UN human rights instruments.
 
IV. System of Rights
 
Within the framework of the above human rights values, Chinese human rights culture in the new era has formed a unique structure for its human rights system that is different from that of Western countries and has the following distinctive features.
 
A. Fundamental human rights featuring people as the masters of the country 
 
The highest political principle of socialist China in terms of human rights is the basic human rights that the people are the masters of the country. In contemporary Chinese political doctrine, people being masters of the country is mainly embodied in the acquisition and realization of rights such as freedom, democracy, and equality, which are also important socialist core values. 
 
First, freedom is the essence and core of human rights. In the Marxist theory of the free and full development of human beings, “freedom” is placed in the highest realm of human social development. Only in a kingdom of freedom can a person “become his own master – a free man”. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights clearly states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Chapter II of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China provides comprehensive provisions on the basic rights and duties of citizens, which clearly stipulate the right to freedom: citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy the freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration, and they enjoy the freedom of religious belief. The freedom of person of citizens is inviolable, the personal dignity of citizens is inviolable, the home of citizens is inviolable, and the freedom and privacy of correspondence of citizens are protected by law.
 
Second, it is about democratic rights. Democracy is the essential feature of modern human civilization, without which there could be no modern civilization. Democratic rights are the political foundation for modern human rights and a prerequisite for the realization of all human rights. “The democratic allocation of state power involves the rational distribution of power and checks and balances, with the purpose of preventing the corruption of power, while ultimately protecting the rights of citizens from infringement.”4 The essence and the core principle of the socialist democratic political system is that the people are the masters of the country. All power in the PRC belongs to the people, who manage State affairs, economic and cultural undertakings, and social affairs through various channels and forms in accordance with the country’s laws and regulations. People enjoy the rights to vote, supervise, and manage while the State protects people’s rights to know, to participate, to express, and to supervise by enabling them to oversee the exercising of power in a transparent manner. China has continuously broadened the scope and channels, enriched the content and forms in its democratic system, so as to ensure more effective democratic rights by expanding citizens’ participation in political affairs in an orderly way, promoting information disclosure, strengthening consultation and the supervision of power. 
 
Third, it is about the right to equality. Equality is the social foundation for the realization of fairness and justice, without which it is difficult to fundamentally protect human rights. The realization of social equality, gender equality, ethnic equality, group equality, and cultural equality, and the building of a society in which all people are equal, is the noble pursuit of human society and the ideal goal of building socialism with Chinese characteristics. It endeavors to ensure the equal rights to participation and development of the people, and facilitates everyone’s equal access to medical care and health care, education, employment, and social security. It has gradually established a system for guaranteeing social equity featuring equality in rights, opportunities, and rules, striving to create a fair social environment. It upholds lawbased governance, ensures that all citizens are equal before the law, and fights against the privileged groups and the corruption caused by the privilege. 
 
B. China regards the rights to subsistence and development as its primary and basic human rights
 
In accordance with the basic position of Marxism, the nation integrates the principle of universality of human rights with national conditions in following the law of human social development, and regards the rights to subsistence and development as its primary and basic human rights. In this way, China has opened a bright path of respecting and protecting human rights.
 
First, the right to subsistence. China espouses a people-centered view of human rights, without the existence of man there can be nothing on earth. The basic living requirements are the production and supply of materials adequate for sustaining human life. In the writings of Marxist theory, the mode of production in material life determines society’s organization and development. It is very difficult and impossible to realize all other human rights with insufficient production and supply of material goods that constitute the basic necessities of life. Over the years, China has committed itself to reducing poverty and building a moderately prosperous society in all-round way, significantly improving people’s living conditions and well-being, and effectively 
guaranteeing their right to subsistence. 
 
Second, the right to life. Life is priceless, and the most precious thing in life is life itself. The prerequisite and foundation of survival is life, without which there would be no meaning of survival, not to speak of human rights. China always puts people first, as it demonstrated by valuing people’s lives most in the fight against the novel coronavirus. It precisely shows respect, cherishing, and care for life. It truly embodies the humanitarian principles valued by human civilization in reality. 
 
