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About This Issue

June 26, 2013

Over the past three decades, China’s presence in the world has rapidly expanded, fueled by its rising economic and political clout, an ambitious soft power strategy, and increased flows of Chinese people abroad. China is now the world’s second largest economy, with cheap goods and huge investments reaching virtually every corner of the world. It is engaged in extensive bilateral and multilateral cooperation in spheres well beyond trade and commerce, including security, military, science and technology, and cultural and academic exchanges. In addition to joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, China has also ratified almost all the major international human rights treaties, and is increasingly active in and attempting to influence international human rights practices and policy debates.

While many developing countries, beneficiaries of China’s extensive development projects and aid, have embraced the current “China Model” of development—economic liberalization without political liberalization—they are also increasingly cautious about the accompanying costs, realizing that there is no political “free lunch.” In addition to investments and loans, China is also exporting its domestic ways of doing business, including poor labor standards and practices and lack of transparency and accountability. The recent crackdown on illegal Chinese miners in Ghana illustrates growing resentment and push-back from local communities and authorities.

China’s increasingly active engagement in the international human rights system also presents challenges for the international community, including ensuring respect for human rights while countering terrorism, promoting freedom of expression and access to information, engaging Internet governance issues, and advancing effective domestic implementation of international human rights obligations.

This issue, “China in the World,” explores the impact and implications of China’s global presence and the challenges and opportunities that it presents in the areas of human rights, security, and civil society.

Section One—“China’s Global Presence: Expert Views”—presents, in text and video, a roundtable, “China in the World: Human Rights Challenges and Opportunities,” featuring four distinguished legal and human rights experts: Michael H. Posner, Jerome A. Cohen, Felice D. Gaer, and Fu Hualing. Approaching the topic from “inside outward” and “outside inward,” the experts delve into a wide range of areas including:

  • key issues in China’s domestic governance,
  • the composition of China’s current leadership and its implications for foreign affairs,
  • how China operates in the international legal and human rights systems and the ensuing implications, and
  • how the international community should engage with China to promote a rule-based and rights- based society in China.


Also in this section is an excerpt from China’s Search for Security by Andrew J. Nathan and Andrew Scobell, and HRIC’s video interview with Andrew Nathan. The excerpt, drawn from Chapter 1 of the book, “What Drives Chinese Foreign Policy,” outlines the “four rings” of threats that China faces, which the authors view as the basis for China’s foreign policy formulation. In the video interview, Nathan addresses issues including the key driver of reform in China and the impact of the ongoing human rights problems in China on global security.

Section Two—“Civil Society Perspectives and Voices”—presents insights drawn from an informal NGO survey conducted by HRIC to better understand civil society’s awareness and perceptions of China's presence in countries around the world. In May 2013, HRIC also took advantage of our participation in the International Federation for Human Rights’ (FIDH) 38th Congress in Istanbul to speak with defenders working on Burma, Belarus, Cambodia, Liberia, and Mexico. Included in this section are video excerpts of their views of the Chinese presence in the countries they work in. Also in this section is an essay by a Kenyan businessman about the paradoxical nature of the Chinese presence in Kenya.

This issue’s “Culture Matters”—presents an essay by Yan Zhengxue, one of China’s most outspoken artists, about sculptures he created of two historical figures persecuted during the Cultural Revolution that the authorities tried to suppress.

This section also includes a rich collection of book reviews and excerpts and author interviews—HRIC’s Suggested Summer Reading Bookshelf. The collection includes books about China’s foreign policy, Deng Xiaoping’s reform, prison memoirs, the Bo Xilai-Wan Lijun-Gu Kailai affair, Tibet, and China’s thought-remolding campaign. The following are the books featured:

On Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China by Ezra Vogel (review by Hu Ping)

China’s Search for Security by Andrew Nathan and Andrew Scobell (review by Yawei Liu)

For a Song and a Hundred Songs by Liao Yiwu (book excerpts)

A Death in the Lucky Holiday Hotel by Pin Ho and Wenguang Huang (video interview with Wenguang Huang and book experts)

My 1000 Days’ Ordeal: A Patriot’s Torture by Ching Cheong (review of the English edition by Paul Mooney; review of the Chinese edition by Hu Ping)

The Thought Remolding Campaign of the Chinese Communist Party-State by Hu Ping (review by Andrew J. Nathan)

Beyond Shangri-la: America and Tibet’s Move into the Twenty-First Century by John Kenneth Knaus (review by Jonathan Mirsky)

F: Hufeng’s Prison Years by Mei Zhi (review by Jonathan Mirsky)

Happy reading, and we welcome your feedback.

Error | Human Rights in China 中国人权 | HRIC


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