Can we talk about “Asian Values”? Case study: China.
Nelly de Navia
The violation of human rights in different parts of the world is an everyday issue butspecially since the decade of 1990 a new term came into vogue to justify authoritarian regimes and moreover, to deny the universal importance of human rights, this is: “Asian Values”. The most prominent ofthese contentions is the claim that values in Asia do not regard freedom to be important in the way that it is regarded in the West. Given this difference in value systems, the argument runs that Asiamust be faithful to its own system of philosophical and political priorities. Cultural differences and value differences between Asia and the West are used in speeches of leaders of prosperous andentrepreneurial East and Southeast Asian countries to eagerly stress Asia's incommensurable differences from the West and demand special treatment of their human rights record by the internationalcommunity. They reject outright the globalization of human rights and claim that Asia has a unique set of values, which, as Singapore's ambassador to the United Nations has urged, provide the basis forAsia's different understanding of human rights and justify the "exceptional" handling of rights by Asian governments.
Is this assertion of "Asian values" simply a veil for arrogant regimes whose newlygained confidence from rapidly growing economic power makes them all the more resistant to outside criticism? Does it have any intellectual substance? What challenges has the "Asian values" debate posedto a human rights movement committed to globalism?
Though scholars have explored the understanding of human rights in various Asian contexts, the assertion of "Asian values" gains politicalprominence only when it is articulated in government rhetoric and official statements. It seems that these leaders have found a convenient tool against international criticism. Hence, for my final essay I...