One of the most influential people of the twentieth century, but who is almost unknown by name, is a man named P.C. Chang (1892-1957). He (along with Charles Malik) were the two principle drafters of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one of the most influential documents of the twentieth century.
Chang was a Chinese philosopher. He studied at Columbia University and taught in both China and the US. He was also a musician and play-write. According to his wiki:
He was an enthusiastic promoter of Chinese culture.
Chang has been described as a renaissance man. He was a playwright, musician, diplomat; a lover of traditional Chinese literature and music and someone who knew both Western and Islamic culture. His philosophy is known to be strongly based on the teachings of Confucius.
At the first meeting of ECOSOC he quoted Mencius stating that ECOSOC’s highest aim should be to “subdue people with goodness.” He also argued that many influential western thinkers on rights were guided by Chinese ideas. “In the 18th century, when progressive ideas with respect to human rights had been first put forward in Europe, translations of Chinese philosophers had been known to, and had inspired, such thinkers as Voltaire, Quesnay and Diderot in their humanistic revolt against feudalism,” he told the UN General Assembly in 1948.
On the UDHR drafting committee, he served both as an effective Asian delegate and also as a mediator when the negotiations reached a stalemate. He served as Vice-Chairman of the original UN Commission on Human Rights and Republic of China delegate to committee and played a pivotal role in its drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948.
He was one of the early champions of human rights (no doubt motivated by his experience of the Japanese occupation as well as his firm Confucian convictions). He also sought to excise all notions of god or other supernatural or ethno-cultural specific references from a rights based framework. So not only is the modern concept of human rights not antithetical to Chinese values but it was largely inspired by someone, an expert in ancient Chinese thought no less, who consciously and deftly incorporated ancient Chinese values into it. The modern world’s evolution away from barbarity is heavily indebted to Dr. Chang and to the wisdom of Chinese thought of which he was an heir.