The Formation Mechanism of the Outlook on Human Rights Development in Contemporary China
November 23,2022   By:CSHRS
The Formation Mechanism of the Outlook on Human Rights Development in Contemporary China
QI Yanping*
Abstract: The Western fundamentalist view of human rights, in contrast to Chinese society and culture, is external, and thus provides “conceptual form,” “thinking method” and “theoretical technique” but not concrete content. In the traditional Chinese ideology, the time-honored group standard cannot be replaced by the individual standard. In New China, priority is given to the freedom and independence of “everyone” and the realization of rights and interests for “all”. Contemporary China combines the human rights conception in Marxism with China’s concrete reality. Meanwhile, it integrates the socialist idea of equality with the traditional culture of the Chinese nation, creating a dual-guarantee system for universal values and individual rights. It gives a clear-cut expression to contemporary China’s rich traits of the cultural tradition of emphasizing progress for all and the equality for all, the priority of realizing the survival and development of the people, and the reference to the achievements of human rights civilizations of other countries. Human rights development in contemporary China must further consolidate the political conditions and institutional base for realizing the “public” goal of human rights and build a solid institutional guarantee for the “private” value orientation of human rights, by means of the construction of the whole-process people’s democracy.
Keywords: human rights in China · progress for all · equality for all · logic of practice · formation mechanism
I. The “Signifier” and “Signified” of the Outlook on Human Rights in Contemporary China
Is the outlook on human rights in contemporary China a variant of the Western outlook on human rights or a product of China’s own society, history, and culture? It is time to give a final theoretical answer to this question. “Human rights are historical, concrete and real, and cannot be discussed without considering the socio-political conditions and historical and cultural traditions of different countries.”1 This assertion by General Secretary Xi Jinping profoundly reveals the historical, concrete, and realistic nature of human rights and marks the formation of an outlook on human rights in contemporary China. The outlook on human rights in contemporary China is a social, historical, and cultural product. It can only be compared with the outlook on human rights in other countries, but condescending judgments from other countries are unacceptable because, as a part of a country’s culture, any outlook on human rights in the country must be non-judgmental. At present, the world is undergoing profound changes. The clashes and conflicts between China and the West concerning human rights are intensifying each day. Considering the driving factors, I believe while there are obvious and direct factors such as ideological confrontation, economic and trade technology competition, and adjustment of international interest pattern, the more fundamental factor is the difference in the cultural basis of human rights. The physical form, institutional presentation, and ideological composition of culture vary from one historical period to another. However, there is always a stable, homogeneous, unchanging, and deep structure behind the culture, which some scholars call “cultural subconsciousness”2. As Qian Mu has observed: “All problems arise from culture and should be solved with culture.”3 China and the West need to achieve mutual cultural understanding and tolerance. Only in this way can we get rid of the shackles of fundamentalist ideology that are deeply rooted in Western human rights culture, and only in this way can we achieve mutual recognition and respect on human rights issues. In the current situation where human rights are increasingly politicized, instrumentalized, and associated with the “iron curtain” by the West, good thinking should be developed. On the one hand, we should dive deep into history and establish the historical and cultural aspects of human rights in contemporary China. On the other hand, we need to take action and establish the practical aspect of human rights in contemporary China.
In terms of conceptual origin, human rights are embedded in Chinese culture and society from the West by force. The ideology and normative systems of human rights are foreign and highly different from China’s own cultural values and social structure. From the perspective of historical genetics, human rights, as an artificial object from the West, have been interacting with Chinese culture and society since they were introduced. Thus, human rights will inevitably grow into a new concept with the form of their origin and the spirit of Chinese culture. Considering the historical genetics of human rights, we should give up the fundamentalist approach of super-historical and super-realistic interpretation of human rights concepts and institutional systems. Instead, we should place them in the context of China’s specific social culture and social practices and carry out a dynamic study of human rights. Jean Piaget believed that knowledge is the result of continuous construction and that we should explain the building of new concepts as a developmental process, rather than as a transcendental existence, moving from static descriptions of a phenomenon to dynamic analysis of its historical genetics.4 How did the idea of human rights grow in the development of modern Chinese thought and practice? This is the first and foremost question that should be seriously addressed to solve the current problem involved in the human rights dialogue.
In the emergence and development of human rights in the West, there has always been the dream and sentiment of creating new ideas of human rights, re-establishing normative systems and social order with these new ideas, and reconstructing people’s life and the world with the new systems and order. This dream and sentiment originate from the Western fantasy and obsession with modern rationalism, whose psycho-philosophical, social-philosophical, and language-philosophical foundations are deeply rooted in the social, historical, and cultural backgrounds of the West. China can borrow the universal “signifier” and “form” of the Western concept of human rights. Yet, it is impossible to copy the “signified” of the Western concept of human rights, i.e., it is impossible to copy the core of the Western fundamentalist view of individual human rights. China’s outlook on human rights must be highly unified with its own society, history, culture, and logic of practice. We should admit that in the cultural perspective, “different ways and paths” is the true picture of the relationship between the West and China in terms of human rights, and is the underlying reason for the frictions between the two sides. It is easy to understand the “different paths” of human rights: The two sides have differences in society, history, culture, national condition, and stage of development, and they naturally lead to different paths of human rights realization. But if we say that we have “different ways”, we may face the following questions and criticisms: First, is this a denial of the universality of human rights? The answer is clearly no because it is impossible to deny that human rights and dignity for all are common human values with universality. The “different ways” here refer to the difference in the deep structure of cultural traditions, i.e., the difference in worldview and way of thinking. It does not mean that China cannot develop its own way of realizing human rights, but that what China develops will not be the fundamentalist individual human rights. Second, is this another reference to the old theory of “China has had human rights since the ancient times,” which is an endorsement of De Bary’s assertion that “Confucianism itself is a liberal tradition that can produce and uphold human rights without the need to integrate the trends and influences of foreign cultures”?5 The answer is also clearly no because the traditional Chinese worldview and way of thinking are so fundamentally opposed to the extreme individualistic and liberal philosophy that underpins modern Western human rights that it is impossible for China to develop and uphold the liberal tradition of human rights (the Western fundamentalist individual human rights in which De Bary believe).6 Third, does this mean we should make up a distinctive outlook on human rights in China for the sake of being distinctive? The answer is certainly no because the outlook on human rights in contemporary China is already an objective reality that exists alongside the Western view. We need to give up the rational preferences and mindset of the West and try to stay “neutral.” Then, we can investigate China’s human rights practice as a logically self-contained object and objectively reveal the outlook on human rights in contemporary China from the perspective of historical genetics as an observer rather than an intervener or judge.
The outlook on human rights in contemporary China is historical, concrete, and realistic, a product of China’s historical and cultural traditions and socio-political conditions. It is not a product or variant of the Western view of human rights. The Western fundamentalist view of human rights, in contrast to Chinese society and culture, is external and thus provides and can only provide “conceptual form”, “thinking method” and “theoretical techniques”. The content of the outlook on human rights needs to be determined by China’s own historical and cultural traditions, its historical tasks, the issues of the times, and its real needs and demands.
