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Promoting and Practicing a Contemporary Chinese Perspective on Human Rights

By Jiang Jianguo Source: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2024-01-05

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2012, President Xi Jinping has made the development of human rights an important national governance priority. In a series of speeches and statements on the issue of respecting and protecting human rights, he has put forward in-depth answers to major questions concerning the nature of human rights, how best to advance human rights in China, and their governance on a global level. From a theoretical viewpoint, President Xi has given shape to a contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights that is rooted in the “two integrations” (integrating the basic tenets of Marxism with China’s specific realities and with its fine traditional culture) while also reflecting the shared values of humanity. In practical terms, he has led the whole Party and all the Chinese people in following a Chinese path of advancing human rights that is right for the times and suited to China’s national conditions.

I. The rich content of the contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights

The contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights is in fact an in-depth summary developed by the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core, and it reflects CPC’s longstanding experience of advancing human rights. This perspective offers deep insight into the global development and evolution of human rights and constitutes a well-founded outline of the living practice of human rights in contemporary China as well as a distillation of its fundamental positions and major viewpoints. It represents the all-new and comprehensive understanding that Chinese Communists have attained in the new era regarding the advancement of human rights. As a major component of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, this perspective provides the fundamental principles we must follow in advancing human rights in the new era while also offering Chinese wisdom for the promotion of global human rights governance.


The photos show female employees working on the front lines of enterprises including China First Heavy Industries Group, Harbin Electric Corporation, CRRC Qiqihar Co., Ltd., and Daqing Oilfield. China has made continuous efforts to ensure equal protection and special safeguards for women’s rights and interests and has given full play to the positive role of women in all sectors. (Photos by Wang Jianwei, Zhang Tao, Xie Jianfei, Shi Feng, Li Yulong, and Zhang Yunsong, March 6 and 7, 2023) XINHUA

The leadership of the CPC is a fundamental guarantee for the advancement of human rights in China

Ensuring respect and protection for human rights has been a relentless pursuit of Chinese Communists. President Xi has pointed out that it is the CPC’s leadership and China’s socialist system that have determined the socialist nature of human rights in China and have ensured that the people run the country, that human rights are enjoyed by all people equally, and that human rights development is based on a holistic approach. This has enabled us to promote the all-around development of human rights and to better realize, safeguard, and promote the fundamental interests of the greatest majority of people. Only under the CPC’s leadership can the Chinese people enjoy still better and happier lives and gradually come to have broader, fuller, and more complete human rights.

The right to a happy life is the most important human right

The people are the CPC’s greatest source of confidence in governing and rejuvenating the country and the greatest source of motivation for advancing human rights. President Xi has emphasized that we must regard the people’s interests as our immutable aim, constantly strive to resolve the most practical problems that are of the greatest and most direct concern to the people, and do our utmost to ensure that people can live happy lives, as this is the most important human right of all. The CPC is committed to putting the people above all else and to upholding their principal position. It regards their aspirations for a better life as its primary goal. In every aspect of the entire process of advancing human rights, it strives to reflect the people’s aspirations, ensure their interests, protect their rights, and guarantee their wellbeing, and it works tirelessly to ensure a higher level of respect and protection for all basic rights of the Chinese people. Through its efforts, the CPC has been able to provide the people with a stronger sense of fulfillment, happiness, and security.

The rights to subsistence and development are foremost among basic human rights

Treating the rights to subsistence and development as first among basic human rights was an inevitable choice for the CPC given the needs of the people and China’s national realities. President Xi has stressed that subsistence is the foundation of all human rights. The Chinese people are profoundly aware that survival first and foremost requires freedom from poverty and hunger. Effectively guaranteeing the right to subsistence is the precondition and foundation for enjoying and advancing all other human rights. The right to development and the right to subsistence are closely tied together. The CPC fully safeguards people’s basic right to subsistence while also providing practical safeguards to ensure they enjoy their rights to equal participation and development.

Development offers a key pathway to the full realization of human rights

Development holds the key to delivering better lives for the people. President Xi has emphasized that we must ensure and improve people’s wellbeing and protect and promote human rights through development. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the Central Committee has, based on an accurate understanding of the new stage of development, fully and faithfully applied the new philosophy of development, accelerated efforts to create a new development dynamic, and promoted high-quality development. In all this, it has regarded development as the critical factor in advancing human rights as well as the universal solution to all China’s problems. Efforts have been made to address imbalances and inadequacies in development so that development gains benefit all our people more fairly. While advancing Chinese modernization, we have thus worked continuously to enhance the protection for human rights.

