Sixth Question [Parfitt]:
Governments and human-rights groups have heaped criticism on China about human-rights issues. Is such criticism justified?
The evolution of human-rights is mostly a Western political phenomenon based on individualism dating back to the Greek City States hundreds of years before Christ and the Western Roman Empire (27 BC – 476 AD).
The timeline of the Ongoing Struggle for Human Rights in the West shows the first mention of an alleged human rights violation in China (according to Western values) was the 1989 (so-called) Tiananmen Square massacre.
However, you set the record straight on your Blog, June 4, 2011 in The Tiananmen Square Myth and I have written of this issue in What is the Truth about Tiananmen Square? and The Tiananmen Square Hoax.
Examples of the slow progress of the evolution of human rights in the West may be seen in 1791 (fifteen years after the U.S. Declaration of Independence), when the U.S. Bill of Rights incorporated notions of freedom of speech, press, and fair trial into the new U.S. Constitution.
In fact, in 1920, the League of Nations Covenant required members to “endeavor to secure and maintain fair and humane conditions of labor for men, women and children,” but it took the US twenty-one more years before stricter laws banning the employment of underage children was declared constitutional in 1941 by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Note, none of these early gains in the political arena of human rights took place in East Asia.
In addition, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) did not join the United Nations until 1971.
Since then, in human rights issues, the PRC has been increasingly successful at maintaining their positions. In 1995, they won 43 percent of the votes in the General Assembly; by 2006 they won 82 percent.
SFGate.com quoted Li Junru, deputy director of the China Society for Human Rights Studies, who said, “Since China adopted [its] reform and opening-up policy in 1978, the country has witnessed the second great liberation of human rights, as…reform in [the] economy, technology, education, culture, (and) politics…”
Since all of East Asia including China are collective cultures, the face of human rights may not fit the West’s definition of it.
China’s culture isn’t collective. China is fond of saying it’s collective, that’s its strength, and the West should take a lesson, but if there’s one overarching rule in the Chinese universe, it’s this: the more you hear something, the more you can be assume it to be untrue.
‘Collectivism’ is a euphemism for ‘subservience.’
The Foshan incident highlights China’s awful individualism; 20 people ignoring a small girl hit by a truck. Western individualism may be extreme, but Westerners can act collectively when it counts. They often assist people in crisis, for example.
Cultural moral relativism argues there is no absolute truth, and no matter how dreadful circumstances become, they are forever valid. Cultural moral relativism isn’t unlike Orwell’s doublethink: “to hold simultaneously two opinions that cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both; to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it.”
China’s human-rights: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_the_People%27s_Republic_of_China
Final Word [Lofthouse]:
Regarding collective cultures, ERIC.ed.gov, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U. S. Department of Education, offers a definitive definition.
ERIC says, “The remarkable differences between the East Asian cultures of China and Japan and the American culture make acculturation of East Asians into the mainstream of United States society extremely difficult.
“Characteristics of individualistic cultures include: the individual as an autonomous entity; egalitarianism; competitiveness; and self-reliance.
“Characteristics of collective cultures include: individuals as interdependent entities; hierarchism; cooperativeness; and self-denial (sacrificing one’s own desires or interests).”
In Litigation Nation, I explained why the behavior of a few individuals during the Foshan incident cannot be used to judge a nation.
A better example would be the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which affected almost 46 million Chinese in 10 provinces.
In Recovering from a Beating by Mother Nature, I compared China’s recovery to how America dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Continued on December 4, 2011 in Discussion with Troy Parfitt, the author of “Why China Will Never Rule the World – Travels in the Two Chinas” – Part 8 or return to Part 6.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
Subscribe to “iLook China”
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page.