A review of China, the United Nations, and Human Rights: The Limits of Compliance, by Ann Kent. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999. 328pp.

When most Western students of human rights and/or international relations think of China, unfortunately they are most likely to think not of the greatness and longevity of Chinese civilization, the goodness of Chinese cuisine, or the grandesse of the Chinese landscape. Rather, they are most likely to think of the Tian’anmen Square incident of 1989 and China’s human rights problems. Considering both the interest and the emotion generated in the West over the issue of human rights in China, it is surprising that so little scholarly work has actually been done on the subject. There have been many journal articles published on it, and most books published on Sino-American relations or Chinese foreign policy have a chapter on the “human rights issue.” Besides the reports of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Human Rights in China, few in-depth studies have been done on China and human rights. Ann Kent's China, the United Nations, and Human Rights: The Limits of Compliance is remarkable in that it provides both an in-depth analysis of China’s human rights policy and its interaction with the various United Nations organs concerned with human rights, and an assessment of the UN human rights regime’s success in dealing with China in terms of policy-change and both de jure and de facto compliance.

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