David Wertime

What Did Xi Jinping Just Say About Human Rights?

Break out your decoders, dear readers; a politician is talking. At a Tuesday luncheon with U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden, Chinese Vice President and heir apparent Xi Jinping defended China’s human rights record by saying, “There’s no best, only better.” China’s netizens, who are seemingly as unsure as Western observers as to what Xi’s ascendance means for China, set to work on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, attempting to parse this latest statement. Some of the most interesting, most candid, or most representative posts follow.

Some netizens were hopeful.

@生命的意义99: Democracy has taken a small step, and China a giant step. Have hope for the next administration!

@MrRvip: Admitting one’s own shortcomings is a kind of progress!

@窃书寐语: In fact as the new generation of leaders is born, and the big parents disappear, leaders’ attitude will certainly open more, and some questions can be taken out and discussed.

@rookieman_49z: [China is] more and more confident, brave enough to face the current situation.

@黑夜舞者1971: Interesting, a very tactful admission, you can say this is a big step.

@阿涌V: I trust my dynasty [slang for the current government] can get better and better. Because the general trend of events cannot be stopped. I just hope that [our] steps are a bit bigger, a bit faster.

@L-隽: [I'm] hopeful, don’t disappoint me. If there can be a referendum I will definitely help you [Xi] get one thousand votes!

@巴氏守: This can be a model for how to answer human rights questions.

Others were skeptical or critical.

@炮二平四: Wasn’t there also hope ten years ago? What happened then?

@victor1234567890: Every day I hear people talking about human rights, human rights, I still really don’t understand what this stuff is … What exactly is human rights? Can commenters help [tutor] me?

@明月bu照我: What’s the justification for a country needing the help of other countries to fight for their own human rights? Could it be that we don’t even share the rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

@石讷:: Human rights that are granted, and human rights that come about through a social contract, are never the same…the difference [between them] is exactly the difference between lackeys and citizens.

@深海胖子: This was said [while] in America, what will he say when he gets back to China.

@Dante1688: Just wait until [Xi is in charge] and then let’s discuss. Perhaps [this] was to calm the foreigners’ criticism and is not to be taken seriously.

@自成一届: Hoping these gangsters relinquish their privileges and give us the charity of human rights? This is unrealistic … Wake up, don’t be naive.

 @寒假君休息中: I remember a few years ago when the U.S. criticized China’s human rights problems. The next day, some Party newspapers took great joy in listing so many problems with human rights in America. In fact, everyone knows the human rights situation in the U.S. is much better than China’s.

And one just loved Xi’s accent.

@北野的理想国: [This is] the first time I’ve heard a leader speak Putonghua [i.e. standard Mandarin] without an accent. It [makes me] feel close to him … a new generation of leaders really is coming up.

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David Wertime

David is the co-founder and co-editor of Tea Leaf Nation. He first encountered China as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2001 and has lived and worked in Fuling, Chongqing, Beijing, and Hong Kong. He is a ChinaFile fellow at the Asia Society and an associate fellow at the Truman National Security Project.