II. The Restriction and Regulation of the Group Standard in the Depth of History 
Human rights are essentially an ideological construct and an institutional tool for dealing with “the relationship between the group and the individual” in modern society. In traditional Chinese philosophy, the relationship between the group and the individual is a foundational framework, a basic paradigm for academic and theoretical work. To understand the essence of Chinese culture, we must start with the relationship between the group and the individual. To unravel the mystery of human rights in China today, we still need to start by deciphering the code of the relationship between the group and the individual in China. China differs from the West by taking an empirical path rather than a transcendental one, and by valuing practical induction rather than logical deduction. In dealing with the relationship between the group and the individual, the Chinese seek a balanced and neutral approach oriented toward practice and back to practice. This provides a practical quality to Chinese human rights that are different from Western fundamentalist individual human rights. The long-standing “group standard” in Chinese culture may be criticized and rejected from a modern perspective; however, from the perspective of maintaining social order, it was the best solution that the ancients could come up with under the social conditions of their time, to achieve stability, order and effective governance. In the absence of either a Western ecclesiastical system or modern governance techniques, discipline and suppression of human nature may be a more effective path toward maintaining the stability of social order. While the ancient West suppressed natural human nature with an abstract God, ancient China suppressed human nature with an empirical and concrete group.
The terms “group” and “individual” were not common concepts in ancient Chinese philosophy and “group/individual” was not a stereotype in ancient Chinese philosophy. It is just that when we look at the ancient Chinese thought and concepts from our perspective, we will find that most of the ancient sages and philosophers had discussions within the scope of the relationship between the group and the individual. There was an implicit framework behind the relationship. The ancient people often discussed the “group/individual” relationship through the debates between “public and private”, “heaven and human” and “principle and desire”. Concepts like “self”, “I” and “individual” are private and represent “human desire”. Concepts like the“state”, “family” and “heaven and earth” are public and represent the “heavenly principle”, which are expressed in the form of ritual and patriarchal system. Of course, in the first half of ancient China, the “public/private” concept of the ideological system was mainly directed at the political virtue of the monarch and of virtue. It was not until the Song dynasty that public/private was extended to ordinary people, “promoted horizontally to a more general population, related to ordinary people (although it was essentially centered on the scholarly class). It became an ethical code that concerned an individual’s inner world and social life of the outside world”7. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, the legitimacy of people’s selfishness and desires gained widespread attention and more systematic argumentation in the intellectual world; by the end of the Qing Dynasty and the beginning of the People’s Republic of China, “group/individual” formally became an obvious, clear, and basic category of the Chinese ideological system.
The ancient Chinese concept of the relationship between the group and the individual can be summarized as “from the group to the individual”, “the group comes before the individual” and “the group is more important than the individual”. In a nutshell, it is based on the “group standard”8. “From the group to the individual” starts from “the definition of human” and advocates that the group determines the individual, the group defines the individual, and the individual depends on the group to exist. “The group comes before the individual” advocates the priority protection of group interests in terms of the “institutional arrangement technique” and “realization path” of the relationship between the group and the individual. “The group is more important than the individual” refers to the ethical and moral quest to establish the meaning of one’s existence through others and to do one’s duty for others. It is important to note that the above generalizations are made based on intellectual ideas rather than life practices. The ethical and moral requirements in ancient China were first and foremost of the emperor and the elite rather than to the common people. From the perspective of life practice, the general public did not face much moral or institutional pressure to sacrifice themselves for the common good and choose public over private interest. This “public” pressure expanding from the people in power to the general public was a turn of thought that began only in the Song Dynasty.
The Chinese idea of the “group standard” originated from the natural blood relations that characterized primitive society and continued in the patriarchal family system and the form of “family-state” for thousands of years afterward. Originally a simple and natural concept based on survival needs, after thousands of years of historical refinement and living practice, the group standard developed within the social foundation and gained ideological strength and has gained enduring legitimacy and authority in the patriarchal politics based on blood. Many ancient Chinese sages and philosophers also affirmed individual will and individual value, but not the individual freedom of will that has been emphasized in the West in modern times. As some scholars have pointed out: “Although Confucius and Mencius respected the individual, they respected the individual’s ability to reach all people and the benevolent nature which allows an individual to understand all the people. Although Laozi and Zhuangzi may ignore the responsibility of human beings in social ethics, they emphasized the freedom of the individual spirit. However, the individual who is respected as spiritually free must be able to free himself from his own will and desires. Yang Zhu may have placed emphasis on the unbridled nature of individual passions, but not on the concept of freedom of will itself. Mohism focuses on the collective life of society, and Legalism on the collective life of politics.”9 Although Confucius’ thought contains an affirmation of individual independence and an affirmation of individual self-realization, “Confucius, however, does not thus direct self-realization toward the cultivation and development of one’s unique personality, but rather directs self-realization toward obedience to the universal norms of society.”10 Confucius, who was committed to practical statecraft, put the individual into the group from the beginning, thinking that the individual cannot exist apart from the group; the self-realization of the individual is ultimately based on the recognition of the social norms of the group. The main theoretical axis is that the individual must obey the family, the clan, and the state. The purpose of the theory is to justify the patriarchal system and the establishment of social order. Mencius emphasized the absolute obedience of the individual to the group, and advocated that people should “sacrifice life for righteousness.” Xunzi advocated “containing self-interest with righteousness” and “putting righteousness before benefit”. Dong Zhongshu of the Han Dynasty believed that righteousness and benefit were mutually exclusive. Cheng Hao and Cheng Ying further put forward the view that righteousness and benefit are incompatible, and Zhu Xi even pushed the relationships between righteousness and benefit, between public and private, and between principles and desire to the extreme when he promoted “preserving the heavenly principle and extinguishing human desires”.
It should be noted that the idea of “extinguishing human desires” in ancient Chinese ideology does not mean elimination in the natural sense (such desires cannot be eliminated after all) but rather refers to the suppression of the natural predatory impulse in the social sense, the suppression of the preference for going one’s own way, and attributing the satisfaction of individual desires and needs to the coexistence in the group (from the family and clan to the state and the world). In other words, in the distribution of benefits and institutional arrangements, it is the state before the family and the group before the individual (directed upward to the people in power). Therefore, the ancient Chinese group standard is concrete rather than abstract. It is an institutional method to optimize the concrete and real interests of human beings, not a claim of the existence of a higher abstraction above the human reality, something similar to the abstract Western God.11 The deep structure of ancient Chinese thought is itself neither a set of transcendent metaphysical constructs nor a future-oriented prophecy divorced from the material conditions of life in the society of the time. Its ethical self-consistency and practical legitimacy have been developed over a long period of historical practice by the forces of customary authority and self-evidence. It is also necessary to mention again that the ideological deduction and the actual life of the people are two different things, and the masses outside the system do not need to be subject to these ideas, which are at most the business of the people in power and the scholars.
