Global China – Business, Human Rights and the Environment

In step with China’s growing economic power and influence around the world, there is growing interest among different stakeholders to engage with Chinese counterparts  on the social, human rights and environmental impacts of ‘Global China’ and Chinese overseas investments.

Together with our partners China Dialogue, Made in China Journal, Mahidol University and City University of Hong Kong, RWI has developed a range of initiatives focusing on Global China and China’s role in multilateral issues and regional governance related to human rights, the environment and sustainable development.

Annual Regional Workshop organized by the Embassy of Sweden in Thailand, Bangkok 2017


Global China, Business and Human Rights

Since 2019, we organize an annual ‘Winter School’ aiming to provide an opportunity for Chinese and Global China scholars to meet and discuss with local NGO and trade union representatives from countries that in recent years have seen a significant influx of Chinese investment, explore the implications of Chinese investments for human rights, labour rights and the environment in different contexts, and create synergies and linkages between local, national, regional and global stakeholders and networks.

RWI has also supported development of an online People’s Map of Global China, an open access website developed by Made in China Journal which will be launched in 2021.

A Teaching Compendium on Business and Human Rights was developed in 2018-2020 together with professors at Peking University and Wuhan University.  Intended as a resource for Chinese teachers and researchers, the teaching compendium will be published online and in print at a Chinese publishing house in 2021.

Surya Deva, vice chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, and Radu Mares, RWI Interim Research Director, at the Business and Human Rights Winter School at Mahidol University, 2019


University teachers from China and Cambodia at the Business and Human Rights Winter School at Mahidol University, Bangkok 2019


Clip from Business and Human Rights Winter School at Mahidol University, 2019

Human Rights and the Environment

Current social-ecological challenges that affect the enjoyment of human rights requires an integrative approach to addressing biodiversity loss, degradation of healthy ecosystems and climate change. In 2020, RWI and China Dialogue organized the online conference ‘The Road to Kunming: High-Level Workshop on Biodiversity, Climate and Governance’.

A series of articles on China’s growing role in biodiversity governance, and the place of human rights and equity in a post-2020 biodiversity agreement were published in connection with the conference:

Tibetan antelopes at Changtang National Nature Reserve in the Tibet Autonomous Region (Image: Xinhua / Alamy)


Can China Take the Lead in the UN Biodiversity Process?



The Road to Kunming, and Why It Matters



Why Rights and Biodiversity Are Interdependent


In a series of articles and events in 2021, RWI will explore the role China can play in helping to achieve those goals, and how it intersects with China’s notion of multilateralism. At a time when China is offering global leadership on the SDGs, what role can right-holders and civil society play in ensuring these goals are met, and rights are protected?

In 2018, RWI and China Dialogue co-organised a roundtable on “Sound Chemicals Management Beyond 2020: Exploring Challenges and Opportunities for China and Sweden” in collaboration with the Embassy and with the participation of the UN Special Rapporteur on Hazardous Substances and Waste, Baskut Tuncak.

UN Special Rapporteur on Toxics Baskut Tuncak gives a lecture at Renmin University of China, 2018.


Decoding China Dictionary

The ‘Decoding China Dictionary’ was developed with the purpose to provide policy-makers and practitioners with a tool for understanding the Chinese meaning of key terms used in international relations and development cooperation.

Co-authored by a group of China specialists, the dictionary tackles a selection of frequently used terms such as civil society, democracy, development, freedom of expression, good governance, human rights, multilateralism, public diplomacy, rule of law, security and sovereignty.

The intended users of the dictionary are policy makers and institutions in Europe who are engaged in dialogue and exchanges with China. The dictionary can serve as a practical guide and point of reference for strategy development and communication with Chinese counterparts.

The idea for the dictionary came from discussions at the roundtable event ‘Engaging with China: Challenges and the Way Forward in Higher Education, Human Rights and Public Diplomacy’, organised by RWI in Stockholm in 2019.

The dictionary was published in March 2021.

Download the Decoding China Dictionary


The People’s Map of Global China

The People’s Map of Global China is a project by RWI partner Made in China Journal that tracks China’s complex and rapidly changing international activities.

The Map presents these international activities through profiles of projects and countries on an interactive map. Every profile attempts to provide a fully rounded account of the projects and Chinese engagement in an informative and accessible manner. The projects are sortable after project parameters, Chinese companies and banks involved, and their social, political and environmental impacts.

Using an interactive, open access ‘map’ format, and collaborating with nongovernmental organisations, journalists, trade unions, academics, and the public at large, the map aims to provide continuously updated tracing and information on various dimensions of Global China in their local contexts.

“People’s” map emphasizes the focus of, and contributions to, this project. The map draws from the experiences of those impacted by the projects. Further, it relies on the input from a growing network of people, often hailing from the places discussed, who have been conducting in-depth research on the various facets of Global China in their localities, and/or are working directly with communities impacted by these projects.

With its qualitative focus, the map is envisioned as a bridge between the academic community, focusing on the macro-level, and civil society organisations that tend to focus on the micro level. The hope is that the information collected will be a useful resource for policymaking, research and international advocacy.

To learn more, see the map homepage, project database, country database, list of contributors, and FAQ page.

The People’s Map of Global China has been developed with support from RWI’s China programme, Global China Centre at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National University, and the Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies at Lund University,

Read more about our initiatives

Human Rights Education and Academic Cooperation

Anti-discrimination, Gender Equality and Women’s Human Rights

Fair and Efficient Justice 

Rights of Persons with Disabilities

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