I thank Kevin Boreham and Fergus Ryan for their comments on my essay. Both authors are silent about its principal aim – to offer a fresh interpretation of China’s emerging role as a global empire. They are instead exercised by single issues. Their analysis of these is disappointing, and the consequences less than satisfying.
Kevin Boreham, a former public servant and scholar of international law, is preoccupied with human rights. His comments are important, for they remind us of the continuing political importance of the marriage of the languages of human rights and democracy that happened for the first time during the late 1940s. The crowning achievement of that decade was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Drafted in 1947–48 in response to genocide in the aftermath of global war, its preamble spoke of “the inherent dignity” and “the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family”. The declaration – the most translated document ever, available nowadays in 500 languages – proclaimed a series of inalienable rights for everyone, “without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”.