A secure and stable environment is an important condition for advancing human rights

Security is a basic human need and peace is a fundamental requirement for people’s happiness and wellbeing. President Xi has emphasized that national security is the foundation of national rejuvenation and social stability is a precondition for national strength and prosperity. The people earnestly desire social stability, a prosperous nation, and the chance to live in peace; these are also the major governance objectives of the CPC. In the 70-plus years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, the CPC has led the Chinese people in creating the almost unprecedented miracles of rapid economic development and long-term social stability. Since we entered the new era in 2012, the Chinese people’s sense of security has remained consistently high, while the international community has come to widely regard China as one of the safest countries in the world.

Equal enjoyment is the goal for developing institutions concerning human rights

President Xi has stressed that human rights are not special privileges for a certain section of society or some small minority; they are universal rights to be enjoyed by all. While advancing the contemporary development of human rights, China has gradually established a system for safeguarding social fairness primarily featuring equal rights, equal opportunities, and fair rules, and has continually worked to ensure equality and special protections for the rights of particular groups, such as ethnic minorities, women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. It has worked to provide more comprehensive protection for people’s rights and to ensure that everyone can share in the process of common development.

Law-based governance is an effective safeguard for human rights

Comprehensive law-based governance is important for the happiness and wellbeing of the people. President Xi has stressed that the fundamental goal behind advancing law-based governance is to safeguard the people’s rights and interests on the basis of law. China has given full play to the role of the rule of law in consolidating social foundations, ensuring realistic expectations, and delivering long-term benefits. We have continued with reform in the domain of law-based governance, enhanced the legal safeguard mechanisms for human rights, and ensured that people can enjoy extensive rights and freedoms under the law. By improving the level of legal protection for human rights, we have made every effort to ensure the people feel the justice and impartiality of every legal provision, every enforcement decision, and every judicial case.

The paramount aim of protecting human rights is the realization of full and free development for all

The Manifesto of the Communist Party declares, “In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” President Xi has stressed that the ultimate goal of modernization is the achievement of full and free development for all people. We have promoted coordinated development of the economy, democracy, the rule of law, ideas and cultures, fairness and justice, social governance, and environmental protection, and bolstered human rights protection throughout the process of promoting coordinated material, political, cultural-ethical, social, and ecological advancement. These efforts have enabled us to create the conditions for people to realize full and free development.


Fourth-grader Tenzin Dzong (left, front) attends a piano lesson with her classmates at a primary school in Zhaxizom Township, Tingri County, Xizang Autonomous Region, June 5, 2023. To meet the diverse needs of students, the school has established hobby classes in information technology, fine arts, broadcasting, sports, dance, and handicrafts, thus promoting the well-rounded development of students. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER FEI MAOHUA

The mission of promoting global human rights governance is to build a global community of shared future

The development of human rights is a joint endeavor for all humanity. President Xi has emphasized China’s willingness to work with the international community to make global human rights governance fairer, more just, more rational, and more inclusive, promote the building of a global community of shared future, and make our world a better place. China is an advocate of the shared values of humanity. We believe that different civilizations and nations should respect, accommodate, interact with, and learn from each other. Acting on the Global Security Initiative (GSI), Global Development Initiative (GDI), and Global Civilizations Initiative (GCI), we have joined in concerted efforts to promote human rights. We hold that international human rights affairs should be collectively discussed by all nations, the global mechanisms for human rights governance should be developed by all countries in concert, and human rights achievements should be jointly enjoyed by all people around the world.

II. Practical achievements of the contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights

The contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights both originates in practice and also serves as a guide for practice. It has charted a path for the advancement of human rights that is suited to China’s national conditions. President Xi has provided a profound summary of the Chinese path for advancing human rights both in terms of its primary features and the valuable experience gained therein, namely: we must uphold the CPC’s leadership, respect the primary position of the people, ground ourselves in China’s realities, uphold basic human rights, of which the rights to subsistence and development are most important, ensure the law-based protection of human rights, and actively participate in global human rights governance. With the contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights as a guide, China has steadfastly followed its own path for the advancement of human rights. This has given rise to historic human rights achievements in China.

Effective improvements to protections for the rights to subsistence and development

China secured victory in the fight against poverty on schedule. This battle was unprecedented in human history in terms of its scale, scope, and the number of people who benefited. We have thus historically resolved the problem of absolute poverty that has plagued the Chinese people for thousands of years and built a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Between 2012 and 2022, the national average per capita disposable income of residents rose from 16,510 yuan to 36,883 yuan. We have successfully carried out all initiatives regarding employment, income distribution, education, social security, healthcare, housing, and elderly and child care, building the world’s largest education, social security, and healthcare systems in the process. We mounted a powerful response to the Covid-19 pandemic, doing everything possible to protect the lives and health of our people. All this has set down a solid foundation to ensure our people can enjoy even better lives.

