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On democracy and individual rights in China

op politics and current affairs news for April 3, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina news roundup "Real estate speculators rush to site of planned new city."
3 weeks ago
Lucas Niewenhuis

Orville Schell, director of the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations, wrote a surprisingly optimistic piece (paywall) in the Wall Street Journal titled “China’s once and future democracy.” In it, Schell recalls the vibrant — and government-approved — expressions of support for human rights and democracy in China in the late 1970s and ’80s, and explains how they still give context to modern debates on the development of the country. He also compares China’s many “democratic impulses” over the past century to “recessive genes that can skip a generation before expressing themselves again.” Schell further speculates that, paradoxically, Donald Trump’s stunning silence on human rights could give those impulses room to breathe, as China’s leaders feel less under attack and may again find use in harnessing the many liberal voices of the country.

Rebecca Liao, an international corporate attorney and SupChina contributor, wrote in Foreign Affairs about the significance of the government’s approval last month of the General Principles of the Civil Law, which she calls “simply the preamble” to a modern civil code. She argues that surrounding this latest formalization of civil law in China, as with previous reforms, is “an uneasy awareness that individual property rights are the basis from which other individual rights are derived.”

By Lucas Niewenhuis
Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company's newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.
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