In discussing the characteristics of the “deep structure” of Chinese culture, some scholars have argued that unlike Western culture, which has dynamic purposeful intention, Chinese culture has static purposeful intention, with peace in “body, mind, and governance” being the constant purposeful intention. “Since any change in the meaning of ‘surface structure’ in Chinese history is a factor that leaves the ‘deep structure’ increasingly unchanged, it follows that the deep structure throughout the Chinese historical development then manifests itself in the form of a ‘super-stable system’.”12 The structure based on the group standard is a great achievement of the ancient Chinese sages and a product of their empirical thinking and practical philosophy. After the constant refinement and enhancement of Cheng Zhu’s philosophy, the structure has been deeply rooted in Chinese culture, becoming a stable mechanism for maintaining social order and the source of vitality of Chinese culture.
In short, although the ancient Chinese system of ideology and conception does include the “individual”, “I” and “private” factors in the relationships between the group and the individuals, the fundamental purpose of their existence is to explain, construct, and support the heavenly principle of the “group” and its legitimacy. In ancient times, the end of the “debate between the group and the individual” was the polarization of the two, the extinction of individual consciousness, and the distortion of human nature. On this account, it was absolutely impossible for a Western-style modern era human rights concept to emerge, just as it is impossible for such a human rights concept to emerge from traditional Christian theology. However, it should be pointed out that the individual consciousness in this system of ideas and concepts was extinguished, and human nature was distorted. Yet, the earthly desire for benefits remained the same. Therefore, in ancient China, ordinary people did not lack a private or even a public concept in their daily lives; they lacked the “public/private” concept in the “institutional” sense. This phenomenon continued all the way to modern times. From the emperor to the general to the common people, they were all busy looking for their benefits without the “public” concept, too weak to fight a united “state” in the West.
When we say that the ancient Chinese ideological system is not based on theories of individual humanity and individual concepts, we do not mean to borrow past events to prove that there are historical and cultural reasons and grounds for the rejection of human rights in China today. The sense of humanity and the concepts of individual, freedom, and democratic rights do not exist in the traditional Chinese system of thought and concepts, and they do not exist in the traditional West. “There is no doubt that the idea of democracy and the concepts of freedom and equality in the modern sense cannot be found in traditional Chinese culture. In fact, the ideas of freedom, equality, and democracy in modern Western culture were not born in the ancient times but created only after society developed to the point where industry, commerce, and capital became the main forms of growth, and through radical social and conceptual changes.”13 We return to the depths of our history and culture to reveal the deep logic of Chinese ideology not to reject human rights, but rather to establish the historical depth and cultural possibilities for the transcendent development of human rights in contemporary China.
The existence of a culture is, in a narrow sense, the existence of a system of ideas. In the course of history, the system provides core values, principles of institutional construction, and standards of proper behavior that govern, regulate, and control historical processes and social actions. “Our judgment of a civilization’s ideology, especially its cultural identity, must and can only be based on this system and the consensual presuppositions that lie behind and support it.”14 The historian Yuval Noah Harari has argued that the fundamental difference between humans and animals is that humans are able to weave a web of ideas and meaning.15 Those who are controlled by this web, except for a few deviators and transgressors, are convinced of the objectivity, legitimacy, and inviolability of the web that envelops them. Thus, the basis for stable social order and for the development of social cooperation is achieved. The consensual presupposition on which the Western ideological system evolved, logos, initiated in ancient Greece, is a metaphysical theory, whereas the consensual presupposition on which the Chinese ideological system evolved is the group/individual practice. “The relationship between the group and the individual” has been a proposition that Chinese sages and philosophers have been exploring for thousands of years, and the web of the meaning of people’s existence and life has been woven with the “group standard” as the main axis.
When we talk about two cultures in the world, we are talking about two different versions of the web of meaning, not about superiority or inferiority; when we talk about a clash of two cultures, we are talking about a difference in consensual preconceptions, preferences, and beliefs, and not about truth. In the modern West, the web of meaning was woven with human rights as a presupposition, and socio-political thought and life practice unfolded with human rights as the main axis; yet, the web of meaning in modern China was not woven with the Western fundamental fundamentalist human rights as a presupposition, and socio-political thought and life practice did not unfold with the Western fundamentalist individual human rights as the main axis. This is because modern China faced internal and external troubles and had the historical task of constructing a democratic republic, which is different from the conditions faced by the West. More importantly, modern China had a deep structure of a practical group/individual concept that is different from that of Western culture. In different periods of China’s historical development, the importance of the group or the individual and the boundary between them has changed. However, the group/individual concept as a system of ideas supported by a long history and a large population has been consistent, and it is the fundamental factor that determines the property of Chinese culture. After a short decline in history, Chinese culture has come to an irreversible moment of rejuvenation. The post-modern world faces the growing threat and risk of private polarization, the loss of responsibility, and the polarization of individual human rights, and the public in Western countries has never been more vulnerable than it is today. In this context, the concept of the group, which is deeply rooted in China’s history, will increasingly show its vitality. It will constitute the underpinning and foundation of contemporary Chinese human rights culture.
III. The Emergence and Growth of Individual Rights Awareness in the Pre-Modern Era 
During the Ming and Qing dynasties, voices emerged in the intellectual circles seeking to deconstruct the ideological system of Neo-Confucianism and reconstruct the political order. There were ideas to justify human desires and theoretical efforts to shape human personality and affirm human selfishness. It is customary in the Japanese academic circle to refer to the Ming and Qing dynasties as the “pre-modern” period of Chinese history with the purpose of emphasizing the importance of this period for China to begin its own modern history. The Ming and Qing dynasties saw the emergence of three major enlightened thinkers. Huang Zongxi said: “Since the beginning of life, people have been selfish and seek benefits.”16 Gu Yanwu said: “People are selfish, which cannot be avoided.”17 Wang Fuzhi said: “Everyone has desires, and this is the heavenly principle.”18 These thinkers fully affirmed selfishness and self-interest as human nature and intended to deconstruct the authoritarian imperial power and reconstruct the social order from the theory of human nature based on the Confucian tradition. At the ideological level, there was a clear academic consciousness to reform Neo-Confucianism. At the political and practical level, they advocated “safeguarding people’s wealth and property” and “establishing a new system to safeguard people’s livelihoods” 19. It was Gong Zizhen who really broke with the tradition of “seeing the group but not the individual.” According to Gao Ruiquan, the three major enlightened thinkers of the Ming and Qing dynasties still did not get rid of the framework of “heaven and human” and “principles and desire” in their arguments for the legitimacy of the individual. In the late Qing Dynasty, Gong Zizhen decisively stated that “heaven and earth were made by humans, and all men were made by themselves.” Then, it was no longer the universal heavenly principle that dominated human, but I myself, and I truly rose to become the subject of history and morality. The “I” has an independent and individual value, and no longer refers to the value of “rites”20. The emergence and amplification of human consciousness, human image, and human value in the ideological system independent of the “group” is of great conceptual innovation and ideological progress. This means that in the world of Chinese intellectuals’ thoughts and ideas, the uniqueness and supremacy of the “group” value began to waver. The individual value will constitute the other end of the system. The question of “how to extinguish human desires to uphold heavenly principles” was replaced by the question of “which of the two has a more important value”, which became the central topic of focus in Chinese ideology afterwards. The introduction of human rights ideas and concepts at the end of the 19th century undoubtedly broadened and deepened the discussion of this topic.
