Philip G. Alston, the John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law at New York University is by any measure one of the most acclaimed and influential individuals of his generation- This is especially so in matters touching on international law. His own biography suggests the breadth of his expertise and influence. In 2014, he was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as its Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. "The expert is required by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back to member States on initiatives taken to promote and protect the rights of those living in extreme poverty, with a view to advancing the eradication of such poverty." (Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights).
The mandate includes country visits. Recently the country visit to China was concluded. It was therefore with a great deal of anticipation that I read through his just distributed End-of-mission statement on China, which he prepared in his capacity as Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.
This report is an important statement and should be carefully read--not so much for what it has to say about China, but for its value as evidence of the still altogether large chasm that separates Western internationalists and the world view encapsulated in the international sphere with its great project of coordinated multi-level legalization grounded in Western constitutionalism, from the world view of an advanced Marxist Leninist governmental apparatus singularly bent on the construction of Socialist democracy. This last point, of course, will be dismissed--and no doubt mocked--in the West. And rightly so from their perspective, which is necessarily grounded in the premise that Marxist Leninist state organization is ultimately inconsistent with the construction of an international legal and normative architecture. It is that unstated premise that haunts the report, and from the internationalist and Western perspective, enhances its power. But that enhancement will likely come at a price--if its intended audience are other than the global intelligentsia now so deeply committed to a very specific project of global norm institutionalization.