Human Rights in Contemporary China

In This Review

Human Rights in Contemporary China

By R. Randle Edwards, Louis Henkin and Andrew J. Nathan
Columbia University Press, 1986
193 pp. $25.00

Three American scholars survey the history and status of human rights in contemporary China in what is the most complete introduction to the subject yet written. The views of the three differ in emphasis. Henkin seems excessively optimistic that China "has moved toward Western ideals." Edwards concludes that China's growing involvement in international legal activities and its commitment to an increasingly formal mode of domestic law are "conducive to an expansion of the individual rights of Chinese citizens." Nathan, in the most probing of the essays, documents the desire of Chinese intellectuals for a democratic political order but warns that the gap between Western and Chinese democratic values is wide, not only at the level of official orthodoxies. China lacks any notion of the adversarial tradition lying behind Western ideas of democracy. In this reading, the Leninist tradition in communist China is strongly reinforced by earlier cultural traditions and will be exceedingly difficult to break.

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