Asia’s Different Standard

One distinction between the two cultures in human rights issues is that Western human rights issues are very orientated towards the individual while in Asia it is more towards the state and the well-being of everyone. While in the West, ones individual rights can supersede that of the states, such would never be the case in Asian countries.

The gap between humans rights from a Western perspective versus that of an Asian perspective really amounts to a clash between universalism and cultural relativism, where the West is aligned with the former and Asia with the latter. Universalism is the moral view that what is morally right is morally right for all cultures for all time. Cultural relativism, on the other hand, is the moral view that it can only be said what is morally right for one culture at one time and that one culture’s morals cannot be compared or said to be superior to another’s. While the Western universalism perspective is said to be unrealistic the Asian cultural relativism perspective is said to be paralyzing, it would be hard to find a larger moral gap than that between the two views.

The way in which the gap is trying to be bridge is also faulty. The West went to a U.N. conference in Vienna making accusations that Asia was undermining the idea of universality, and understandably upon being affronted with such accusations Asia resisted and in the end, both sides hardened their positions. From the view of a culture which sees morals as culturally relative, any attempt from a foreign country to alter their culture and methods of doing things would be taken as a form of ethnocentrism on behalf of the other culture. From the view of the culture which believes in moral universalism, any other culture not following the same morals would be seen as morally inferior and in need of some progression. It should be clear now why the gap that exists between the Western societies and the Asian ones is so large and difficult to overcome.

The gap in human rights between Western cultures and Asian cultures, and with the two major economic powers in Asia, Japan and China starting to show international strength, there have been attempts from the West to use the apparent gap in human rights as a means in order to hinder that growth. The issue of human rights and the publicity that a lack of such rights receives in the media, even quite recently played a large role when it was to be determined where the next Olympics would be held. Although Beijing won in the end, the lack of human rights that are present in China was a major drawback for their bid. In this instance, human rights violations were being brought to the surface in an attempt by the other nations involved to lessen the chances of success. This is a good example of how human rights issues can be used in an attempt to stop or at least slow down an economies economic growth, which holding the Olympics is usually guaranteed to bring.