Third, the right to development. Development is the eternal theme of human society, and also the driving force for the development of human rights in China. The United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development holds 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.5 The right to development has, thus, become a fundamental human right. China, based on its conditions, insists on making development the priority in its governance and endeavors to make everyone an “active participant and beneficiary of the right to development” and to raise the level of human rights protection for all people. 
 
C. Human rights premised on and conditioned by the right to security and peace
 
Without security, there can be no human rights; without peace, there can be no development, let alone the guarantee of human rights. Only in a safe and peaceful environment can people study, work and live normally and have access to all other rights.
 
Protecting the personal safety of citizens and the security of their property is a founding principle of a modern country and an important principle in China’s Constitution and laws. China safeguards national security and the safety of its people, builds a peaceful country, constantly enhances the sense of security of its people, and strives to free its people from hunger, poverty, fear, and war, so that they can enjoy a more reliable right to security.
 
The new security concept proposed by China takes people’s security as its primary goal, political security as the root cause, economic security as the foundation, military, cultural and social security as its guarantee. It maintains national security in all fields, calls for building a national security system, and takes the road to national security with Chinese characteristics. This new security concept aims to create a safe environment in which all the people live a happier and better life. The Chinese Government takes decisive measures to resolutely combat all kinds of illegal acts that threaten the personal security of citizens, including terrorist acts against humanity.
 
China has always been a firm advocate of and practitioner for maintaining world peace and realizing people’s right to peace. Peace has always been the most cherished value in Chinese culture, and the protection of the right to peace has always been the primary human right, from the 1950s when it advocated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, to the 1980s when it proposed “peace and development” as the theme of the times, and held high the banner of peace, development, and cooperation, to the new century when it proposed to adhere to the road of peaceful development. In international affairs, China advocates the settlement of international disputes through peaceful means, opposes resorting to the use of force at will, opposes acts of aggression and expansion, and opposes wars; it tries to uphold global peace and promote the common development of all countries. China’s propositions and actions in safeguarding world peace have offered conditions for the promotion of a peaceful and tranquil life for all peoples.
 
D. Living a happy life is the ultimate human right 
 
The Chinese people-centered human rights philosophy of “the ultimate human right is that people can lead a happy life”, put forward by General Secretary Xi Jinping, is the new development of Chinese human rights philosophy that accordingly gives a whole new context to the development of the Chinese human rights cause in the new era. 
 
The concept has at least three layers of meaning. First, the subject is “people”, reflecting the peoplehood of human rights; second, the content is “happy life”, which embodies the pursuit of every person; third, the essence is “the primary human right”, standing for the destination of all the basic human rights. The people-centered approach scientifically indicates that the most essential nature of human rights in China is the right to happiness. The right to happiness is no longer a single human right, but a comprehensive and integrated human right in view of its connotations. In terms of its content, it includes both material life and spiritual and cultural life; it includes both the basic human rights, such as the right to subsistence and development, and various rights such as economic, social and cultural rights, environmental rights, and civil and political rights, from the perspective of people’s right to a happy life. From the viewpoint of the recipients of people’s right to a happy life, it has individual human rights and collective human rights. The right to happiness, as a comprehensive and integrated human right, requires the promotion of the comprehensive development of the cause of human rights and the development of human beings in all-round way, so as to better create conditions for the free and full development of human beings.
 
E. Human rights with the right to sustainable development as a strategy
 
The right to sustainable development, a derivative right of the right to development, in essence addresses the right to development. But this right to development is a human right that addresses the relationship between the right to development in the present and the right to development in the future. It is a human right that integrates human rights more closely with the long-term permanent development of human rights such as development, peace,environment, resources, well-being, economy, society, and culture, and embodies the spirit of human responsibility.
 
