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China's Corporate Social Responsibility with National Characteristics: Coherence and Dissonance with the Global Business and Human Rights Project

Human Rights and Business: Moving Forward, Looking Back (Jena Martin and Karen E. Bravo,eds., Forthcoming)

Penn State Law Research Paper No. 26-2014

27 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2014 Last revised: 13 Feb 2015

Larry Catá Backer

Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law

Date Written: August 18, 2014

Abstract

This chapter shows how the social and institutional organization and political culture of China have affected how Chinese corporations approach the issue of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in general and CSR-based human rights responsibilities in particular. Part I examines the global context in which Chinese CSR is framed. Part II analyzes the Chinese political context in which CSR operates and the socio-political culture that shapes CSR choices. Notions of socialist modernization, economic development, and the importance of building social, economic and political structures with Chinese characteristics largely shape Chinese policy, drive Chinese administrative institutions, and shape the context in which Chinese enterprises approach CSR issues. Like Chinese state policy, Chinese CSR focuses on issues of economic development and prosperity rather than civil and political rights. Part III considers the effects of these substantive choices on the implementation of CSR in China. In China, the obligations of both state and enterprise are understood in terms of institutional duty to people rather than in terms of individual rights that may be asserted against institutions. That understanding shapes both the approaches to remediation and the relationship between the state and enterprise in regard to CSR compliance. The connection between (1) substance (tied to socialist modernization) and operationalization (tied to the premise that the protection of the liberties of individuals is a state obligation) and (2) the state, the Communist Party and business enterprises, frames the "Chinese Characteristics" of CSR. Only by recognizing this close connection between state policy and corporate responsibility can one understand how CSR is implemented in China and successfully translate global human rights discourse into the Chinese context.

Keywords: CSR china, state owned enterprisesd, business and human rights, UN Guiding Principles, SASAC

JEL Classification: K22, M14, P26, P31, P33

Suggested Citation

Backer, Larry Catá, China's Corporate Social Responsibility with National Characteristics: Coherence and Dissonance with the Global Business and Human Rights Project (August 18, 2014). Human Rights and Business: Moving Forward, Looking Back (Jena Martin and Karen E. Bravo,eds., Forthcoming); Penn State Law Research Paper No. 26-2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2448030 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2448030

Larry Backer (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law ( email )

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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