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This article examines the complex dialogical relationship between China and the global reach of human rights. It charts the transformation of China from a human rights exception and a human rights pariah state to an active participant in, and shaper of, global human rights governance. It looks at such transformation as dynamic social and political processes full of contradictions and the negotiated outcome of China's communicative engagement with “moral globalization” in a world morally divided on the meaning of human rights. It contends that the global reach of human rights understood as advancing rather than perfecting global justice will always remain contentious, as it is contingent on the possibility of open public reasoning across cultures and national boundaries in a global moral conversation. It also argues that China has resourcefully used the idiom of human rights for two specific purposes. One is to justify and rationalize its “developmental relativism” as an excuse for practices that condone continued political repression in China; the other is to internalize politics of contestation within the institutions of global human rights governance by shifting the centre of gravity of both the normative debate and the practical application of human rights.
This book presents a challenge to the discipline of international relations (IR) to rethink itself, in the light of both its own modern origins, and the two centuries of world history that have shaped it. By tracking the development of thinking about IR, and the practice of world politics, this book shows how they relate to each other across five time periods from nineteenth-century colonialism, through two world wars, the Cold War and decolonization, to twenty-first-century globalization. It gives equal weight to both the neglected voices and histories of the Global South, and the traditionally dominant perspectives of the West, showing how they have moved from nearly complete separation to the beginnings of significant integration. The authors argue that IR needs to continue this globalizing movement if it is to cope with the rapidly emerging post-Western world order, with its more diffuse distribution of wealth, power and cultural authority.