Cover: Exporting Virtue? China's International Human Rights Activism in the Age of Xi Jinping by Pitman B. Potter. illustration: a yellow star in the middle.
268 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:01 Oct 2021
Release Date:01 Feb 2021
Release Date:01 Feb 2021
Release Date:01 Feb 2021

Exporting Virtue?

China’s International Human Rights Activism in the Age of Xi Jinping

UBC Press

Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has attempted to change international human rights values to accommodate its own interests, causing increasing friction with international standards of law and governance.

Exporting Virtue? examines human rights as an example of China’s international assertiveness and considers the implications of internationalizing PRC human rights policy and practice. Pitman B. Potter suggests that in the absence of clear and enforceable global human rights standards, China uses its international influence to promote its human rights policies on global governance, freedom of expression, trade and investment policy, and labour and environmental regulation. The PRC’s efforts to export its human rights principles and standards exemplify the rise of authoritarian governance models internationally. Couched in terms of virtue but manifested as authoritarianism, China’s international human rights activism invites scholars and policy makers around the world to engage critically with the issue.

Drawing on both Chinese- and English-language sources, Exporting Virtue? investigates the challenges that China’s human rights orthodoxy poses to international norms and institutions, offering normative and institutional analysis and providing suggestions for policy response.

Students and scholars of China, international law, human rights, comparative law and politics, and international trade and investment policy will find this an indispensable work, as will policy communities focussed on China’s international relations and business practices.

Exporting Virtue is a meticulously researched and forcefully argued indictment of faux human rights activism that 'seems mainly to be an exercise in justifying authoritarianism, virtue claims notwithstanding.' Scott Costen, The Sidebar
This book is a sound corrective to the often-heard but untenable claims by communist dictators in general that economic, social and cultural rights have precedence over civil and political ones. Alex Dessein, King's College London, Europe-Asia Studies Journal
Potter makes a strong and skilled argument about how China is seeking to change international human rights discourse in a manner consistent with its communist orthodoxy. Jeremy T. Paltiel, Department of Political Science, Carleton University
Exporting Virtue? will become part of the bedrock of how academics approach the conceptualization of Chinese policy and political culture. Larry Backer, professor, Faculty of Law and the School of International Affairs, Pennsylvania State University
Pitman B. Potter is Professor of Law Emeritus at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia. He has published many books, including Assessing Treaty Performance in China: Trade and Human Rights and China’s Legal System, and has written more than a hundred articles and essays. He is also the co-editor, with Ljiljana Biuković, of Local Engagement with International Economic Law and Human Rights.


1 Human Rights in China Past and Present: From Confucian Governance to Regime-led Development

2 China’s Challenge to International Human Rights Standards: From Qualified Acceptance to Active Revision

3 Case Study: Controlling Political Expression

4 China’s International Economic Relations: Coordination with Human Rights Orthodoxy

5 Case Studies: Coordinating Human Rights and Trade Policy in Labour Relations and Environmental Protection


Notes; Authorities Cited; Index

Find what you’re looking for...

Free shipping on online orders over $40

Stay Informed

Receive the latest UBC Press news, including events, catalogues, and announcements.

Read past newsletters

Publishers Represented
UBC Press is the Canadian agent for several international publishers. Visit our Publishers Represented page to learn more.