China has raised its stakes in human rights governance. It has systematically sought to remove human rights from the centre of the international order by launching alternative human rights concepts, blocking human rights financing at the UN, and hindering civil society involvement in human rights scrutiny.
China’s approach to human rights is not only guided by past experiences of humiliation and the idea of developmentalism, but first and foremost by the desire to secure the existing political system and its leadership.
The alternative design for human rights is built around consensual cooperation rather than hard legal obligations and international scrutiny. It promotes dialogue and capacity-building instead of practices such as naming and shaming.
States supportive of human rights should respond to Chinese efforts in the Human Rights Council as well as within the UN more broadly. This can be done by raising awareness of the systematic attack on human rights, increasing knowledge about Chinese foreign policy objectives, and by creating practices that help to achieve common stances.