Article from ROAPE Volume 35 Number 115
Explaining Rise of ‘Human Rights’ in Analyses of Relations

Explaining the Rise of ‘Human Rights’ in Analyses of Sino-African Relations
Vol.35 No.115 (March 2008), pp59-71
Popular perceptions of China and its global role are often shaped by two words: ‘made in’. Yet this vision of China that focuses primarily on Beijing as a coming economic superpower is relatively new, and it is not that long ago that two other words tended to dominate debates on and discourses of China: ‘human rights’. To be sure, real interest in human rights in China was never the only issue in other states’ relations with China, nor consistently pursued throughout the years (Nathan, 1994). Nor did human rights totally subsequently disappear from the political agenda. Nevertheless, the rhetorical importance of human rights - perhaps best epitomised by the narrow defeat of resolutions condemning Chinese policy in 1995 at the Human Rights Council in Geneva - stands in stark contrast to the relative silence thereafter as the bottom line of most states’ relations with Beijing took on ever greater economic dimensions.