The U.S. Department of State released its yearly human rights report on April 13, playing the same old tune in its criticisms of every country on earth. China and Russia were focuses of American criticism among the great powers. The Chinese portion of the report reached over 28,000 English words, and the Russian portion approximately 27,000 words.
On April 14, Beijing time, around when America published its report, the Information Office of the State Council of China published the “2015 Human Rights Record of the United States,” criticizing measure-for-measure the lack of gun control leading to 13,136 deaths in 2015, the shooting of 965 people by police, the long-term illicit trial and detention of criminals in the now 14-year-old Guantánamo Bay prison, the year’s 560,000 homeless individuals, and 33 million without health insurance, etc.
There were many countries that at about the same time issued refutations of the American accusations.
This is a very interesting global human rights debate. Observers say that America is situated at the center of the debate, its basic circumstances are comparatively good, and that it has the strongest voice in the entire world. Therefore, it is generally the active party in wars of words — the aggressor.
Yet, the attacks America produces are almost used up; when it criticizes another country, most are able guess what it will say. American accusations usually center on areas such as voting rights, freedom of speech, and the handling of dissidents who violate the law. These issues are highly controversial among different forms of government, and differing social groups’ understandings of them is often counterproductive. This also means that the American human rights report will have its diehard fans, as well as resolute opposition from across the world.
Chinese criticism of America is largely focused on the inherent flaws in the American human rights domain. Indeed, the combings of the Chinese report on American human rights issues are quite well received in developing countries, and China’s genuine influence steadily grows.
Looking comparatively at Chinese and American circumstances, America’s social basis is better, and China’s human rights endeavors are rapidly progressing. America is arrogant and complacent, standing still in its conservatism, and is sloppy in regards to continuing the advancement of human rights. Yet, the Chinese focus on the development of human rights from top to bottom, with practical results continuously arising. China’s judicial reform has made substantial progress — for instance, the abolition of Reform through Labor, the reform of criminal procedure law, etc. China also allows second children now and is vigorously strengthening its environmental protection efforts. Overall, the Chinese government and people are deeply concerned in pursuing a high degree of consistency; the whole of society is like a segment of rope, and thus, how we present human rights can be renewed every few years.
America’s biggest weakness is that while its problems are clearly presented, the government lacks the will and ability to resolve them. For instance, the gross inundation of gun incidents clearly shows the blood and scars in America’s human rights field, but the U.S. government’s actual ability and effort to solve it is still functionally zero. The Obama administration can only complain about the difficulty of promoting gun control, conveniently saying what sounds like words absolving itself of responsibility.
The contents of human rights are extremely abundant, and moreover are closely bound to the realities of people’s lives and plights. However, Washington and the West now regularly turn human rights issues into political disputes and confrontation, making these issues even more “fashionable” and sensational. Yet, they are gradually departing from reality, completely out of touch with more and more people’s original understandings of “human rights” in developing countries.
Further taking China as an example, America repeatedly criticizes the “deterioration of Chinese human rights,” but these accusations are generally focused on the extremely few cases of those who use illegal methods to oppose the institution of the Chinese government, and America remains indifferent regarding the great expansion of Chinese human rights. This cannot but give people a strong impression that Washington uses “human rights” to toy with Chinese politics; what it wants is to attack the institution of Chinese government and the current judicial system.
Russia has multiparty elections, having accepted the great framework of Western governments, yet Russia continues to be a target of fierce human rights criticism by America and the West. This leads us to believe that due to the complexities of the Sino-American great power relationship, especially with the increased prominence of Chinese and American competition, regardless of what China does, it will always be definitely labeled as “human rights-inadequate.” The U.S.-China dispute is losing more and more genuine guiding significance.
Taking a historical view, the human rights debate serves a positive purpose for strengthening the worldwide debate on conceptions of human rights; external pressure has produced impetus in the relevant thought of Chinese society. However, it must be mentioned that America’s current actions increasingly stray from common sense, moving toward prejudice and extremism. The so-called American “correctness” relies on its overall soft power to compel supporters. The human rights of which it speaks actually have already been made hollow, resembling more and more some flashy but useless auction item overpriced at a bid.
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