Xi Jinping: Steadfastly following the Chinese path to promote further progress in human rights

We are very pleased to publish below the full text of Comrade Xi Jinping’s important speech on human rights. Comrade Xi delivered this speech to a group study session of the Communist Party of China’s Political Bureau, held on February 25 this year, which took as its theme the Chinese path of advancing human rights.

In his comprehensive exposition, the Chinese communist leader notes how the concept of respect and caring for others is deeply rooted in Chinese history and culture and that during the Western bourgeois revolution, Enlightenment thinkers advanced the concept of “natural rights”. Marx and Engels, he goes on to note, endorsed the historical value of such bourgeois theories, but “firmly refuted the theory’s denial of the social, historical, and class-based nature of human rights. ‘The individual,’ Marx pointed out, ‘is a social being.’… They envisioned that ‘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.’”

Throughout its century of struggle, therefore, the CPC has always fought for the genuine human rights of the Chinese people. As a result, absolute poverty has been eliminated and a system of whole-process people’s democracy gradually developed, along with the world’s largest education, social security and health care systems. Human rights, Xi observes, “are not special privileges bestowed on some people or a small minority but universal rights to be enjoyed by all the people.” Moreover, “The advancement of human rights is a common undertaking of all humanity. In protecting human rights, all of us can always do better.”

In this context, he calls out the hypocrisy of the major capitalist countries, noting that, “Political polarization, wealth disparities, and racial tensions have all intensified, while racism, populism, and xenophobia have become rife, thus bringing human rights issues to the fore. Yet, these countries still use slogans like ‘universal human rights’ and ‘human rights over sovereignty’ as a pretext for forcing Western conceptions and systems of democracy and human rights on others and for meddling in the internal affairs of other countries. This has only served to cause recurrent military conflict, ongoing unrest, and the displacement of many from their homes in a number of countries.”

The speech was originally published in Chinese in issue 12 (2022) of Qiushi Journal, the CPC’s main theoretical organ. We reproduce it from issue 4 (2022) of Qiushi Journal’s English language edition.

Today, the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee is holding its 37th group study session, the focus of which is the Chinese path of advancing human rights. The goals of this session are to review our country’s human rights achievements, both theoretical and practical, in the new era, assess the international struggle in the sphere of human rights, and maintain steadfast commitment to the Chinese path to promote further progress in human rights.

It is the pursuit of all societies to protect the life, value, and dignity of every person and ensure their entitlement to human rights. Chinese culture has always stressed the importance of respecting and caring for others. From Confucius who declared that “benevolence has been the greatest priority of governance since ancient times” to Mencius who said, “Finding talents for the country is what benevolence is all about,” to Xunzi who believed that people were “most valuable” and Mozi who called on us to “love others as we do ourselves regardless of social status or wealth”—each of these great thinkers stressed the intrinsic value of the person. Our forebears also put forward other similar axioms: “Of all things in the world, people are most precious”; “To accomplish great feats, one must put the people first”; “In the matters of governance, the people should come first.” During the Western bourgeois revolution, the thinkers of the Enlightenment put forward the concept of “natural rights,” which holds that all men are created equal and possess inalienable rights, a concept that helped propel forward revolutions in Britain, America, France and other countries.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels endorsed the historical value of the bourgeois theory of human rights, meanwhile they firmly refuted the theory’s denial of the social, historical, and class-based nature of human rights. “The individual,” Marx pointed out, “is a social being.” He also argued that “Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby.” Marx and Engels made the point that in a capitalist society “man has ceased to be the slave of men and has become the slave of things.” They envisioned that “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.” 

For China’s Communists, ensuring respect and protection for human rights has been a relentless pursuit. On the day of its founding, the Communist Party of China (CPC) began its struggle for democracy and human rights, taking the clear stance that it would strive to save the nation and the people and wage a fight for human rights. Throughout its century-long history, the Party has united the people and led them in a tireless effort to fight for and to respect, protect, and advance human rights. Throughout the periods of the new-democratic revolution, socialist revolution and construction, and reform, opening up and socialist modernization, the CPC pursued its founding mission of seeking happiness for the people and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation with steadfast commitment, and led the people to great victories in revolution, construction, and reform. The Chinese people became the masters of our country, our society and our future, and protection for their rights to subsistence and development, along with other basic rights, was continuously strengthened. 

Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, we have continued to regard respect and protection for human rights as a priority of national governance and have attained historic progress in advancing human rights. We accomplished the First Centenary Goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and brought about a historic resolution to the problem of absolute poverty to lay a more solid material foundation for advancing human rights. We have made ongoing efforts to develop whole-process people’s democracy, improved the legal protections for human rights, and firmly defended social fairness and justice, so that our people enjoy more extensive and substantive democratic rights.

