China and the International Human Rights System

Chatham House,Sonya Sceats – Shaun Breslin

China’s re-emergence as a global power is one of the defining developments of international relations in the early twenty-first century. Propelled by its newfound economic might, China has become a pivotal player within the global economic system and a potential role model for many developing states eager to replicate its growth.

However, there is still intense speculation and some concern, within Western states and elsewhere, about the extent to which China is bringing this economic power to bear in other areas of the international system and about its plans in this regard. The international human rights system is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and comprises various UN institutions including the Human Rights Council and bodies that monitor implementation of international human rights treaties. The implications of China’s rise in this area are becoming a locus of anxieties. China has regularly spoken out against interference on human rights grounds in its internal affairs and those of other states, and it is often assumed that its ascendancy as a global power is threatening to this part of the international system. International human rights are not a standalone foreign policy issue for China. Instead they tend

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