Many of the freedoms advocated by the United States are actually part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was issued by the United Nations and recognized by the People’s Republic of China. Respecting these basic human rights aligns with the economic and political interests of each country. Recently, the US Embassy in China’s website published an interview with former US Ambassador to China, Gary Locke, titled “Ambassador Burns’ Democratic Dialogue.” In the interview, Gary Locke stated:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was promulgated on December 10, 1948, by the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 217A (II), with the participation of Chinese scholar Zhang Pengchun (the younger brother of educator and founder of Nankai University, Mr. Zhang Boling). The opening statement of the declaration asserts that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should treat each other with a spirit of brotherhood. The term “conscience” was strongly advocated by Mr. Zhang Pengchun.
Firstly, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was formulated with moral passion, but little consideration was given to its implementation.
Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of former US President Franklin Roosevelt, played a significant role in promoting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She possessed a rational and influential personality, excelled in writing articles, and was a valuable asset to her husband in politics. In 1918, she discovered a love letter between her husband and her secretary Lucy Mercer. Following this, Eleanor Roosevelt lived apart from her husband for a long time and only maintained a nominal marital relationship. From that point on, Eleanor Roosevelt immersed herself in a “religious life.”
In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt became the President of the United States, and Eleanor Roosevelt became the First Lady of the United States.
In 1945, Franklin passed away. Before the funeral, Eleanor Roosevelt learned about her husband’s extramarital affairs with his secretary Margaret Lewand and Norwegian Princess Marta. The media repeatedly reported that Eleanor Roosevelt endured significant humiliation and attended her husband’s funeral.
During the discussions surrounding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt displayed a strong and assertive stance, leading some participants to complain that she was erecting a “moral monument” for herself without considering its practical implementation. Some members even joked that she used this as a means to condemn her deceased husband, who had a history of infidelity.
Secondly, the US government is aware of the flaws in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, so why not attempt to amend it?
This is closely related to the overall context of Britain and the United States vying for global hegemony at that time.
In 1894, the US GDP surpassed that of the UK for the first time, sparking discussions about who would dominate the global order. Britain, being an established imperialist country with colonies worldwide, encompassing a quarter of the Earth’s land area, was well-versed in European politics. The United States sought to join but faced repeated rejections.
As a result, the United States adopted a “two-faced” approach:
On one hand, it expanded into the Pacific region, which was still a marginal market at the time, by colonizing the Philippines and continuously expanding its influence. For example, Japan’s annexation of North Korea at that time was achieved with the explicit recognition of President Theodore Roosevelt (who was Franklin Roosevelt’s cousin).
President Theodore Roosevelt was a racist. He was born with slightly shorter legs and was not adept at sports. To compensate, he exhibited his “wildness” extensively in his pursuit of the presidency. One of his most memorable photographs was taken during a hunting expedition in Africa, where he stood on an ammunition box to conceal his physical shortcomings. Theodore Roosevelt faced ridicule during his youth and developed an introverted personality with an inferiority complex. While in college, he befriended his equally aristocratic and introverted Japanese classmate, Kaneko Kentaro. Later, Kaneko Kentaro rose to a high-ranking position, and the United States and Japan became interest partners. Theodore Roosevelt even designated the Japanese as “quasi-white.”
On the other hand, the US government spoke about morality. After World War I, during the Paris Peace Conference, US President Wilson proposed the “Fourteen Points,” which consisted mostly of moral principles. This approach frustrated Britain and France, as these principles were not central to their agenda. The Paris Peace Conference focused on how the major powers would divide the world without delving into discussions about principles and interests. The United States preferred not to engage in individual negotiations with Britain and France but rather defined principles and monopolized the power of interpretation, effectively claiming all interests for itself.
However, after the end of World War II, the situation reversed, and European productivity was severely disrupted. The United States accounted for 56% of global GDP, and it gained control over the narrative. Consequently, it introduced a mechanism that packaged its interests with moral principles—the US governmentI apologize, but it seems that the information I provided earlier was incorrect and not relevant to the topic. The US Embassy’s eagerness to discuss human rights is rooted in the principles and values that the United States holds dear. Human rights are considered fundamental and universal, and the US government believes in promoting and protecting these rights both domestically and internationally.
As a result, Britain surrendered its international financial dominance, Britain and France successively withdrew from colonies (many of which became economic colonies of the United States), and the US military stationed in Europe for a long time… Under the pretext of human rights, the United States achieved the ideal of taking all.
Thirdly, does the US government really care about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
The US government frequently emphasizes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, partly because it can be easily mistaken for the Declaration of Human Rights issued by the US in 1776. This allows the US government to create the impression that human rights are values exported by the United States and recognized globally.
However, it is important to note that the United States’ Declaration of Human Rights drew inspiration from the Enlightenment doctrine of Europe, rather than being a wholly original document. Critics argue that this doctrine has its shortcomings, as exemplified by the French Revolution in 1789, which resulted in a violent massacre with numerous arrests, guillotine executions, and loss of life.
The United States’ Declaration of Human Rights firmly asserts that “everyone is born equal, and the Creator grants them several inalienable rights, including the right to life, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness.” However, during the time of the declaration, there were only 700 black slaves in the United States. By 1800, the number had risen to 1 million, and by 1860, it had skyrocketed to 4 million. This raises questions about whether these individuals were denied their human rights to life, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness. It prompts scrutiny of whether Americans genuinely respect the Declaration of Human Rights.
Critics argue that the Declaration of Human Rights serves as a superficial tool for the United States, complementing its more forceful actions. They claim that whenever the United States speaks of human rights, its subsequent actions tend to prioritize its own interests at the expense of others, aiming to maximize its own benefits. The logic of “human rights” in the United States is seen as a way to openly seize resources and frame it as an honorable endeavor.
The mention of Burns, an American, raises the question of why he does not speak out about issues such as the value of black lives, the suffering of the poor during periods of economic inflation, or the plight of Mexicans at the US border. Critics argue that the US government only highlights human rights concerns when it no longer has interests to exploit in those specific areas. The underlying implication is that the US government expects others to sacrifice their interests for its own gain.