China has gained increasing power in the world and has ambitions to become a superpower. This is where Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump will meet in November 2017. Photo: Andrea Hanks (CC BY 3.0)


China's ambitions for great power could change the view of human rights

China is gaining more and more influence around the world. In May, a conference on human rights was canceled in Stockholm - at the request of the Chinese Embassy. Human rights expert Man-Yan Ng and People and Defense Andrea Wahlberg explain that an influential China can even lead to new definitions of human rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has existed for over 70 years. The Declaration acts as a global compass for each person's freedom and equality. Last month, the UN Development Program UNDP was to host the conference "Stand Up for Human Rights" in Stockholm. But a few hours before the conference was to start, it was canceled. The reason was that a photo exhibition would be shown, where Chinese critics were included in the photographs. Something that was not approved by the Chinese embassy.

Man-Yan Ng from the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) believes that the canceled conference is just one in a series of examples where China is using its soft power. He describes that China has an enormous influence and has increased its position of power.

- China has always been a big country that has been seen. But now they also have great power ambitions. The Chinese people have been taken hostage. They suffer from the Stockholm syndrome, he says.

Man-Yan Ng believes that we must pay attention to China and the influence the country has over us.

To understand China's future, we must look at history, Man-Yan Ng explains. In 1949, China's leader Mao Zedong said that in 100 years, 2049, the country would have become a superpower. However, the external discourse for foreign policy was different, says Man-Yan Ng. China presented itself as a nation that needed help getting food for the day. And when the population had their stomachs full, human rights issues could be addressed. Money was invested in the country, exports increased, and the "Made in China" label spread around the world.

- Trade within the country has increased several times over, but respect for human rights has not grown stronger, says Man-Yan Ng.

Andrea Wahlberg, who works with security policy at the People and Defense, was recently on a study visit to China. She says that what she mainly brought with her from the visit is China's definition of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. China's definitions differ from Western ones.

- Economic rights have a much greater focus and civil and political rights have less space. The fact that China's definition is gaining a foothold in the UN therefore creates concern. Many believe that it undermines the UN's basic norms and framework around human rights, Andrea Wahlberg explains.

Andrea Wahlberg believes that China will have a greater influence in future resolutions. Man-Yan Ng also believes in that scenario - and that Chinese ideology will contribute to negative consequences for human rights globally.

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