After the Opium War, the “heaven and earth system” represented by China was impacted by the “world system” represented by the West. The Chinese people began to open their eyes to the world, and Western studies began to grow in the East; by the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, all kinds of “isms” poured into the ancient empire, and various doctrines took turns to emerge on the intellectual stage, among which the Western doctrine of natural rights was the most shocking. According to research, He Qi and Hu Liyuan, who studied in England and later worked as lawyers in Hong Kong, were the first Chinese to advocate the doctrine of natural rights. Their book, A True Interpretation of New Policies, written between 1887 and 1889, is the pioneering work on human rights in modern China, expressing the idea that “if everyone has rights, the country will prosper; if everyone does not have rights, the country will fail.” Huang Zunxian, Zheng Guanying, and Liang Qichao introduced the Japanese idea of natural rights into China, advocating that all people are born with rights and that all people must have rights and that rights are like the root of the nation. The concept of natural rights introduced from the West by Yan Fu, Rung Hong, and others who studied in England and America was more original and radical.21 The Western view of human rights was introduced into modern Chinese culture and society by force, just as God was introduced as the gospel. The Chinese intellectual circle hoped to achieve cultural enlightenment and national reconstruction by borrowing experience from others. The view was important enlightenment for the intellectuals but the depth and scope of its influence were limited. In any case, the awareness of individual independence and individual rights was already a profound consciousness and strong demand in pre-modern China, at least among the emerging class and the new intellectuals. But the Chinese people were unlike the Western people, who broke free from religious theocracy and feudal kingship to become independent and autonomous “human beings”. The Chinese people, who broke free from the “heavenly principles” and “moral law” that extinguished human desire with their independence and personal individual value claims, found it impossible to break away from the ultimate regulation of the deep structure of the group/individual relationship in Chinese culture. They found it impossible to move toward the Western abstract humanism and the Western fundamentalist human rights consciousness and human rights value claims built on it. The passion for individual ideology was always short-lived, and eventually, most of them returned to the group-based approach and methods. The prominence and advocacy of individual independence and individual value consciousness could only be regarded as a brief adjustment of the traditional group-based deep structure of Chinese ideology and culture in this period. Then it was pushed back to its historical origin by the logic of modern Chinese history — the state of seeing the group but not the individual. “The modernization process led to the gradual differentiation of the previously unified group with the connotation of ‘family, nation, and world’ into professional groups and classes, giving rise to new types of groups; national peril and political revolution, in turn, led to the modern nation-state highlighting a higher level of the ‘group’ significance.”22 Therefore, the individual independence and individual value claims that had just emerged on the Chinese intellectual landscape were not at all comparable to the individualism and liberalism that have been the foundation of human rights in the West since modern times. Modern Chinese society did not provide the necessary conditions for the emergence and growth of individual independence and individual value claims, nor did the ideological and theoretical community have sufficient resources to supply them, much less a lasting theoretical consciousness to systematically argue for them. The practical role played by the doctrine of humanism in this period was extremely limited, which is not the same as the reconstruction of humanism in the Western Renaissance and Enlightenment, which resulted in the complete replacement of the ideological foundation of social order and led to social revolution and the reconstruction of social order. The reason for this is the divergence of cultural traditions.
Chinese thought and philosophy are, in the final analysis, practical statecraft. As the main axis of traditional Chinese ideology, the practical group/individual concept is ultimately in the service of the Confucian order. Therefore, it is fundamentally different from the abstract theory of human nature, which is the foundation of political legitimacy after the modern era in the West. Of course, there is no lack of metaphysical abstraction in the ideas of the Chinese enlightenment thinkers on human nature. Yet, the group/individual concept based on practice, toward practice, and back to practice is ultimately contrary to the abstract humanism and metaphysical conceptualism on which the Western fundamentalist view of individual human rights are based, and this is the reason for the limited influence of the Western view of human rights on China, which will be analyzed in the next section.
The distinctive characteristics of Chinese thinking and epistemological properties are empirical rather than transcendental, and value practical induction rather than logical deduction. The thinking of Chinese sages and philosophers in the Axial Age of civilization represented by Confucius did not start from abstract ideas and formal logic from the very beginning, but went straight to the world of experience and practice, focusing on the construction of a system of practical statecraft. Even Neo-Confucianism, which is the most metaphysical thought in the history of Chinese ideology, is not essentially beyond empirical. Its philosophy is ultimately a reflection, generalization, and enhancement of the order of the secular world, the empirical world, and the living world. Some scholars have argued that the “principle” in Neo-Confucianism has a transcendent and solid nature similar to that of God in the West, but Mizoguchi Kozo has thoroughly criticized it. He believed that God and “principle” are fundamentally different because God in Western ideology is a physical, self-sustaining being, immanent in nature and supernatural, with absolute authority over men. The Chinese “principle” is not transcendent and self-sustaining to nature, and human nature does not need to confront “principle.” On the contrary, when human’s natural social desires develop, “principle” changes itself in accordance with them.23 Therefore, the “heavenly principle” and “heavenly way” in Chinese ideology are just tools and instruments for the thinkers to express their practical statecraft and do not have the nature of a conceptual entity in the Western sense of teleology.
On the other hand, ancient Greek philosophy began with a focus on ideas, transcended experience, and chose a logical approach over practice. Jacques Derrida summarized the characteristics of Western philosophy, which originated in ancient Greece, as “logocentrism”. Logos is the origin of Western philosophy, which means the transcendental law behind everything in the world, the transcendental nature of the world, and the transcendental rationality of the universe. The entire Western system of metaphysical philosophy and Christian theology is constructed with logos at its center. In the Western philosophical vision, everything in the world and the universe is merely a presentation of the unified idea behind it. This idea itself is the “entity” that created the world and therefore necessarily rules it. The medieval God was also nothing more than a deification of this conceptual entity. If we say Western philosophy begins by thinking vertically and linearly “from top to bottom”, ancient Chinese philosophy then thinks horizontally and systematically “from the center to the periphery”. Western philosophy is dedicated to the macroscopic “heaven” and the microscopic “atom”, trying to establish an abstract logic of integration, while Chinese philosophy is devoted to the realistic relationship between the group and the individual and the present wisdom of survival, trying to establish a concrete and sensual order of life. Logocentric Western thought is always seeking the idea behind everything in the world; traditional Chinese idea is essentially “practice-centric”, oriented toward and ultimately back to practice.
