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China’s rise and fall at the UN

  • 17 October, 2020

  • 5 Min Read

China’s rise and fall at the UN


  • The editorial analyses various reasons as to why the time is opportune for India to push for institutional changes and reformed multilateralism in the global system.
  • The United Nations turned 75 in 2020.

China’s fall at the UN:

  • India defeated China in the elections for a seat on the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). This was the first such victory in a decade.
  • China’s candidate had lost to a Singaporean in the race for DG World Intellectual Property Organization.
  • Subsequently, China also lost against Samoa for a seat on the UN Statistical Commission.
  • Also, it just about managed to get elected to the UN High Rights Council, coming fourth out of five contestants for four vacancies.
  • Negative reaction to China’s threat of a veto to forestall a discussion on the pandemic in the UNSC, point to disenchantment with China in the globe.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has posed hurdles to China in its march to global hegemony.

China’s strengths in UN:

  • Taking advantage of its position as a member of the P-5 and as a huge aid giver, China captured the top positions at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

China’s Rise at the UN:

  • China saw an opportunity in World War I to rid itself of German occupation from some of its territory and allied with the United Kingdom and France.
  • The Chinese sent large numbers of labour to support the western war efforts against Germany and won an invite at the Versailles Peace Conference.
  • But the West sided with the Japanese and China refused to sign the Versailles Peace Treaty.
  • A few years later, the United States helped reach a peace deal between China and Germany.
  • World War II saw strong U.S.-China collaboration against the Japanese.
  • These old trans-Pacific linkages of the U.S. and China, including the presence of a very large Chinese community on the west coast of the U.S., are not well known, but China is really “the forgotten ally” of the U.S.
  • The U.S. included China in the ‘Four Policemen’- a group of the most important countries for ensuring world peace post- WorldWar II, along with the U.S., the USSR and the U.K.
  • The U.S. also thought that China would act as a bulwark against the USSR.
  • This later became P-5, with France being added by the UK in 1945 where the UN charter was finalised.
  • The pure multilateralism of the League of Nations was thus infused with multipolarity.
  • The Republic of China (RoC) retained the UN seat of China until 1971 when it was expelled from the UN and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) admitted as a member.
  • U.S. President Richard Nixon visited Beijing in 1972 and the U.S.’s opening to the PRC paved the way for the unprecedented economic growth of China.

Institutional transformations:

  • Multilateralism is under unprecedented stress fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic and a certain disenchantment with globalisation.
  • At the root, of course, is the rise of China and its challenge to U.S. global hegemony.
  • For global action, there is a need for multilateralism backed by strong multipolarity relevant to contemporary realities. This demands institutional reform and not just engagement with extant issues.
  • Most important are institutional reforms in the UN Security Council (UNSC) and at the Bretton Woods Institutions so that their governance leverages the capabilities of the major players among both the developed and developing countries.

Way forward:

  • India has been elected as a non-permanent member of the UNSC for a two-year term.
  • India will also host the BRICS Summit next year and G-20 Summit in 2022.
  • These are openings for India in uniting the world in critical areas that require global cooperation especially climate change, pandemics and counter-terrorism.
  • India needs to invest in the UN with increased financial contributions in line with its share of the world economy and by placing its people in key multilateral positions.
  • It is an opportune moment for India and a Reformed Multilateralism.
  • India, Germany, Japan and Brazil (G-4) have sought to refocus the UN on UNSC reform.
  • As proponents of reform, they must remain focused and determined.

Source: TH


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