Human Rights and Membership in International Society

  • Jeremy T. Paltiel


So long as China seeks status and recognition in international society and is not in a position to surround itself with its own normative community, it will be forced to deal with a human rights regime derived from Western tradition and practice. Chinese foreign policy practice claims entitlement to participation in an international community of sovereignty while simultaneously deploying sovereignty as a right to derogate from the underlying purposes, values, and obligations that community expresses. It is perhaps for this reason that Ann Kent has argued:

China’s compliance or non-compliance with the norms of the human rights regime constitutes the most rigorous test of international citizenship, for human rights present an immediate challenge to the principle of state sovereignty. Unlike the international political economy regime, it is a moral regime whose norms currently conform not to the goals of the Chinese state, but rather to the ideals of a politically conscious stratum of its domestic population.1


International Society United Nations Chinese Communist Party State Sovereignty Special Rapporteur 
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  1. 1.
    Ann Kent, China, the United Nations and Human Rights: The Limits of Compliance (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), 2.Google Scholar
  2. 13.
    Ann Kent, Between Freedom and Subsistence: China and Human Rights (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 30.Google Scholar
  3. 21.
    Xiaomei Chen, Occidentalism: A Theory of Counter-Discourse in Post-Mao China (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 4.Google Scholar
  4. 43.
    Maurice Cranston, What Are Human Rights? (London: Bodley Head, 1973), 37–38.Google Scholar

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© Jeremy T. Paltiel 2007

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  • Jeremy T. Paltiel

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