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Photo of Marina Svensson

Marina Svensson


Photo of Marina Svensson

The Chinese Conception of Human Rights. The Debate on Human Rights in China, 1898-1949


  • Marina Svensson

Summary, in English

This thesis studies the introduction of the idea of human rights to China, and traces the continuing debate on human rights during the period 1898 to 1949. The writings of advocates of human rights such as Zou Rong, Chen Duxiu, Luo Longji and Zhou Jingwen, among others, are discussed and analysed, as are those of critics of the idea of human rights, such as Liang Qichao, Sun Yat-sen, and Wu Jingxiong.

The Chinese language sources used in this study can be divided into two major types: neglected sections in the writings of well-known political figures, and articles in relatively little-known magazines and books penned by minor, yet representative, Chinese intellectuals. This material on human rights has been ignored, to a great extent, by both Chinese and Western researchers. As a result, the complexity and richness of Chinese thinking on human rights has hitherto remained relatively unknown and unstudied.

The thesis analyses Chinese writings on human rights in a historical and theoretical perspective. An overview of similaliries and dissimilarities regarding human rights thinking in the Chinese and the Western discourses is presented. The general argument of the study is that the Chinese held ideas about human rights which were as complex and heterogeneous as those found in the West.

Although the study deals with the pre- 1949 peliod, the author believes that an understanding of this period is essential for a deeper comprehension of the ongoing contemporary debate between China and the West on human rights. The study concludes with an epilogue sketching the post-1949 discussion on human rights.


  • Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies, Lund University

Publishing year




Document type



Department of East Asian Languages, Lund University


  • Other Social Sciences


  • China
  • Languages and literatures of South and South-East Asia
  • Chinese
  • Human Rights
  • Cultural Relativism
  • Kinesiska och språk och litteratur från Syd- och Sydostasien
  • History of Ideas




  • [unknown] [unknown]


  • ISRN: LUHSDF/HSOK--96/1001--SE+346

Defence date

26 September 1996

Defence time


Defence place

Edens hörsal


  • [unknown unknown]