Universal Human Rights? Essay

1942 words - 8 pages

Throughout the years, the People’s Republic of China (hereinafter, the PRC) has remained notorious for its explicit defiance of international human right norms. These norms, codified in the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (hereinafter, the UDHR), define human rights to be “inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” (The Universal Declaration). While this declaration seeks to cement a set of universal human rights in the international community, it fails to take into account the idea of cultural relativism and its effects on different cultural perspectives of human values. For the purpose of this essay the UDHR will be used to explicitly state instances where China has defied individual rights within the UDHR, while the West has remained compliant. This contrast of cultural relativism is supported by scholar Jack Donnelly’s idea that “different civilizations or societies have different conceptions of human well-being. Hence they have a different attitude toward human rights” (67). This is further supported by scholars Adamantia Pollis and Peter Schwab’s view that the UNHR can be seen as an ethnocentric document based on Western ideals of democracy and libertarian values. They state it is “based on the notion of atomized individuals possessed of certain inalienable rights in nature” (Pollis, Schwab 8). The idea that a code of universal human rights primarily influenced by a Western school of thought may be readily applicable to China and other Asian nations is a naïve one. It may be argued that this new standard for universal human rights within a global society operates under the concept of “Coca-Colonization” (Huntington 28). Many in the West believe that regions are moving toward a global perspective; however, in reality this is a perspective that is primarily based off of the West. This misconception of a universal standard is rooted in the spread of popular western consumer goods globally, this does not always equate to the spreading of values, such as universal human rights. Samuel Huntington rejects these misconceptions in his article The West Unique, Not Universal stating “the argument that the spread of pop culture and consumer goods around the world represents the triumph of Western civilization depreciates the strength of other cultures while trivializing Western culture” (29). In actuality, the most distinct differences between the PRC and the West can be seen through their fundamental treatment of their people.
Despite the PRC having “pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (The Universal Declaration) it will be argued that in reality, they fail to adhere to these universal standards. The PCR’s ideology can best seen through the age-old sentiment that “man exists for the state rather than vice versa” (Donnelly 77), while the UNHR...

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