Debating human security in China

Shaun Breslin of the University of Warwick writes that while the concept of human security is often dismissed in China as an alien “Western” concept, there has been a long and detailed discussion of human security in Chinese-language policy and academic circles.



In his new article “Debating Human Security in China: Towards Discursive Power?,” Breslin argues that “human security” has essentially been “Sinicised” to reflect Chinese contexts and preferences. In the process, the emphasis on the individual human being that is normally at the heart of human security discourses is typically replaced by a focus on the collective humankind, and Chinese analyses are often packaged together with broader understandings of non-traditional security. This results in a Chinese version of the concept where the state remains a key referent point and actor – indeed, the state is the key guarantor of human security, not a threat to it.

This leads to the argument that it is this Chinese definition that Chinese practices should be judged against, and not supposed universal definitions that in reality only reflect the history and values of Western states.

Breslin provides an original and useful account of these debates.

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