What has attracted the most attention of the international community is the issue of guaranteeing the right to sustainable development as human society develops to the present day. Whether it is individual rights or collective rights, civil and political rights or economic, social and cultural rights, the right to peace, development or environment; negative human rights, positive human rights or the human right to development; ecological human rights, or scientific and technological human rights, they all have an important relationship with the right to sustainable development. It can be said that if the right to sustainable development is not well protected, it is difficult for the other rights of human beings to be better guaranteed in the long run. The right to sustainable development has become a new comprehensive human right in view of today’s global development. 
 
In the face of the scarcity of natural resources, and the environmental and ecological problems brought about by the rapid economic development of human society, excessive population growth, and increasing social pressure, with the attitude of being highly responsible for human society and future generations, China is among the countries to recognize the vital importance of achieving sustainable development to safeguard people’s right to a healthy environment. 
 
Since the 1980s and 1990s, China has been deepening its understanding of “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, continuously promoting coordinated social and economic development with the conservation of resources and environmental protection, striving to sustainably maintain the development of the present generation and that of future generations in an integrated way, so that future generations can live and work in peace and happiness. In response to the initiative of the United Nations, China is actively participating in the global sustainable development agenda and playing a responsible role in addressing climate change. China has set a clear timeline for achieving carbon neutrality, with goals of peaking its CO2 emissions by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060.
 
There will be no beautiful life without a beautiful environment. As an important derivative of the right to sustainable development, the right to a healthy and beautiful environment is gaining more and more attention in China. Guided by the conviction that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets, China is building a Beautiful China with everlasting green hills, green water, and fresh air, and constantly meeting the people’s ever-growing needs for a beautiful ecological environment. Building a modern country where people and nature coexist harmoniously and fostering a community of life for man and nature have become an important initiative to ensure the right to sustainable development in China.
 
V. Several Relationships
 
Under the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, the State, the collective, and the individual have a high degree of consistency, unity, coordination, and balance in the relationships among power, rights, and obligations. Chinese human rights culture in the new era shows non-confrontation and harmony in terms of the relationship between rights and some related elements, exhibiting distinctive Chinese cultural characteristics.
 
A. Relationship between State power and people’s rights
 
The people hold the principal position in the State concerning the right to development. All power in China belongs to the people as exercising power is to carry out the will and demands of the people and to ensure the full realization of their rights. State power is centered on and directed at safeguarding the rights of the people. The purpose of exercising State power under the leadership of the Communist Party of China is to serve the people, ensure their safety, and strive to maximize all their rights.
 
B. Relationship between rights and obligations
 
“There are rights without corresponding obligations, or rights apart from obligations.”6 In China, rights and obligations are unified and interdependent, and all people enjoy equal rights and bear equal obligations before the Constitution and the law. No organization or individual may enjoy the privilege of being above the Constitution and the law. The Constitution provides that, “Every citizen enjoys the rights and at the same time must perform the duties prescribed by the Constitution and the law.” It also provides that “the exercise by citizens of the People’s Republic of China of their freedoms and rights may not infringe upon the interests of the state, of society and of the collective, or upon the lawful freedoms and rights of other citizens.”
 
C. Relationship between individual and collective rights
 
In China, especially under the socialist market economy, there exist both guarantees of individual human rights and that of collective human rights, individual human rights are the basis for collective human rights, whereas collective human rights promote the guarantees of individual human rights. It is inconsistent with the original intent of human rights in China at the primary stage of socialism to speak only of individual human rights but not of collective human rights, or collective human rights instead of individual human rights. Only through the development of individuals can a collective develops; only in a collective can individuals achieve well-rounded development. The protection of human rights can be maximized only in the unity of individuals and the collective, in a way that is mutually coordinated and reinforcing. 
 