Whole-process people’s democracy to guarantee steady development of people’s democratic rights

China has worked vigorously to improve the systems and institutions that ensure it is the people who run the country. We have established diverse, unimpeded, and orderly democratic channels, developed whole-process people’s democracy, and ensured people’s right to vote, stand in elections, be informed, participate, have a voice, and exercise oversight. As a result, people now enjoy broader, fuller, and more comprehensive democratic rights. Since the inception of reform and opening up more than 40 years ago, the turnout for direct elections of deputies to people’s congresses at the township and county levels has remained steady at around 90%. In 2022, more than a billion voters took part in the election of over 2.6 million deputies to people’s congresses at the township and county levels, providing an effective guarantee to ensure the people run the country. Deputies to people’s congresses at various levels are representative of their constituents, being drawn from different ethnic groups, industrial sectors, social strata, and political parties. In people’s political consultative conferences, the rights of different political parties to express opinions and raise suggestions are fully respected and guaranteed. This has helped promote broad unity, inter-party collaboration, and the practice of people’s democracy during the consultative process.

Good laws and good governance to ensure all-around progress on human rights

Human rights are respected and protected throughout every aspect of legislation, law enforcement, justice administration, and law observance. We have steadily promoted sound legislation, strict law enforcement, impartial administration of justice, and society-wide observance of the law to ensure that human rights are fully protected as we advance law-based governance in an all-around way. As of September 1, 2023, China had 298 laws and 601 administrative regulations in effect. Moreover, China’s socialist system of laws has been improved on an ongoing basis, with the legislative foundation for protecting human rights being steadily consolidated. We have made major strides in building a law-based government, secured strong progress in the reform of the administrative law enforcement systems and mechanisms, and made law enforcement stricter and more procedure-based, impartial, and civil. In judicial reform, we have scored notable achievements, effecting reforms concerning the allocation of powers and operating mechanisms to markedly boost the credibility of the judiciary. We have carried out dedicated campaigns to combat and root out organized crime as a practical step to protect people’s lives and property. The systems and mechanisms for litigation have been improved to strike a more effective balance between fairness and efficiency. We have refined reform measures to provide greater convenience and benefit to the people and earnestly strived to protect the people’s legitimate rights and interests. We have also made progress in ensuring society-wide observance of the law and in informing the public about concepts concerning law-based human rights, with the result that general social awareness of law-based protection for human rights has risen still higher.

Practical safeguards for the rights of specific groups

China has bolstered rights protections for ethnic minorities, women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. While upholding the equality of all ethnic groups, we have promoted the holistic development of ethnic minority initiatives. We have established a comprehensive system of legal safeguards for women and children supported by more than 100 laws and regulations. We have introduced a proactive national strategy in response to population aging, embedded a positive perspective and a healthy approach with regard to aging into every aspect of economic and social development, and promoted coordinated planning for care services, health support, social participation, and rights protection for elderly people. Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, we have provided holistic support for the rehabilitation, education, employment, and cultural and intellectual development of more than 85 million people with disabilities. More than 7.1 million registered poor people with disabilities were lifted out of poverty during the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016–2020).

It has been proven in practice that the contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights is a well-conceived theory with the force of truth and great practical effectiveness. The Chinese path of advancing human rights is a broad avenue that ensures respect and protection for human rights, aligns with the trend of the times, exhibits unique Chinese features, and meets the needs of the Chinese people.

III. The global contributions of the contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights

China has always concerned itself with the welfare of the world and readily acted for the general global good. The contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights not only represents a sound guide to action for advancing human rights in China, but also offers Chinese insight, input, and strength to contribute to global human rights governance.

