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Human Rights Review

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 45–71 | Cite as

Principle Versus Profit: Debating Human Rights Sanctions

  • Stephanie Chan
Article

Abstract

Economic sanctions are a primary tool the US government and international organizations use to promote human rights abroad, yet they have proven to be largely ineffective and harmful to civilians. There is accumulating evidence that this paradox may be explained by the expressive purposes of sanctions and domestic politics. This article further explores these explanations by examining human rights sanction policy debates. Specifically, I analyzed 27 US Congressional hearings on human rights policy toward China (1990–1999). I argue that moral pressure enabled support for human rights sanctions, high costs fueled opposition to them, and discussions of effectiveness were marginal to the debate. The findings contribute to past studies by (1) identifying the psychological and sociological mechanisms by which legislators circumvent arguments of sanction ineffectiveness and harmfulness and (2) delineating the role of business, human rights, and ethnic interest groups in enabling and constraining support for human rights sanctions.

Keywords

USA China Sanctions Human rights Morality Foreign policy 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I want to thank Richard Madsen, John Skrentny, John Evans, Dan Hallin, Susan Shirk, Michael Evans, Lisa Nunn, Julie Lee, and anonymous reviewers for their valuable feedback on this paper.

Funding Information

The University of California, San Diego Sociology Department and Biola University funded this research.

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Further reading

  1. U.S. Congress (1990d) Senate. Committee on Finance. Extending Most-Favored-Nation status for China, 101st Cong., 2nd sess., 1990 June 20Google Scholar
  2. U.S. Congress (1990e) House of Representatives. Committee on Ways and Means. United States-People’s Republic of China (PRC) trade relations, including Most-Favored-Nation trade status for the PRC, 101st Cong., 2nd sess., 1990 June 21Google Scholar
  3. U.S. Congress (1993a) House of Representatives. Committee on Foreign Affairs. Future of U.S.-China policy. 103rd Cong., 1st sess., 1993 May 20Google Scholar
  4. U.S. Congress (1994c) Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations. U.S. policy toward China, 103rd Cong., 2nd sess., 1994 May 4Google Scholar
  5. U.S. Congress (1996a) Senate. Committee on Finance. China Most-Favored-Nation (MFN) status, 104th Cong., 2nd sess., 1996 June 6Google Scholar
  6. U.S. Congress (1996c) House of Representatives. Committee on International Relations. China MFN: Human rights consequences, 104th Cong., 2nd sess., 1996 June 18Google Scholar
  7. U.S. Congress (1997a) Senate. Committee on Finance. Renewal of Normal Trade Relations with China, 105th Cong., 1st sess., 1997 June 10Google Scholar
  8. U.S. Congress (1997c) House of Representatives. Committee on International Relations. U.S./China trade relations and human rights: Is constructive engagement with working?, 105th Cong., 1st sess., 1997 October 28Google Scholar
  9. U.S. Congress (1998a) House of Representatives. Committee on Ways and Means. U.S.-China trade relations and renewal of China’s Most-Favored-Nation status, 105th Cong., 2nd sess, 1998 June 17Google Scholar
  10. U.S. Congress (1998b) Senate. Committee on Finance. President’s renewal of normal trade relations with China, 105th Cong., 2nd sess., 1998 July 9Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018
Corrected publication January/2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyBiola UniversityLa MiradaUSA

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