D. Relationship between the rights to subsistence and development and all other human rights 
 
Based on its prevailing conditions, China regards the rights to subsistence and development as the primary and basic human rights, gives top priority to subsistence and development, promotes the protection of human rights through development, and takes the realization of the right to development as the basis for all other human rights. This doesn’t mean that China only values the right to subsistence and development and ignores other human rights. On the contrary, China strives to share development benefits in the human society wherein each and every citizen can achieve well rounded development in accordance with the requirements of the new concept of development. On the one hand, China is committed to making sure the fruits of development benefit all people, so as to promote social equity and justice; on the other, it is committed to achieving all-round development, making great efforts to promote economic, political, cultural, social and ecological progress, as well as the all-round development of all human rights.
 
E. Relationship between minority rights and majority rights 
 
While protecting the rights of all, China pays special attention to ensuring the rights of minority groups. The Constitution stipulates that all citizens of the People’s Republic of China are equal before the law. The state not only advocates equal rights for all ethnic groups and various groups, but also gives special care and attention in practice to specific groups such as ethnic minorities in its policies. By practicing the regional ethnic autonomy system and formulating and promulgating the law on regional ethnic autonomy, China protects the exercise of the rights of ethnic minorities institutionally and legally, and helps ethnic minorities speed up their economic and cultural development in many aspects, including finance, technology, and personnel. The state has specifically formulated and promulgated laws to protect women, children, the elderly, the disabled, and other groups to ensure that the right of individuals and groups not to be subjected to discrimination and abuse and enjoy the same rights as normal people.
 
F. Relationship between sovereignty and human rights
 
Sovereignty and human rights in China are not an oxymoron, but a unity. Human rights are the cornerstone underpinning state sovereignty while sovereignty guarantees human rights.7 Effective safeguarding of national sovereignty is conducive to protecting the human rights of the people, enabling them to study, live and work in a peaceful and tranquil environment; in turn, constantly safeguarding the rights of the people is also conducive to protecting national sovereignty, security and development interests. In international affairs, China upholds the general principle of equality and non-discrimination of the major human rights treaties, and the principle of inviolability of sovereignty, while it opposes “double standards” in human rights and interference in the internal affairs of other countries through human rights issues. China also advocates that the international community should respect and protect human rights in accordance with the principle of the universality of the United Nations on human rights.
 
G. Relationship between human rights in China and the world
 
Human rights are an important achievement in the progress of human civilization. Therefore, respecting and protecting human rights is the basic spirit of modern civilization and a universal principle in the international community today. Chinese human rights are a part of human rights in the world. The large socialist developing country in the East accounts for about one-quarter of the world’s population, so the cause of Chinese human rights is of great significance to that of the world and the progress of human civilization. In view of the United Nations principle on the universality of human rights, China takes its own path of human rights development that suits its national conditions, and promotes the cause of human rights in the world through the development of its own human rights. Taking humanity as a whole, China respects the diversity of human civilization, draws on previous achievements, and actively participates in global human rights affairs, advances global human rights governance in a more just and reasonable direction, and works together with all countries to build a community with a shared future for human beings.
 
H. Relationship between human rights in the present and the future 
 
There is no end to the development of human rights, for it is a common dream to call for the full realization of all human rights for human society. The precious character of the Chinese nation is to benefit future generations. In the face of the contradictions and problems brought about by population growth, diminishing resources, and environmental pollution, as well as the problems of guaranteeing rights caused by unbalanced and insufficient economic and social development, China strives to lay a solid foundation for the development of future generations by coordinating the relationship between the development of the present and the future, so that people can enjoy greater human rights and lead happier lives, in the pursuit of green, healthy and humanistic development in a sustainable manner. In the new era, China is committed to a new vision of development. It continues to create a brighter future in which the Chinese people and people around the world enjoy greater human rights by reducing poverty, building a moderately prosperous society in all aspects, embarking on a new journey toward a modern socialist country, realizing the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and promoting the building of a community with a shared future for human beings. 
 
