The Shift to Multilateral Venues, 1992–1995

Rosemary Foot

in Rights Beyond Borders

Published in print September 2000 | ISBN: 9780198297765
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599279 | DOI:
The Shift to Multilateral Venues, 1992–1995

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The first 18 months after the Tiananmen bloodshed marked the height of global criticism of China's human rights record, but the years 1992–1995 quickly gave some indication of the difficulties that would be faced by those who wished to move China beyond tactical concessions towards genuine acceptance of the validity of some of the core human rights norms. Major Western states, together with Japan, continued to reduce the bilateral pressure, for economic and strategic reasons, and China's recapturing of its high economic growth rates from 1992 enhanced its ability to pose policy dilemmas for those interested in competing in the Chinese market, as well as for far weaker countries that were poised to benefit from China's economic dealings with them. The Beijing leadership, which was plainly on the defensive with respect to its international interlocutors on human rights, decided to renew its efforts to regain the initiative. China's 1991 White Paper, which signalled limited engagement in the human rights discourse, was a major first stage in that strategy, providing China with an authoritative text upon which to draw in response to international criticisms. Beijing, however, went further and tried to link up with other governments in East Asia in the exploitation of a common dislike of Western triumphalism, and a common commitment to ‘Asian values’, questioning the universal application of democracy and human rights. The Chinese leadership began to launch more extensive, direct attacks on Western countries and on the major international NGOs. Nevertheless, the relative density of the human rights regime ensured that some constraints still operated on China's international diplomacy, and as the major states’ sanctions policies weakened, governments tended to make greater use of such multilateral institutions as the UN. The different sections of the chapter are: The Uses of the 1991 White Paper; Relativism versus Universalism —in democracy and human rights; The Economic Weight of China; The Rootedness of Human Rights Policy; The UN Commission on Human Rights; China and the Thematic Mechanisms — the work of the UN Special Rapporteurs and the new 1995 Chinese White Paper; and Conclusion.

Keywords: Asian Values; 1991 White Paper; 1995 White Paper; attacks on Western countries; China; Chinese economy; Chinese market; democracy; East Asian governments; human rights; human rights norms; human rights policy; human rights regime; multilateral institutions; UN Commission on Human Rights; UN Special Rapporteurs

Chapter.  18779 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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