«Accommodating an emerging human rights player? Recent trends in EU–China Human Rights Diplomacy and the (re-) construction of external identities »

by Thomas STIEGLER | Draft 2014.4.14


 Why do the EU and China engage in international human rights diplomacy (HRD)? Analysing recent bilateral and multilateral discursive practise based on a constructivist approach, this paper seeks to connect recent motivational rationales to engage in HRD with the literature on the two actors’ changing identities. I argue that China’s pro-active stances in multilateral HRD at the UN Human Rights Council are best captured by its identity as an instrumental ‘emerging power’, which may resort to promoting a more relative notion of sovereignty owing to a need to protect its interests abroad. On the opposite side, an analysis of the its bilateral discursive responses to the contestations of core elements of human rights finds the EU to act as a “retreating power” having accommodated to a new-normal repeatedly consistent with Chinese HRD discursive practise. In conjunction with taking stock of current representations of the EU and China’s HRD, the analysis presents evidence for a trend of a divergence of domestic and foreign expressions of normative identities for both actors.

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