Traditional Chinese ideological systems are characterized by both practical centrism and balanced neutrality, while Western logocentric ideological systems are both metaphysical and conceptually polarized. Before the modern era, Western people believed in a supreme God beyond the human world. After the modern era, they have been promoting a supreme abstract individual. What has changed in the Western ideological landscape in different times is the “bearer” of the abstract concepts. Yet, the way of thinking in pursuit of the ultimate conceptual basis has not changed essentially since ancient times. In the Chinese conceptual landscape in different times, what has changed is the importance of the group or the individual and the boundary between them. However, the balanced and neutral way of handling the relationship between the two based on the needs of different times has not changed essentially since ancient times.
Along with the transformation of the relationship between the group and the individual in the traditional Chinese ideological system right before modern times, “individual independence,” “individual rights,” and “individual interests” began to manifest themselves in the discourse of thinkers at the time. But as Mizoguchi Kozo points out, from the “private” perspective, this is enough to prove that the idea of individual rights had already emerged in the late Qing ideological circle; however, from the “public” perspective, the “private” is after all unified by the “public” and “the political, economic, or social rights of the individual mentioned above are only to strengthen the independence and rights of the whole” 24. Therefore, at this time, the individual in Chinese intellectual discourse did not have the self-reliant purpose and independent value of human beings in the Western individual standard, and the claims of “individual independence”, “individual rights” and “individual interests” could not be based on the self-reliance and independence of the individual. In the context of internal and external troubles, they ultimately served only the purposes of the group standard. The continuous rise of these claims to a state of human self-reliance and independence needs to be supported by the conditions for the normal development of the state and society.
In any case, the theoretical promotion of natural humanity, human independence, human rights, and human interests during this period played an important role in promoting the growth of human self-reliance and independence, or at least in “reinvigorating” the theoretical system that had almost lost its vitality. Of course, the Chinese people’s sense of self-reliance and independence from an inward perspective at this time is not the same as their sense of individual freedom and rights from an outward perspective; the former is more in the sense of life values, while the latter is in the sense of social constructionism. The latter distinguishes modern anthropology from traditional anthropology and is the source of the modern concept and thought of human rights. Generating human freedom rights from the long-established and ethically self-consistent Chinese practical group/individual concept requires the social conditions and a paradigm revolution in the world of ideas and concepts. However, it can be asserted that the paradigm revolution of the group/individual relationship in the world of Chinese ideology and ideas cannot possibly replace the deep cultural deep structure with individualism and liberalism, which are based on abstract humanism and metaphysical conceptualism and which Western human rights are based on. The Western view of human rights has been introduced by force into Chinese society and culture since the modern era, so it is easy to understand that although it has been radical and disruptive, its influence on the development of Chinese history has been limited in the end.
IV. The Influence and Limitations of the Modern Western View of Human Rights on China
Since the modern era, various Western trends have been introduced into China, with individualism and liberalism on one end and statism and socialism on the other, in protracted, deep, and tit-for-tat debates. The theoretical debates of this period were strongly characterized by an orientation toward solving China’s practical problems, rather than purely theoretical arguments. The essence of the debates was whether to copy the Western model or start from Chinese cultural issues to achieve civilizational enlightenment and transformation. It has been proven that no matter what ideology and doctrine are chosen to solve the problems facing China, there has always been the historical task since modern times of saving the country, saving the people, and building a modern democratic republic in China. There has always been the influence of the ultimate traditional Chinese ideology of the group-based deep structure. There are various ideological prescriptions for China’s problems. Yet, in general, they are based on the individual standard or the group standard and their variants, so it can also be said that it is a matter of choosing between the Western path of human rights and the Chinese path of civil rights. The choice represents both the strategy of realizing the task of modern Chinese history and the skill and wisdom in dealing with the problems arising after the introduction of the human rights concept in modern China.
Individualism and liberalism were popular in the Chinese intellectual circle in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The liberal intellectuals, represented by Zhang Taiyan, believed that there was a real conflict between the group and the individual. The former is just a collection of individuals, not a real existence, while the latter is real existence. The value of the individual is higher than that of the group. In short, they argued for “the individual over the group”25. Such a view of individual supremacy will undoubtedly lead to anarchism. In his articles such as the Anarchist View of Equality, Liu Shipei advocated the implementation of natural human equality, the elimination of artificial inequality, and the subversion of all ruling organs; everyone is not subject to the ruler; that is, everyone is not subject to servitude.26 This idea of “the omnipotent individual” is in line with Western individualism and liberalism, and can be found in the Western-style transcendental philosophy of human rights. When the New Culture Movement was in full swing, the “struggle for human rights” became a banner. In the Youth Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 1, Chen Duxiu placed human rights at the foremost place of modern civilization: “Among the characteristics of modern civilization, three are most likely to change the ancient way and renew the hearts and minds of the people and society: one is the human rights theory, one is biological evolution, and the other is socialism.”27 The leaders of the New Culture Movement held high the banners of democracy, science, human rights, and freedom, opposed traditional rituals and feudal morality, brought wisdom to people, and renewed them. Why did some elites in this period accept and actively promoted the doctrine of human rights, which was fundamentally in conflict with their own culture, and view it as a cure for saving China? The fundamental reason was that the anti-traditional, anti-authoritarian, and anti-slavery function of the doctrine met the needs of China at that time. The historical needs of China at that time were to fight against tradition for renewal, against dictatorship for republicanism, and against slavery for liberation. These were the same as the historical needs of Western societies when the concept of natural rights was created, and the logic of revolution was the same, so it is not surprising that the doctrine of natural rights played the same revolutionary role in societies with very different cultural traditions. It was just a tool for revolution.
