Skip to main content
Citizenship in China: A Comparison of Rights with the East and West
Journal of Chinese Political Science (2014)
  • Thomas Janoski, University of Kentucky
After the economic rise of China with the improvement in their standard of living, there have been many changes in the rights of citizens in China. This paper provides a broad survey of rights to see how China compares with the West and some countries in the Far East. This comparison assesses citizenship theory as it might apply to China, and then assesses a number of measures of rights. First, in order to make comparisons, the very different conceptions and theories of citizenship in China must be considered. Chinese citizenship is based on more of a communitarian model than a liberal or social democratic approach mainly due to Confucianism. Despite considerable improvement in citizenship rights, China’s reliance on a more communitarian citizenship theory (rather than liberal or social democratic theories) tends to emphasize obligations over rights. Second, in assessing the level of rights in China in the 21st century, T. H. Marshall provides the classification of legal, political and social rights. Using Freedom House, Fraser Institute and other data, I make cross-national comparisons between China and Western countries (e.g., the US, Canada and select European countries) and East Asian countries or regions (e.g., Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan). I also include Russia since it has made a similar transition from communist rule. The paper argues that citizenship rights for Chinese citizens have improved for many legal and social rights but not so much for political rights. However, all of these rights in China are much lower than in the West and much of East Asia, though in a few instances the levels are quite similar to Russia. I conclude with an estimate of the possible pathways toward greater political rights in China over the next few decades.
  • Citizenship,
  • Citizenship Rights,
  • Communitarian Citizenship,
  • Confucianism,
  • East Asia
Publication Date
December, 2014
Citation Information
Thomas Janoski. "Citizenship in China: A Comparison of Rights with the East and West" Journal of Chinese Political Science Vol. 19 Iss. 4 (2014) p. 365 - 385
Available at: