The Prospects of Human Rights in US–China Relations: A Constructivist Understanding

  • Citation: Kim, Hun Joon. "The prospects of human rights in US–China relations: a constructivist understanding." International Relations of the Asia-Pacific 20.1 (2020): 91-118.
    • Topics:
    • IR Theories
    • Keywords:
    • East Asia
    • China
    • US-China relations
    • human rights
    • power politics
    • constructivist norm theories

What are the prospects of U.S.-China relations in the area of human rights? Skeptics maintain that human rights is no longer an issue between the United States and China. A traditional understanding of U.S.–China relations ignores the role of norms, while the constructivist perspective recognizes their independent effects. This paper links the traditional understanding of power politics between the United States and China with the study of constructivist norm research. The three findings of constructivist norm theories are relevant and applied to predict the status of human rights in U.S.-China relations: the historical construction of norms, the long-term and multifaceted effects of norms, and the persistence of norms. Based on these theoretical predictions, it is expected that, although convergence is not completely impossible, the past dynamic of competition and confrontation will continue and human rights will still be a contentious issue in U.S.-China relations.

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