To Mention, or not to Mention? U.S. and U.K. Diverge on Addressing China’s Human Rights Record

By Sarah Akbar

This weekend saw two different approaches to questions surrounding China’s human rights record by two major Western powers. President Obama chose to bring attention to human rights differences between the U.S. and China during President Xi Jinping’s stateside visit. “We believe that nations are more successful, and the world makes more progress, when companies compete on a level playing field, when disputes are resolved peacefully and when the universal human rights of all people are upheld,” Obama remarked on Friday morning. Xi avoided directly addressing the issue during his stay. Meanwhile, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne decided to omit any mention of China’s human rights abuses as he traveled to Xinjiang province, recently in the news for the oppression of Muslim Uighurs by the Chinese government. Osborne was subsequently praised in Chinese state media, who hailed his “pragmatism” and “modesty.” The U.K. hopes to reap major benefits from Osborne’s trip, aiming to make China its second largest trading partner by 2025.