China Reexamined: The Worst Offender or a Strong Contender?

These are the questions that Professor Randall Peerenboom sets out to answer from an American legal scholar’s perspective in China Modernizes: Threat to the West or Model for the Rest. Peerenboom advances three main arguments in China Modernizes. First, to more accurately assess China’s performance in its quest for modernization, one must “plac[e] China within a broader comparative context” (p. 10). Through a careful analysis of empirical data, Peerenboom observes that China outperforms many other countries at a similar income level on almost all key indicators of well-being and human rights, with the sole exception of civil and political rights (p. 20). Second, the United States employs a double standard towards China on human rights issues, and this double standard is likely due to the international human rights regime’s unjustified bias against nondemocracies and an undue emphasis on civil and political rights over social and economic rights (Chapter Five). Third, China may be following the same path as other East Asian countries, such as Japan and South Korea-China may eventually democratize, but not before it has reached a higher income level, and certainly not at the cost of jeopardizing social stability and economic growth.