The prospects of human rights in US-China relations: A constructivist understanding

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-118
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Relations of the Asia-Pacific
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jan 1
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2015S1A5A2A03048000). This research was supported by the Asia Research Foundation Grant funded by the Seoul National University Asia Center (#SNUAC-2016-005).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press in association with the Japan Association of International Relations; All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • Political Science and International Relations


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