Why did the rising tides of the radical human rights movement eventually fall silent in modern Chinese history? The primary task of saving the country, saving the people, and rebuilding the nation overwhelmed all theoretical deductions, and “national rights,” “ethnic rights,” and “group rights”replaced, transformed, and absorbed individual human rights, and also obscured, squeezed out, and dissolved individual liberalism. Sun Yat-sen’s ideological system and the republican system of government were not based on Western individualism, liberalism, and Western-style human rights, but on the concept of “the world as one community”. “Sun Yat-sen made civil rights, people’s livelihood, and nationalism the Three Principles of the People, and they are “public” principles.28 The intellectuals of the May Fourth period were convinced that the renewal of culture, the reshaping of society, and the rebuilding of the nation depended on the establishment of human values and dignity in terms of the logic of values. But in the final analysis, leaders of the May Fourth Movement cared about the fate of the country and people so much that they undoubtedly instrumentalized human rights. They equated human rights with anti-tradition, anti-authoritarianism, and anti-slavery to save the country and the people and build a democratic state. Leaders of the May Fourth Movement did not fundamentally change the values based on the group standard. Individuals and human rights were not independent ethical entities. They changed the approach and method, advocating the renewal of the individual and the nation by promoting human rights, but the values were still based on the group standard. As some scholars have pointed out, the opening phrase of Rousseau’s Social Contract, “the freedom of humans” was translated as “the freedom of the people”. The difference in a single word reveals the difference between Chinese and Western cultures. In the West, “human” expresses the confrontation between humans as an individuals, society, and the state; in China, “people” expresses the meaning of “group,,” and in modern times when the intellectuals strived to save the country and nation they were more concerned with the “people” as a “group” than with the “humans” as an individuals, and China “first identified with civil rights, not human rights”29. In the 1930s, the National Government in Nanjing was preparing to enact the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China in the Period Under Political Tutelage. At the time, there was a famous debate on civil rights and human rights, which revolved around the differences and similarities between natural rights and human rights, civil rights and human rights. The debate “reflected the ideological background and different political and cultural positions of solidarism and liberalism”30. Zhang Yuanruo, a famous legal expert and political activist, strongly opposed natural rights as a basic doctrine because it could easily lead to the prevalence of individualism and hinder the realization of the public interest. The biggest challenge in China at the time was the lack of motivation and morale and the pursuit of selfishness and self-interest. People did not know the existence of law, state, and society. They did not know the importance of coexistence and common prosperity. They did not know their responsibility to create benefits for people and make a contribution to the country. Therefore, he believed that “if we continue to confuse people with the fallacies of metaphysics, subjectivity, and individualism, then people’s minds will deteriorate, and the country will be forever trapped in a state of mutual jealousy, competition, killing, and fighting!” 31
The reason why the idea of natural rights eventually fell silent in modern Chinese history is that the primary task of saving the poor and the nation and rebuilding the country did not offer the time and space conditions, and that its philosophical foundation is fundamentally opposed to the values based on group standard in Chinese ideology. Some scholars have pointed out that China’s acceptance of Western culture in the last hundred years has been motivated by utilitarianism and has not really affirmed the values of Western science, democracy, freedom, and religion directly, nor has it accepted the spirit of Western science, democracy, freedom, and religion positively. Because Chinese intellectuals believed that the Chinese super-conceptual way of thinking, which focuses on the human heart, is superior to the Western spirit of pure science, democracy, and freedom, they were unwilling to accept Western science, democracy, and freedom deep down in their hearts, and they even considered Western democratic political thinking, which is based on “not giving up individual rights” as inferior.32 The intellectuals in the East stayed proud and admired human rights in the West. We try to call it the “evangelical” view of human rights. Like the Gospel of God, the gospel of human rights in modern China did not become popular and mainstream. The fundamental reason lies in its incompatibility with Chinese ideology and culture, and the explanation of the need to save the nation and people overwhelming the enlightenment of human rights is only superficial, intuitive, and temporary.
The individual standard and the theory of human rights based on it has played a historical role in the modern transformation of Western history, and its foundational role in shaping the modern concept of the human subject and in the formation of values such as freedom, equality, and human rights deserves full recognition. But the qualification “Western” suggests that they are bound by their own deep cultural structure. In fact, the reason why any kind of ideas, especially those that have exerted a crucial influence on the course of human history, can win in the competition of ideas and maintain their continued vitality and influence is that they are in tune with the nature of human beings, the deep structure of culture and the specific themes of the times. According to the Marxist point of view, any idea is historical, concrete, and realistic. There is no eternal, ultimate, and unconditional truth that transcends all space-time and social and material conditions of life. The finite nature of human cognitive capacity cannot logically support this view of truth. Engels pointed out in Anti-Dühring: “Whoever hunts here for the final and ultimate truth, for the real and fundamental unchanging truth, will not get anything except some cliché.”33 Fukuyama once characterized Western-style liberal democracy as the ultimate truth of human history. Yet, history soon proved once again by its own logic that such a judgment reflected nothing more than human conceit. Moreover, according to Marxist dialectics, the emergence and development of any kind of idea in society must follow the law of simultaneous transformation to its own opposite. Some scholars have pointed out that American society, which has adopted the individual standard rather than the group standard, has become a deeply unstable society, so individualism and liberalism have been strongly criticized by people believing in communitarianism within the British and American academia since the 1980s.34 As the world enters a period of changes unprecedented in the past hundred years, the role of the individual standard to maintain values and construct institutions in the Western world is declining rapidly. The individual standard is becoming a factor that accelerates the already unstable society into internal and external violence. The individual standard and the concept of natural human rights have been prominent in the history of modern Chinese ideology many times, and have played a role in inspiring new ideas, but they have not been able to enter the center stage in the history of modern Chinese conceptual ideology. They have shown a tendency to be increasingly marginalized as China emerges from the crisis and hardship into the stage of normal development.
V. The Logic of History and Practice in the Formation of the Outlook on Human Rights in Contemporary China
Is there an objective, ultimate, and uniquely correct solution to the outlook on human rights and practice? To answer this question, we need to listen to one of the greatest scientists of our time, Stephen Hawking criticizing the fallacy that the entire universe is eternal and unchanging: “This may have been due to people’s tendency to believe in eternal truths, as well as the comfort they found in the thought that even though they may grow old and die, the universe is eternal and unchanging.”35 Not only in the context of the universe, but in the thousands of years of so-called human civilization, which is equal to an instance of the evolution of the universe, the idea of “human rights” is just a star in the sky of thousands of ideas, and its short history almost negligible. But in the post-war period of more than 70 years (200 years at most), it has been a relatively important part of the ideological and conceptual system of Western capitalist countries, and a fundamental part of their institutional construction and governance systems. Western human rights are now under increasingly intense challenges and attacks from various doctrines and governance programs from different directions, both internally and externally, but the West still sees human rights as the only correct standard by which other countries should be judged. This is utterly absurd. If you think about the obsessions, impulses, and madness of the absolute “monotheists” in Western history and their outcome, and if you think about the religious wars and their outcome, which were typified by the Crusades that lasted for more than 200 years, you will understand that if we worship “Western human rights” as a “monotheistic religion,” we will have the same outcome. General Secretary Xi Jinping has pointed out, “In the practice of promoting the development of China’s human rights, we have combined the Marxist concept of human rights with China’s specific reality and with the excellent traditional culture of the Chinese nation, summarized the successful experience of our Party in uniting and leading the people to respect and protect human rights, and borrowed the outstanding achievements of human civilization to come up with a human rights development path that is in line with the trend of the times and suitable for our national conditions.”36 The outlook on human rights in contemporary China is historical, a product of China’s historical and cultural traditions, and therefore cannot be based on the individual standard. It is also concrete and realistic, and its concreteness and realism are reflected in the specific issues and historical tasks of China’s modern times and the real needs and demands of the people.