Chinese proposals offer Chinese wisdom for global human rights governance

China advocates security as a safeguard for human rights. It respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations and works with them to achieve peaceful development. It has acted on the GSI to create the peaceful environment necessary for the realization of human rights. Security is an important precondition for the full protection and promotion of human rights. Through its practical actions, China has acted on a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security, promoting the peaceful resolution of conflicts and working to safeguard world peace and regional security and stability. On numerous occasions, China has spoken on behalf of developing nations at the UN Human Rights Council on themes such as “safeguarding peace and promoting and protecting human rights,” putting forward proposals that have met with wide approval among developing nations. China advocates ensuring human rights through development. Acting on the GDI, it has worked to enhance the inclusivity, universality, and sustainability of development and to ensure the equitable enjoyment of human rights by the peoples of all countries based on their particular paths of modernization. Global consensus has steadily developed around China’s experience of protecting and advancing human rights through development. The UN Human Rights Council has passed three Chinese-proposed resolutions regarding “the contribution of development to the enjoyment of all human rights.” The GDI has garnered the support of more than 100 countries and international organizations, with more than 70 countries taking part in the Group of Friends of the GDI at the UN. China is also an advocate of advancing human rights through cooperation, mutual respect, and equal treatment. Implementing the GCI, it has sought to strengthen exchanges and mutual learning between civilizations, build consensus through dialogue, and work with others to promote human rights advancement. China adheres to principles of openness and inclusivity and actively engages in dialogue, consultation, and exchanges of views, sharing its experience in safeguarding human rights with other nations, using dialogue to bridge differences, and promoting mutual trust through cooperation. By holding events such as the Forum on Global Human Rights Governance, the South-South Human Rights Forum, and the Beijing Forum on Human Rights, China has continually generated fresh ideas for and contributed wisdom to global human rights governance.

Chinese principles provide solutions for global human rights governance

China advocates the principle of shared growth through discussion and collaboration in global human rights governance. Aligning the interests of the Chinese people with those of people around the world, it has moved forward with building a global community of shared future. The concept of a global community of shared future has been included in over ten UN Human Rights Council resolutions, becoming an important part of the international discourse on human rights. It stands as an approach that will help boost global human rights governance. China’s commitment to multilateralism has provided an important foundation for the advancement of global human rights governance. China opposes violations of sovereignty under the pretext of human rights. The principle of mutual non-interference in internal affairs has found broad agreement among the international community and extensive support from developing nations. China plays an active part in the formulation and revision of rules concerning global human rights governance. It has taken part in meetings for the drafting of key international rights conventions such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, played a primary role in advancing the initial draft of the Declaration on the Right to Development, and served as vice chair nation for the initial draft of the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action at the Second World Conference on Human Rights. It has also taken part in the drafting of international regulations in areas such as labor protection, humanitarian activity, and social responsibility. China has actively promoted reform of UN human rights mechanisms and called for adherence to the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity, and non-politicization in the running of multilateral rights organizations. Acting strictly within the limits of its authority, China has respected the sovereignty of UN member nations and promoted constructive dialogue and cooperation between all parties.

China’s contributions have added Chinese strength to global human rights governance

China regards it as its mission to make new and even greater contributions to humanity. We are firm in the belief that only when the people of all nations are living well will prosperity be sustainable, security be assured, and human rights rest on a firm foundation. Since the start of the new era in 2012, China has upgraded its foreign aid into international development cooperation, providing sincere and effective assistance that helps advance human rights in developing nations. China has supported and assisted the economic and social development of developing nations through a variety of means, such as the construction of complete projects, the provision of material assistance, cooperation in technology and human resources, the dispatch of volunteers, and debt reduction and cancellation. China has provided financial aid and support to developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America through dedicated funds and loans. This includes setting up the Global Development and South-South Cooperation Fund, package financing for Latin American nations, and special China-ASEAN loans for infrastructure. Development cooperation initiatives launched by China include major infrastructure projects such as the China-Laos Railway—a flagship project under the Belt and Road Initiative—and small yet effective wellbeing projects such as an initiative to share Juncao techniques for growing edible mushrooms with more than 100 countries. These efforts have played an important role in helping developing nations improve their development capacity, better the wellbeing of their people, and safeguard human rights.


A harmonious pastoral scene of egrets gathering as farmers plow fields in Yixing Village, Anhui Province, July 2, 2023. Guided by its contemporary perspective on human rights, China has secured impressive achievements in its ongoing efforts to strengthen the protection of environmental rights. PEOPLE’S DAILY / PHOTO BY XIAO BENXIANG

Guided by the contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights, China participates in global human rights governance based on the principles of equality, mutual trust, inclusiveness, mutual learning, win-win cooperation, and common development. It fully respects the sovereignty of other nations, never interfering in others’ internal affairs, never attaching strings in its relations with others, never demanding special privileges, and always rigorously upholding the universality and efficacy of the UN Charter. By contrast, certain countries, despite numerous human rights issues of their own, practice double standards, blatantly meddling in the internal affairs of other nations under the pretext of “human rights.” Such actions serve only to create division, unrest, and wars and severely undermine the healthy development of the global human rights cause. China resolutely opposes those who use the guise of human rights to engage in hegemonic, high-handed, and bullying behavior. Based on the respect we have for every nation’s path of advancing human rights, we actively engage in dialogue and cooperation, promote the reform and development of the global system for human rights governance, and work with the peoples of all nations to build a better future for our world.

