China and the US held a human rights dialogue on Wednesday and Thursday. With a history of 21 years since the dialogue’s establishment in 1990, it has stood testament to both countries’ differences in values and politics and become a focal point of friction over national interests.
The US has been aggressive. Before this round of dialogue, Washington was reported to have required China to release a long list of prisoners. The US is more willing to make demands and to accuse China of not satisfying their demands.
With an emphasis on equality, China hopes this will constitute a serious “dialogue” that can help the two sides to communicate about human rights and resolve diplomatic conflicts caused by differing values.
The Sino-US human rights dialogue is a kind of negotiation and political pragmatism has replaced frank exchanges. Being a sovereign state, it is impossible for China to let the US decide its political process. The dialogue will not progress under US pressure.
The US government often puts pressure on human rights in China to meet its domestic radical public opinion, hoping that China can “cooperate.” However, it is clear that China will not act as Washington wishes, especially when it hurts social stability – China’s core interest.
Objectively, the pressure exerted by the West has had some positive effects. However, it is untenable to conclude that China’s human rights progress is mainly due to the West. It should be attributed to the comprehensive social progress brought about by China’s reform and opening up.
The US government is often offensive in dialogue, which is partly due to its belief in its own values and nationalism. Moreover, Western-centrism encourages the West’s blind accusations of China’s human rights record and harms real interest in understanding China’s values and conditions.
The dialogue will be meaningless if the West insists on sticking to its previous attitude. In fact, China hopes to communicate with the West as a market economy are bringing new problems in human rights.
China is a country which is strong at learning and absorbing while keeping its own characteristics. Otherwise, Chinese culture could not have continued for thousands of years.
The West should note the fact that most Chinese people are disgusted with Western pressure on human rights. With the advance of the Internet, it does not make sense to attribute this to the results of China national “propaganda.” Wariness in China is caused by the West. Washington and other Western capitals should be clear that China will not act on that behalf, should they truly care about this problem.
It is hoped that the China-US human rights dialogue will be a friendly dialogue between different civilizations. If the dialogue can promote the mutual understanding and learning of each other, it will make an unexpected contribution to history.