VI. Path to Realization
 
It is the objective requirement of the new development stage in the new century and the inevitable requirement of building a strong socialist culture to continuously cultivate the Chinese human rights culture in the new era. It is regarded as a complex and systematic project that requires systematic thinking and more unremitting efforts. 
 
A. Raising awareness of human rights
 
Human rights thinking is at the initial stage of human rights culture, and a certain human rights thinking determines a certain human rights practice. It should be noted that due to the weak or serious lack of human rights awareness, there are still some violations of or damage to human rights in the real society, which both hurt people’s feelings, and damage the credibility of the Party and the government and even damage the country’s national image. Only by constantly raising the awareness, by thinking from the perspective of the rule of law, development, and civilization, at the important juncture of unprecedented changes in a century, where the timeframes of the two centenary goals converge, can we fully understand and appreciate the importance of respecting and safeguarding human rights in a critical period to realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. China endeavors to espouse a people-centered view of human rights while taking human rights factors into consideration and consciously forming habits and modes of thinking that respect and protect human rights in all aspects of making laws, planning work, proposing policies, introducing measures, and dealing with problems. 
 
B. Cultivation of the Chinese discourse on human rights
 
Human rights discourse is the way to express and spread human rights ideas and concepts, and it is also the core element on behalf of human rights culture. The construction of the Chinese discourse on human rights, compared with the achievements China has made, has obvious shortcomings in a situation where many thoughts make sense to us, but when communicated to others, don’t. It is urgent and important to cultivate the Chinese human rights discourse in the new era. Under the guidance of Marxism, it abides by the principle of universality of human rights, adheres to China’s basic position on human rights, and pursues creative transformation and innovative development, based on the reality of contemporary China and the trend of the development of the times. We should enhance the systematic summary of China’s practice in human rights, dig out new materials, unveil new problems, propose new ideas and construct new theories from the Chinese practice of human rights, cultivate a better human rights discourse presenting the spirit of Chinese human rights, and strive to occupy the moral high ground of international human rights with the Chinese human rights discourse.
 
C. Institution-building on human rights
 
Adherence to and compliance with social rules establish the institutional and cultural basis for the protection of human rights. China’s national system, the state and political system, and the Constitution and related laws and regulations all aim to protect the fundamental interests of the people. We insist on keeping abreast of the times and constantly developing and improving the socialist system as well as the system of people’s congresses, multi-party cooperation and political consultation, the system of regional ethnic autonomy, grassroots democracy, and villagers’ autonomy under the leadership of the CPC, and making efforts to protect the interests of all members of society, the equal rights, and interests of all ethnic groups and the basic rights of citizens. By adopting the people-centered development ideology, we pay more attention to the protection of the people’s immediate interests, put forward the modernization of the national governance system and governance capacity by comprehensively deepening reforms, and strive to improve various safeguard measures to better realize respect for and protection of human rights. We will continue to issue the National Human Rights Action Plan to advance the Chinese human rights cause in a coordinated way and study the establishment of a national human rights institution to coordinate human rights legislation, law enforcement, and supervision. 
 
D. The rule of law for human rights
 
Socialist rule of law was established in China to protect human rights by law. It makes clear that truly respecting and protecting human rights is established through law-based governance. It is an important task proposed at the 19th CPC National Congress to strengthen the rule of law for human rights. China respects and protects human rights, ensures that people enjoy greater rights and freedoms, and strives to achieve social fairness and justice. It is essential to uphold law-based governance and law-based government administration, as well as the inherent requirements and important elements to realize the modernization of the national governance system and governance capacity. In the new development stage, there is still much work to be done to place respect for and protection of human rights in a prominent position in the construction of a country of socialist rule of law, throughout all aspects of sound legislation, strict law enforcement, impartial justice, and law-abiding by and for all. In particular, efforts should be made to deepen judicial reform, resolutely reduce or even eliminate the occurrence of human rights violations in the judicial process, and seek to ensure the people feel the fairness and justice in every judicial case.
 