The issues of the times and historical tasks facing contemporary China are fundamentally different from those of a hundred years ago. However, they still carry on the fundamental logic of modern China’s historical movement facing “all”. More than a hundred years ago, the revolutionaries represented by Sun Yat-sen believed that China was impoverished and weak, oppressed and bullied by foreign enemies because individuals were undisciplined and had too much freedom. At the same time, nationalism, civil rights, and people’s livelihoods were based on the survival of the nation and the prosperity of the country. Therefore, he advocated that freedom should not be applied to individuals and that individuals should not be too free, while the nation and the people should be completely free.37 The freedom and rights of the people in the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China are based on the “public”. First of all, they are public rights, which are set to realize the freedom, rights, and interests of “all”. Or it can also be said that if it is believed that the freedom and rights of the people also have a private aspect, then it must be put behind the freedom, rights, and interests of all. The rights of atomized individuals based on abstract human nature in the Western-style were transformed into the rights of “subjects” in Japan, which was a product of the constitutional monarchy established after the Meiji Restoration; in China, they were replaced by the rights of “people”, and we can find the reason for this in the historical context. In fact, during his exile in London in 1896, Sun Yat-sen explored deeply the ideas of Locke, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Jefferson, and others on freedom and human rights. Yet, he believed that the primary task of the bourgeois revolution was to create a republic rather than to guarantee the rights of individual freedom, and clearly advocated that in order to realize the freedom of the state and the freedom of the nation, we could not give freedom to the individual.
As Chinese history entered the period of the New Democratic Revolution with the spread of Marxism in China, socialism gradually prevailed in Chinese society ideologically and institutionally. The individualist and liberal claims of reshaping Chinese ideology and culture, transforming its deep structure, and rebuilding the order, with the individual standard and human rights as the tools, found completely no room or opportunities for ideological and historical development. The Chinese Communist Party chose Marxism as its guiding ideology and socialism as the foundation of the Party, the foundation of saving the nation, and the foundation of the nation precisely because Marxist theory and the socialist system are in line with China’s recent history of fighting against the selfishness of individual political power of dictators and the selfishness of the exclusive possession of wealth by a few, and realizing the rights and benefits share by “all” and “everyone” based on the idea of equality. General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out: “Respecting and protecting human rights is the unremitting pursuit of the Chinese Communist Party members. Since the day of its founding, our Party has held high the banner of ‘fighting for democracy and human rights’ and clearly proclaimed its advocacy of saving the country and fighting for human rights”.38 We give priority to consolidating the political prerequisites and institutional foundation for the realization of human rights in China, which is oriented toward “all” and “individual,” and toward “everyone” rather than the privileged class. This is the distinctive feature of the path chosen for human rights development in modern China.
The above logic is indisputably reflected in the history of modern Chinese constitution-making. As we have already mentioned, the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China is the first fundamental law in Chinese history that contains rules and regulations for human rights protection. It differs from the West in that it is structured on a thinking based on “all”, a public sense, and a practical group/individual view. After the founding of New China, the modern doctrine of the state based on people’s democracy became the founding principle, the fundamental state system, and the foundation of the constitution. The third chapter of the 1954 Constitution provides an exhaustive list of the basic rights of citizens, which covers the first generation of human rights recognized by the West and includes a wide range of economic, social, and cultural rights and the rights and interests of special groups determined by the nature of a socialist state, achieving a scope and depth not found in Western human rights. It is clear that China’s first socialist constitution creates a dual-guarantee system for individual rights and universal values, and that its protection of universal ownership, the public economy, and the public interest takes precedence over the protection of other ownership, economic forms, individual rights, and individual interests.
After the launch of reform and opening up, the reform of the basic economic system, the economic structure, the distribution system, as well as the reform in political, cultural, and social fields and the construction of a socialist state under the rule of law have created the basic prerequisites for the human rights normative system to move to a new level. Important advances in the human rights normative system during this period include, but are not limited to, the following aspects: First, the text and chapters of the 1982 Constitution put the fundamental rights of citizens in a more important position, substantially adding new content and expanding the content of fundamental rights compared with the 1975 and 1978 Constitutions. Second, the private economy and private property rights are were guaranteed by means of amendments. Third, “the state respects and guarantees human rights” is enshrined in the Constitution. The interpretation of the significance of enshrining this clause in the Constitution in the legal circle is mostly centered on political values, the guarantee of human rights, and the rule of law. In my opinion, the greatest significance lies in the fact that the individual human being, the dignity, and humanity of the human being, is separated from the historical “group” and the “good of the group” in the fundamental law, and is given independent value and status in the system, and is guaranteed by the Constitution and law. From today’s perspective, this change involves a historical adjustment of the deep structure of our group/individual culture, an adjustment of the core of Chinese cultural values, and a historical adjustment of that core toward modernization. Thus, by combining the Marxist view of human rights with China’s specific reality, combining the socialist idea of equality with the excellent traditional culture of the Chinese nation, and drawing on the outstanding civilizational achievements of human rights from all over the world, China has developed a path of human rights development. The main features of outlook on human rights in contemporary China include: first, adherence to the leadership of the Communist Party of China; second, adherence to respect for the main position of the people; third, adherence to starting from China’s reality; fourth, adherence to the right to survival and development as the first and foremost basic human rights; fifth, adherence to the protection of human rights in accordance with the law; and sixth, adherence to active participation in global human rights governance. These six main features also represent valuable experience in the development and practice of China’s human rights system. They clearly reflect the “Chinese nature” of human rights in contemporary China.
The outlook on human rights in contemporary China has a distinctive practical character. In the West, the building of human rights systems and the development of human rights practices came after the human nature promoted in the Renaissance and the theoretical construction of natural rights in the Enlightenment. But ideological development came after systems and practices for the human rights development in contemporary China. The Western fundamentalist view of human rights is based on the individual standard. But the outlook on human rights in contemporary China gained support from the long-standing group standard in the depths of Chinese history. Meanwhile, it is not only based on the “individual” but on “all” and “individual”. The Western fundamentalist view of human rights holds negative human rights, especially civil and political rights, as standards. The outlook on human rights in contemporary China places equal emphasis on promoting positive human rights and the respect and protection of negative human rights. The Western fundamentalist view of human rights holds subjective judicial remedies as the primary means of human rights realization. But the outlook on human rights in contemporary China is based on a combination of political, economic, and legal measures. The contemporary issue facing human rights in the West is how to rebuild the public nature of human rights and how to reclaim the responsibility of modern citizens to prevent the risk of encroachment of individual human rights on the state and the public. The arduous task faced by the human rights development in contemporary China is to consolidate the political conditions and institutional base for realizing the “public” goal of human rights and build an unbreakable institutional guarantee for the “private” value orientation of human rights by means of the construction of the whole-process people’s democracy.
 (Translated by SU Yilong)
* QI Yanping ( 齐延平 ), Chair Professor and Director of the Center for Science, Technology and Human Rights of Beijing University of Technology. This paper is the initial result of a major project of the Beijing Research Center of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and the Beijing Social Science Foundation. The name of the project is “Research on General Secretary Xi Jinping’s Important Discourse on Human Rights” (Project No. 21LLFXA051).
1. Xinhua News Agency, “Xi Jinping Stresses Steadfastly Following China’s Human Rights Development Path to Better Promote China’s Human Rights Development at the 37th Collective Study of the Central Political Bureau”, People’s Daily, February 27, 2022. 
