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This article challenges the conventional view of China’s human-rights policy by carefully tracing the development of human rights discourse in China since 1978. While agreeing that external pressure does play an important role in shaping China’s human-rights discourse and policy, the article finds that the changes in Chinese discourse cannot adequately be explained by external factors such as Western criticisms, particularly since 1989. Instead, cognitive changes resulting from self-reflection by the Chinese government upon China’s past, especially concerning the Cultural Revolution, laid the foundation for China’s changing attitudes toward human rights in subsequent years. Moreover, China’s changed attitudes indicate that to a limited degree the leadership has already internalized some aspects of international human-rights norms.