The West portrays itself as a defender of human rights, but does it still have a right to moral leadership?

The West portrays itself as a defender of human rights, but does it still have a right to moral leadership?

The United States, Britain and European nations have a history of ‘weaponising’ human rights in foreign policy.

Throughout late imperial history, China has rarely blamed other nations, their religion or race, for domestic problems.

Martin Powers
An opinion piece in South China Morning Post
March 4, 2021

The term “human rights” is properly a feature of the modern world, but people have been calling out cruelty for centuries. Who gets blamed for human tragedy reveals a lot about how a nation values human life.

Western nations, chief among them the United States, have long assumed the promotion of human rights as one of their natural duties, but in recent years some have questioned their qualifications for doing so.

Last Fall in the journal Foreign Affairs James Goldgeier and Bruce W. Jentleson itemised the failures of America’s “tarnished model”, taking note of that “internationally controversial war in Iraq” and a major financial crisis in 2008. Following a period of recovery under President Barack Obama, America then lurched “in a very different direction … by electing a racist reality TV host who blames American allies for the country’s ills”.And that was before White Nationalists attempted to bring down the government by storming the Capitol on January 6.

Continue reading this excellent analysis at SCMP

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Martin Powers
Martin Powers

Martin Powers is Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan. He has written three books on the history of social justice in China. Two of these won the Levenson Prize for best book in pre-1900 Chinese Studies.

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