Column: China’s Poverty Eradication And Its Implications For Global Human Rights Governance

BEIJING, June 14 (Xinhua) — With more than 40 years of reform and opening-up, China has eradicated extreme poverty, lifted about 800 million people out of poverty, and brought over 400 million people into the middle-income group.

This is a miracle in the history of human civilization and has far-reaching implications for global human rights governance. The United States has never considered poverty eradication a human rights issue, while Europe considers it an obstacle to the realization of human rights at most. However, China has politically recognized poverty eradication as not only a human right, but also a
core one, and has put it into firm, vigorous, and extensive practice.

Therefore, China is at the forefront of poverty eradication in the world. It provides great inspiration for all developing countries since almost all of the biggest challenges facing developing countries are related to poverty eradication. The achievements made in eradicating poverty in the course of Chinese modernization are much better than those achieved under the West-led development pattern.

The main reason is the huge difference in human rights awareness between the two patterns. Chinese civilization has never been disrupted in its continuity in the world. In its modernization drive, China continues to formulate policies based on the people’s needs, national conditions, and cultural traditions.

As a Chinese saying goes, “The people are the foundation of a state. When the
foundation is strong, the state will be secure.” In other words, the people are the
cornerstone of a country, and only by consolidating the cornerstone of the country can the country be peaceful, and how well people’s livelihood issues are resolved will determine the future and destiny of a country. Furthermore, as another Chinese saying goes, “issues related to people’s livelihoods are paramount.” An important experience from China’s reform and opening up in the past few decades is that people’s livelihood is paramount.

A developing country shall spare no effort to eradicate poverty and improve
people’s livelihood, which is the top priority of the government’s work. Now, it seems that China’s philosophy that “people’s livelihoods are paramount” has
corrected a deviation that has been in existence for a long time in the Western
philosophy of human rights governance, that is, importance is only attached to the political rights of citizens, but their rights to survival and development are ignored.

Looking back, we can find that when European enlightenment thinkers in the 18th century proposed human rights such as freedom, equality, and private property rights, they represented the emerging proprietary classes at that time.
Today’s world has entered the 21st century, but hundreds of millions of people still suffer from extreme poverty.

Many developing countries that follow Western political systems have not yet solved the basic issue of people’s livelihood. In this context, we may better
understand the global significance of the Chinese path to modernization. The Chinese people, through their great practice of poverty eradication, are, in a sense, redefining modernization and modernity.

In contrast, the 20-year war waged by the United States in Afghanistan cost some 2.3 trillion U.S. dollars according to studies, and resulted in human rights violations, countless deaths, and innumerable displaced people. We can even make a theoretical hypothesis from this: If we followed the Chinese pattern, with 2.3 trillion U.S. dollars, we could almost eliminate extreme poverty in the whole world including the United States.

The U.S. political system has long been kidnapped by U.S. military-industrial interest groups. They have made a lot of money through wars, including the Afghanistan War, but they have brought crises and even disasters to the people of the world, including the American people. How can such a country be qualified to talk about human rights in today’s world?

The China-proposed Global Development Initiative calls for staying committed to development as a priority and a people-centered approach. Only through development can poverty be eliminated and the root causes of many conflicts be removed. Seen from the perspective of human rights protection, this initiative and China’s complete set of philosophies and practices for poverty eradication have greatly enriched the philosophy and practice of global human rights governance.

Zhang Weiwei is the director of the China Institute of Fudan University in Shanghai.  ■



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