Human Rights in U.S.-China Relations

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Political Science


Manju Parikh


Since the United States and China have very different cultures and societies, differences in policies and opinions occur frequently. In the past twenty years of normalized relations, no where are these differences felt more than on the issue of human rights. In examining human rights in U.S.-China relations, this thesis paper seeks to prove that a policy of gradual reform must be maintained by both the United States and China in order to improve human rights in China. In seeking to illustrate the importance of this directive, this paper first addresses the theoretical debates behind the concept of human rights, which include the dichotomy between civil and political rights versus economic and social rights, as well as the "Asian values" debate and the foreign policy dilemma over U.S. human rights intervention. After laying this foundation, the paper then examines the conditions within China that influence human rights protection and explores Chinese demands for freedom and democracy. Finally, the paper analyzes how U.S. human rights policy has sought to address human rights in China, how the Chinese have responded to that policy, and how that policy should be altered for the future. International norms of human rights did not appear overnight nor will they provide a foolproof resolution to the debate within U.S.-China relations. But, this does not mean that human rights are unimportant. Rather, the pursuit of human rights in China, and indeed around the world, is an ongoing process, and both the United States and China need to institute policies which reflect that process.