We have promoted fuller and higher-quality employment, established the world’s largest education, social security and health care systems, and remarkably improved the living environment of our people. With a commitment to putting people and human life above all else, we have responded effectively to Covid-19 and protected the health and safety of the people to the greatest extent possible. We have fully implemented the Party’s policies on ethnic and religious affairs, ensuring that all ethnic groups in China are equal, respecting people’s religious beliefs, and safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of people of all ethnic groups. We continued reform of the judicial system, launched the Peaceful China Initiative, strengthened the rule of law, carried out education and rectification campaigns among judicial, prosecuting and public security agencies in a bid to improve their conduct, and took resolute action against criminal gangs and organized crime, and illegal and criminal activities, to ensure lasting social stability and protect lives and property. China is the only major country in the world that has formulated and implemented four successive national human rights action plans. On the global stage, we have played an active part in governance on human rights and contributed Chinese approaches to advancing human rights worldwide.

In advancing the human rights cause, we have combined the Marxist outlook on human rights with China’s specific realities and the best of traditional Chinese culture, reviewed our Party’s successful experience of leading the people in respecting and protecting human rights, and learned from the outstanding achievements of other civilizations. This has allowed us to forge a path that is in keeping with the times and the conditions of China. This path has been primarily defined by the following features.

First, upholding CPC leadership

The underlying purpose of our Party is to wholeheartedly serve the people. It is the CPC’s leadership and China’s socialist system which have determined the socialist nature of human rights in China and which have ensured that the people run the country, that human rights are enjoyed by all people on an equal basis, and that human rights development is based on a holistic approach. This has enabled us to promote the comprehensive development of all human rights and to better realize, safeguard, and advance the fundamental interests of the greatest majority of people.

Second, respecting the principal position of the people

The most salient feature of human rights in China is the people-oriented nature. Human rights are not special privileges bestowed on some people or a small minority but universal rights to be enjoyed by all the people. We have safeguarded the people’s democratic rights, given full play to their enthusiasm, initiative and creativity, and ensured that in advancing human rights, the people are the main contributors, promoters, and beneficiaries. We have made concrete efforts to promote the well-rounded development of the individual and to achieve substantial progress in common prosperity.

Third, proceeding from China’s realities

Efforts to advance human rights in any country must conform to national conditions and the popular will. Grounding the universality of human rights within the Chinese context, we have promoted human rights based on our country’s conditions and the needs of our people. This has guaranteed that as stipulated by law, people enjoy a full range of human rights that are genuine, specific, effective, and functional.

Fourth, focusing on basic human rights, primarily the rights to subsistence and development

Subsistence is the foundation of all human rights. Living a life of contentment is the ultimate human right. We have applied the new development philosophy in full and to the letter in every field, pursued a people-centered development approach, and upheld the principle that development is for the people and by the people and that its fruits should be shared by the people. We have striven to resolve the most pressing and immediate problems of the greatest concern to the people, made every effort to address the imbalances and inadequacies in development, and worked to achieve higher-quality development that is more efficient, equitable, sustainable, and secure, so as to give people a stronger, more assured, and more sustainable sense of gain, fulfillment, and security.

Fifth, protecting human rights according to the law

The rule of law is the most effective guarantee for human rights. Ensuring that everyone is equal before the law, we have applied the principle of respect and protection for human rights throughout the processes of lawmaking, law enforcement, justice administration, and observance of the law, and worked faster to improve laws and regulations so as to ensure equity of rights, opportunities, and rules. We have protected citizens’ personal rights, property rights, and right to dignity, their basic political rights to participate in democratic elections, consultations, decision-making, management, and oversight, and their economic, cultural, social, environmental, and other rights. With these efforts, the legal protections for human rights have consistently become stronger.

Sixth, taking an active part in global governance on human rights

The advancement of human rights is a common undertaking of all humanity. In protecting human rights, all of us can always do better. Each country is entitled to choose its own approach to promoting human rights, and different civilizations and countries should operate on the basis of mutual respect, inclusiveness, exchange, and mutual learning in this regard. We have championed the common values of humanity, practiced multilateralism in the real sense, participated in reforming and developing the global governance system on issues including human rights, and contributed to building a global community of shared future.

These six points are both features that define human rights development in China and the precious experience that we have gained from our long-term efforts to advance human rights. We should work to both uphold and further build on these by integrating them into new practices in future.

Just as democracy is not an ornament to be used for decoration, neither are human rights. In recent years, some Western countries have been bogged down by conflict between political parties, government dishonesty, social disorder, and epidemics that have spiraled out of control. Political polarization, wealth disparities, and racial tensions have all intensified, while racism, populism, and xenophobia have become rife, thus bringing human rights issues to the fore. Yet, these countries still use slogans like “universal human rights” and “human rights over sovereignty” as a pretext for forcing Western conceptions and systems of democracy and human rights on others and for meddling in the internal affairs of other countries. This has only served to cause recurrent military conflict, ongoing unrest, and the displacement of many from their homes in a number of countries. 