IV. The development dynamic of the contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights

The contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights is rooted in China but takes lessons from overseas; it draws from history yet is firmly grounded in the present day. It is concerned with all humanity and geared to the needs of our future, forming an open and evolving theoretical architecture. Drawing on the fresh impetus arising from the “two integrations” theoretical system, the fertile conditions fostered by our great drive toward Chinese modernization, and the vital energy provided by the ideals and aspirations of our rich human rights culture, we will continue working to develop and refine the contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights.

The “two integrations” as an inexhaustible source

The contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights is a theoretical achievement that integrates the Marxist view on human rights with China’s specific realities and the best of the country’s traditional culture. It is also a practical achievement developed by the CPC as it has led the people in their explorations of human rights. It is furthermore an achievement for civilization that incorporates humanity’s most advanced thinking on human rights. Within the Marxist human rights view, it is the concern for human liberation and the theories on the “free development of each” that constitute the cornerstones of the contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights. At the same time, traditional Chinese culture’s outlook on the universe, world, society, and ethics provide the cultural and ethical basis for this perspective. Since the day of its founding in 1921, the CPC has regarded national liberation, national independence, and the immediate interests of the people as being closely intertwined. Since the PRC’s founding, and especially since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the overall development of the cause of human rights has impressed the contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights with the distinctive stamp of the times. In applying this perspective, we will continue to observe, interpret, and guide the trend based on the Marxist human rights view. We will continue to follow a concept of human rights that is distilled from rich and dynamic human rights practices, and we will continue to draw on the very best achievements of human civilization with an open mindset, striving ceaselessly to open new frontiers for human rights.

Chinese modernization as a solid support

The report to the 20th CPC National Congress set out the core tasks of building a great modern socialist country, achieving the Second Centenary Goal, and advancing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation through Chinese modernization. Chinese modernization also provides the path of development for the contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights. The difficulties and complexities of leading a population of 1.4 billion people into modernization as a whole are unprecedented. The methods and steps we take for the cause of human rights must, therefore, be rooted in our actual conditions and conform to the laws of development. The modernization of a huge population means that China must adhere to a people-centered human rights philosophy. We must constantly improve people’s wellbeing and enhance protection for human rights while ensuring social stability. As our modernization must deliver common prosperity for all, China must make the people’s aspirations for a better life an immutable aim as we advance modernization, so as to see achievements being shared more fairly with all people and resolutely prevent social polarization. As Chinese modernization must deliver both material and cultural-ethical progress, China must satisfy the people’s hopes for high standard and happy lives, promoting both all-around material abundance and well-rounded human development. Chinese modernization also seeks harmony between humanity and nature. As such, China must continue to strengthen safeguards for environmental rights and promote sustainable development. Finally, Chinese modernization pursues peaceful development, which means that China champions the shared values of humanity, promotes a global community of shared future, and safeguards the rights to peace and development. As Chinese modernization forges ahead, new horizons will undoubtedly emerge for the contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights and the cause of human rights in China.

Enriching the concept of human rights as a major mission

Human rights are a symbol of the advance of human civilization, and realizing the full enjoyment of human rights for all is a common goal of human society. The contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights is an important and distinctive component of the global cause of human rights. The continuity of Chinese civilization means that the contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights is the product of a path of human rights development with Chinese characteristics, drawing on ancient Chinese concepts such as “human-centeredness” and “fellow-feeling” and contributing such concepts as “putting the people above all else” to the world. The creativity of Chinese civilization means that this perspective on human rights will always move with the times. For instance, it proposes that the rights to subsistence and to development are foremost among the basic human rights, fully reflecting the universal demands and common aspirations of the world’s developing nations. The unity of Chinese civilization means that this perspective on human rights reflects our collective interests. By putting forward the concept of a global community of shared future, China has helped consolidate broad international consensus for global human rights governance. The inclusiveness of Chinese civilization means that this perspective on human rights absorbs ideas from other cultures. China does its utmost to ensure that different human rights cultures can engage in dialogue on an equal footing, in order to bring about even more splendid achievements through exchanges and mutual learning. The peaceful nature of Chinese civilization means that this perspective on human rights is not hegemonic in nature. China actively works for global human rights governance and strives to uphold the international human rights order. These distinctive features of Chinese civilization determine that the contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights upholds fundamental principles and breaks new ground while drawing on a diverse array of elements. Through exchanges and mutual learning with other civilizations, it will see China making new and even greater contributions to the global cause of human rights. 


Jiang Jianguo is Executive Vice President of the China Society for Human Rights Studies.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 19, 2023)