2. Sun Longji, The Deep Structure of Chinese Culture (Beijing: CITIC Press, 2015), 9.
3. Qian Mu, The Great Righteousness of Cultural Studies (Beijing: Jiuzhou Press, 2017), 1.
4. Jean Piaget, The Principles of Genetic Epistemology, Wang Xiandian et al. trans. (Beijing: The Commercial Press, 1985), 96-106.
5. William Theodore De Bary, Asian Values and Human Rights: A Confucian Communitarian Perspective, translated by Yin Tai and proofread by Ren Feng (Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 2012), 150.
6. Qi Yanping, “On the Legitimate Foundations of China’s Human Rights Culture”, Law and Social Development 2 (2018): 150-162. De Bary believed that Confucianism recognizes the values of human life and dignity, and therefore can produce and uphold the modern Western liberal tradition of human rights. See the note above, page 148-151. De Bary’s claim is wishful thinking. He assumed that the Western contemporary fundamentalist individual human rights include the recognition of human life, dignity, and other meanings. In essence, this is not the primary significance of human rights for the West. Human rights are significant because they are the core of modern Western ideology and at the foundation of the Western political system. Confucianism certainly could not have produced and upheld such a liberal tradition of human rights. Not even the pre-modern philosophies of the West could achieve this.
7. Mizoguchi Kozo, Public and Private in China, translated by Zheng Jing, proofread by Sun Ge (Beijing: SDX Joint Publishing Company, 2011), 11.
8. Of course, the ancient West had been upholding the God standard until the modern individual standard came into being.
9. Tang Junyi, The Spiritual Value of Chinese Culture (Beijing: Jiuzhou Press, 2021), 42-43.
10. Chen Weiping, “‘Harmony in Diversity’: Confucius’ Debate of Group and Individual”, Journal of East China Normal University (Philosophy and Social Science Edition) 4 (1994): 49.
11. In Chinese ideology, there are more abstract concepts such as “heaven,” “Way,” and “heavenly way,” but they are diametrically opposed to the Western abstractions based on the dichotomy of heaven and human, such as “logos,” “concept,” and “God.” The ancient Chinese always based their thinking on daily human ethics and practices for survival, advocating the unity of heaven and human, the homogeneity of the heavenly way, and humanity. In Chinese ideology, the heavenly way must befit humanity, so “heaven,” “way,” and “heavenly way” mentioned by thinkers merely contain the practical experience and survival wisdom as a mental instrument. It does not have the nature of a conceptual entity in the Western teleological sense.
12. Sun Longji, Deep Structure of Chinese Culture (Beijing: CITIC Press, 2015), 12.
13. Lou Yulie, The Fundamental Spirits of Chinese Culture (Shanghai: Zhonghua Book Company, 2016), 286. 
14. Yang Yang, “Preface: Fragment Collection and Traditional Construction — A Review of William Theodore de Bary’s Asian Values and Human Rights in a Confucian Communitarian Perspective”, in Asian Values and Human Rights: A Confucian Communitarian Perspective, 4.
15. Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Lin Junhong trans. (Beijing: CITIC Press, 2017), 125.
16. Huang Zongxi, Waiting for the Dawn: A Plan for the Prince, translated and annotated by Li Wei (Changsha: Yuelu Publishing House, 2016), 6. 
17. Gu Yanwu, Collation and Annotation for the Record of Daily Knowledge (Part 1), proofread by Zhang Jinghua (Changsha: Yuelu Publishing House, 2011), 112.
18. Wang Fuzhi, “Interpretation of the Meaning of the Four Books, vol. 3”, in Full Collection of Wang Fuzhi, vol. 7 (Changsha: Yuelu Publishing House, 1990), 136-137. 
19. Gu Jianing, “‘Selfishness and Self-interest’ and ‘Pure Reason’: A Political Analysis of Huang Zongxi’s Theory of Human Nature”, Journal of Tsinghua University (Philosophy and Social Sciences) 6 (2013): 93. 
20. Gao Ruiquan, “‘The Debate of Group and Individual’ and the Change of Values in Modern China”, History of Chinese Philosophy 4 (2001): 73-74.
21. Xu Xianming, “100-Year Development of the Human Rights Concept in China”, Tribune of Social Sciences 3 (2005), 28-29.
22. Gao Ruiquan, “‘The Debate of Group and Individual’ and the Change of Values in Modern China”, 75.
23. Mizoguchi Kozo, Public and Private in China, 30-31.
24. Ibid., 79.
25. Zhang Taiyan, “On No-Self”, in Chinese Modern Thinker Library, Zhang Taiyan vol., edited by Jiang Yihua (Beijing: Renmin University Press, 2015), 171-179.
26. Liu Shipei, “The Anarchist View of Equality”, in Chinese Modern Thinker Library, Liu Shipei vol., edited by Li Fan (Beijing: Renmin University Press, 2015), 345-359.
27. Chen Duxiu, “France and Modern Civilization”, in The Collected Works of Chen Duxiu (vol. 1) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2013), 97.
28. Mizoguchi Kozo, Public and Private in China, 82. 
29. Wang Renbo, “On the Transformation of Civil Rights and Human Rights in Modern Times”, Modern Law Science 3 (1996): 26-34.
30. Yang Tianyi, “‘Civil Rights’ and ‘Human Rights’ in Modern China’s Constitution-Making: An Example of the Debate Between Zhang Yuanruo and Luo Longji”, Modern Law Science 2 (2010): 128.
31. Zhang Yuanruo, The Collected Papers of Zhang Lisheng on Politics and Law (Beijing: The Commercial Press, 1936), 207.
32. Tang Junyi, The Spiritual Value of Chinese Culture (Beijing: Jiuzhou Press, 2021), 338-341.
33. Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring, Compiled by the Bureau of Compilation of the Works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin of the CPC Central Committee (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2015), 93.
34. Zeng Chunhai, “From Confucian Ethics to the Relationship Between Group and Individual in the 21st Century”, Journal of Chinese Culture 4 (1999): 95.
35. Hawking, S.W., The Theory of Everything: The Origin and Fate of the Universe, Zhao Junliang trans. (Nanjing: Yilin Press, 2012), 5.
36. Xinhua News Agency, “Xi Jinping Stresses Steadfastly Following China’s Human Rights Development Path to Better Promote China’s Human Rights Development at the 37th Collective Study of the Central Political Bureau”, People’s Daily, February 27, 2022.
37. Cao Jinqing, Civil Rights and the Nation: Selected Writings of Sun Yat-sen (Shanghai: Shanghai Far Eastern Publisher, 1994), 84-96. 
38. Xinhua News Agency, “Xi Jinping Stresses Steadfastly Following China’s Human Rights Development Path to Better Promote China’s Human Rights Development at the 37th Collective Study of the Central Political Bureau”, People’s Daily, February 27, 2022.
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