Here at home, we are now embarking on a new journey toward the Second Centenary Goal of building a modern socialist country.

Taking into account both domestic and international imperatives, we must fully recognize the importance and urgency of work related to human rights, attach greater importance to respecting and protecting human rights, and promote the sound development of China’s human rights cause. To this end, we should focus on the following tasks.

First, we should promote comprehensive advancement of human rights.

As I once remarked, “The process of the Chinese people striving to realize the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation is essentially one of realizing social fairness and justice and constantly advancing the cause of human rights.” We must continue to follow the Chinese approach to advancing human rights, adapt to the people’s new expectations for a better and higher-quality life, and continue to meet their growing demands for rights in all respects. We should promote coordinated development of the economy, democracy, the rule of law, thought and culture, fairness and justice, social governance, and environmental protection; comprehensively advance initiatives in areas including employment, income distribution, education, social security, health care, housing, elderly care, and support for minors. We will strengthen human rights protection in the process of advancing material, political, cultural, ethical, social and eco-environmental progress.

Second, we should strengthen legal protection for human rights.

At present, there are still many shortcomings in our legal system with respect to protecting human rights. We will strengthen legal protection for human rights and further the reform of related legal institutions. We will provide legal guarantees that cover the whole process, every link and every dimension of human rights protection, including legislation, judicature, enforcement and observance of the law, so that the people can see that justice is served in every law, every law enforcement action, and every judicial case.

We will systematically address legal issues of major concern to the public, handle their appeals equitably in accordance with the law, and eliminate acts of judicial injustice that fail the people and damage their interests. We will, in strict accordance with the law and Party discipline, investigate and punish any act infringing upon the legitimate rights of the people, and any act against public interests, and hold the perpetrators accountable.

Third, we should advocate the right outlook on human rights.

We should extensively publicize human rights and improve public knowledge of this issue through diverse formats, avenues, and forums, with a view to fostering a society-wide culture of respecting and protecting human rights. We should carry out public education campaigns with a focus on young people, and incorporate the Marxist outlook and the contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights into the national education system. We should strengthen training in human rights for public servants, especially those who work at the primary-level public security agencies, courts, procuratorates, and departments for civil affairs, social security, health, taxation, and market supervision. People’s organizations and social organizations should leverage their strengths to enhance protection for the rights and interests of specific groups such as women, children, older people, and those with disabilities. Drawing on China’s rich experience of advancing human rights, we should formulate new concepts and develop systems of academic discipline, research and discourse. We should strengthen the development of think tanks and research centers on human rights, and train a contingent of high-level experts in this area with solid theoretical grounding, strong expertise in research, rich knowledge of international rules, and good aptitude for international communication on China’s human rights progress.

Fourth, we should actively advance global governance on human rights.

I am reminded of the ancient Chinese saying: “Where true virtue is found, the people pledge their support”; “Where righteousness reigns, the people give their allegiance.” We must carry forward the shared values of humanity, remain true to the principles of equality, mutual trust, inclusiveness, mutual learning, win-win cooperation, and common development, and strive for greater fairness, justice, reason, and inclusivity in global governance on human rights. We should play an active role in human rights affairs at the UN, carry out extensive exchanges and cooperation on human rights with other countries, particularly developing countries, and play a constructive role. We should give full play to the role of the China Society for Human Rights Studies and the China Foundation for Human Rights Development, and work to have greater influence in multilateral human rights organizations such as the UN.

Fifth, we should actively stand our ground on the international stage.

Human rights are concrete, rooted in history, and based on current realities. We cannot mouth empty words on human rights regardless of the social and political conditions and the historical and cultural traditions of a country. In evaluating the status of human rights in a given country, one cannot apply the standards of other countries. Adopting double standards or using human rights as a political tool to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries is even more unacceptable.

Taking the strategic initiative, we should work hard to tell China’s story of advancing human rights, using vivid and concrete examples, and present our outlook on human rights in a more engaging way that will influence more people. We should seek to build international consensus on human rights to the greatest extent possible and retain the moral high ground. We should encourage Chinese enterprises overseas to heighten both their awareness and confidence with regard to human rights and to respond effectively to human rights lawsuits being manufactured by some Western countries.

Party committees and Party leadership groups at every level should shoulder their historical responsibility for promoting human rights, strengthen organization and leadership, demonstrate good initiative, and ensure full implementation of China’s National Human Rights Action Plan. Officials at all levels, particularly leading officials, should study the Marxist outlook and the contemporary Chinese perspective on human rights, build understanding and confidence, and do an even better job of respecting and protecting human rights. All regions, departments, and sectors should strengthen awareness of respecting and protecting human rights and work to generate synergy for advancing China’s human rights cause.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.