China’s rise has been met with concern by human rights scholars and activists. Critics contend that China is using its clout to weaken the international human rights regime while simultaneously empowering abusive governments in the developing world. Against this backdrop, this study investigates whether China’s growing economic dominance has contributed to physical integrity rights violations in developing countries. Specifically, I theorize that China shields its major trade partners from international scrutiny, thereby weakening the external constraints that would otherwise prevent leaders from abusing human rights. Removing international-level constraints elevates the importance of domestic-level factors, such that whether China’s partners do or do not repress physical integrity rights is contingent on domestic political institutions. Veto players are of particular importance because they can constrain leaders that have been otherwise empowered through trade with China. Within this context, I hypothesize that the number of veto players in a given country determines whether trading intensively with China leads to more violations of physical integrity rights. Through analysis of country-level panel data, I find evidence that trading with China worsens physical integrity rights abuses in developing countries. However, this effect is weaker where veto players are more numerous.
- human rights
- veto players
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Economics and Econometrics
- Political Science and International Relations