Responsibility, legitimacy, morality: Chinese humanitarianism in historical perspective

This paper seeks to provide a better appreciation of China’s past to allow for a more comprehensive understanding of its unique humanitarian identity outside of the popular narrative, or as a supplement to today’s Western dominated discourses.

The paper examines its ancient roots by uncovering some of the origins of Chinese humanitarian thought. The chief focus of the paper, however, concerns the transformation of this concept over the twentieth century, and especially after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Without claiming to offer a fully representative account of humanitarian practice and thought in China, it provides an introduction to understandings of ‘humanitarianism’ and related concepts.

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