E. Human rights education and training 
 
Human rights education is an important channel for raising national awareness of human rights, enhancing the nation’s human rights literacy, and thus raising the level of national human rights culture.
 
Chinese human rights education has made a good start after the initial stage of development. However, unremitting efforts are still needed to strengthen education on China’s view of human rights and other aspects. We should make education on the philosophy of human rights an important part of quality-oriented education and incorporate it into the national education system and the cadre training system, further strengthening education on basic general knowledge, especially education on the Chinese philosophy of human rights in schools, and carrying out educational activities regarding human rights adapted to students in primary and secondary schools. China supports the development of human rights-related disciplines in institutions of higher learning, and carries out human rights education in a systematic way by compiling textbooks and offering courses such as General Knowledge of Human Rights, Concepts and Practice of Human Rights in Contemporary China, and Comparison of Chinese and Western Views on Human Rights. Human rights training, especially education on the concept of Chinese human rights, should be included in the teaching plans of Party schools, administrative schools, cadre colleges, and socialist colleges at all levels. The human rights education and training for civil servants, especially for those at local and community levels, should also be strengthened so as to raise the level of civilized and fair law enforcement and judicial work by people in public security, procuratorial work, courts, industry, and commerce, among others sectors.
 
F. Publicity and guidance on human rights
 
An important link in fostering contemporary Chinese human rights culture is to tell Chinese stories well in its communications. The media should be encouraged to spread and promote knowledge of human rights and the Chinese people-centered philosophy of human rights, make the publicizing of human rights more popular and professional, create a good social atmosphere for respecting, protecting, and developing people, and raise awareness of respecting and protecting human rights in the whole society. In view of the popularization of law knowledge nationwide, China has carried out publicity campaigns themed as “National Constitution Day” and “World Human Rights Day” to guide citizens to safeguard their legitimate rights and interests in accordance with the law. It strengthened the agenda by telling China’s human rights story well in a visual and concrete way, in which Chinese human rights philosophy is supported by stories, and human rights stories embody the depth of thought, so as to enhance the international influence of China’s respect for and protection of human rights. China improves its capacity and level to narrate human rights stories through the internet, constantly innovates the contents, methods, and carriers, and encourages overseas audiences to participate in the sharing of Chinese human rights stories; responding to the concerns of the international community in a targeted way, vigorously and effectively countered international attacks and slanders on Chinese human rights, and fought for the right to have a say in the international human rights discourse. 
 
G. Scholarship on human rights
 
Human rights scholarship comprises an important part of human rights culture. We have given full play to the role of social groups such as the China Society for Human Rights Studies and the China Foundation for Human Rights Development, and enhanced the understanding and comprehension of the human rights academic community at home and abroad through seminars and exchanges. Human rights education and training has been intensified by building more national bases for human rights education and training. Relying on national human rights education and training bases, efforts have been made to actively integrate resources, reinforce the construction of human rights think tanks, and cultivate national high-end human rights think tanks. Not only the qualified human rights research institutions and universities have been encouraged to conduct education, teaching, personnel training, and scientific research, in order to increase the enrollment in masters and doctoral programs, but also efforts have been invested into support for theoretical research, and a number of original human rights research achievements have been released through various channels such as the National Social Science Foundation. Editors of journals on human rights, such as Human Rights, Human Rights Research, and Human Rights Jurisprudence, have improved the quality of the articles published in their journals, and also not lost their journals’ professional standing in public opinion. 
 
