China is a country that, historically, has had a different viewpoint on human rights. This stems back to Confucian days but also includes the Marxist idea that the collective wellbeing is considered vastly superior to the individual. As a result, it is little wonder that when the west and countries like China open up a human rights dialogue, confrontations are inevitable.
Human rights in China had its origins at about the same time that the Ching dynasty collapsed and again in 1911 as part of Sun Yet Sing’s program. Eight years later in 1919, a new iconoclastic movement took over and the appeal of human rights for the radicals of the time came about because it gave them the antithesis of Confucian values, the self. This antithesis aided them in their quest to escape the imperialism of the time and modernize China.
Confucian teachings urge the government to rule humanely and with virtue. The ultimate goal of helping the common-people to become educated and thus prosper. Harsh laws and severe punishments, which were common in Confucius’ day, should be abolished. In short, his theories of governing were in complete contrast to those in power at the time. The solution to these problems was to awaken the people to the necessity of reason, and reinforce the thought of morality and harmony. One of the reasons that many Chinese do not formally object to human rights violations is that the collective wellbeing and not the self has been part of their culture for hundreds of years.
Confucian teachings are so revered that elements are intertwined with communism throughout the economy and legal system. The fact that communism is the style of government in China is a further reason that China’s human rights record is considered to be less than ideal by Western standards as those in the west stress the right of the individual above all else.
As part of the communism that has existed throughout China for the last half-century or so, Marxist thought also held that the collective is vastly superior to the self. In Karl Marx’s surveying of society he critiqued the issue of human rights as part of his ideal society. His writings made clear the proletarian attitude on the subject and he established a revolutionary, scientific and systemized theory. The point of Marx’s analysis was to break from the capitalist version of human rights and replace them with a communist interpretation.
He maintained capitalist rights were those of the bourgeois and, as such people become alienated from one another due to the existence of private ownership . As a result Marx cited that material interests becoming the defining element of existence and ultimately the community. The end result is an egoistic society disengaged from the community and such an attitude means the people are not working for the common good, but rather in self-interest at the expense of someone else. Marx sees that capitalist human rights are not naturally endowed and innate, but rather stem from things like blood lineage. The individual rights of the capitalists, gained under the guise of human rights, held nothing for the proletariat; these human rights became merely a tool for the greater enslavement of the workers. This, Marx believed, represented the major social inequity of the modern world and the token measures of raising living standards and increasing wages does not go far enough to .