H. Public diplomacy on human rights
 
Exchanges and mutual learning are essential for the healthy development of civilizations. China has strengthened dialogue and communication among international organizations, foreign political parties, governments, parliaments, NGOs, and academic institutions in the field of human rights, facilitated understanding and comprehension, and eliminated misunderstanding and prejudice. It has been an active participant in UN human rights undertakings and conducted extensive international cooperation on human rights so as to enhance China’s voice in global human rights governance. It has created a multi-faceted and multi-level human rights exchange platform that facilitates contacts and exchanges with international human rights-oriented NGOs and has boosted confidence and patience in doing its work. It has enhanced official and unofficial human rights dialogue mechanisms between China and the United States, China and Europe, and other multilateral and bilateral organizations, and established multi-level exchange platforms among governments, private and academic institutions. China has also broadened the channels for human rights exchanges and cooperation with emerging market countries and developing countries, planned human rights exchanges and cooperation projects on the basis of economic and trade cooperation, and expanded the common ground of human rights discourse among them. It has made effective progress in human rights relations with other countries. International human rights conferences, such as the Beijing Forum on Human Rights and the South-South Forum on Human Rights, effectively advance human rights diplomacy between China and foreign countries. 
 
VII. Conclusion
 
As the Book of Ritesthe Great Learning has it, “If you can make things better for one day, you should make them better every day and never stop doing it.” Human rights are progressing with the times. Human rights are the product of their era. Any human rights culture will develop with the development of society. Only by insisting on advancing with the times and always innovating and developing can we better cultivate and develop Chinese human rights culture in the new era.
 
Speaking about being committed to enriching and developing this scientific theory in the 21st century, General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out, “Few people will be convinced by half-done theories. Adopting a broader perspective, we must examine the practical foundations and needs of Marxism’s contemporary development. By upholding a problem-oriented approach, centering on the initiatives that we are currently advancing, and responding to the call of the times in which we are living, we need to advance in greater depth the concrete and actual integration of Marxism with China’s contemporary development, open up new prospects for the development of Marxism in the 21st century, and enable contemporary Chinese Marxism to shine even more brightly with the light of truth.”8 At a new historical starting point, the development of Chinese human rights culture in the new era oriented to modernization, the world, and the future is of great significance to the innovative development of Marxism in the 21st century.
 
Developing Chinese human rights culture in the new era is a spiritual and cultural project requiring an innovative approach. To complete the project, it should, on one hand, adhere to the guiding position of Marxism and Chinese culture, and, based on the reality of contemporary China, firmly assert socialist cultural confidence with Chinese characteristics, and actively draw on the achievements of human civilization; on the other hand, efforts should be made to create a human rights culture rich in the spirit of the times and is in line with the future development of mankind, and to continuously enhance the affinity, appeal and influence of Chinese human rights culture and improve the country’s cultural soft power, following the trend of the new era with characteristics and development requirements. 
 
(Translated by YU Nan)
 
* LU Guangjin ( 鲁广锦 ), Professor at the Law School and Human Rights Research Center of Jilin University, and Secretary General of the China Society for Human Rights Studies.
 
1. Xi Jinping, On the Chinese Communists Party’s Communication (Beijing: Central Literature Publishing House, 2020), 10.
 
2. Ibid., 261.
 
3. Lawrence M. Friedman, The Human Rights Culture: A Study in History and Context, trans. Guo Xiaoming (Beijing: China University of Political Science and Law Press, 2018), 6 of the preface in lieu of translation.
 
4. Human Rights Theory Research Group of Guangzhou University, “An Outline of the Socialist Human Rights Theory System with Chinese Characteristics,” Legal Studies 2 (2015): 76.
 
5. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human Rights: A Compilation of International Instruments, vol. 1 (Part 1), Universal Instruments, United Nations Publications 2002 Chinese Edition, page 432. 
 
6. Marx and Engels, Selected Works of Marx and Engels, vol. 2 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1972), 137.
 
7. Xiong Wanpeng, The Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights (Beijing: The Commercial Press, 2013), 335.
 
8. Xi Jinping, On the Chinese Communists Party’s Communication (Beijing: Central Literature Publishing House, 2020), 242-243.
 
Chinese Dictionary:

@cn_humanrights

For the latest news and analysis from our

reporters and editors:Staff Twitter List>>

E-mail:chinahrs@public.bta.net.cn