China’s position in UN: Growing concern over China’s assertive politics

In a world that is struggling to keep up a system of equality alive, whether through acknowledging the existence and the roles of the smaller nations or through equalizing the global platforms so that everyone has a fair representation.

The UN is one such body that ensures that this system of equality is upheld and nations that are not following the international code of conduct are reprimanded through criticism or sanctions as a last resort.

But even within these international bodies there happen to be a few strong players who play the roles of decision makers and change bringers. These big nations do not only come with great power, but a greater responsibility too – towards the environment, and towards the global community.

However, many a times the veracity of the responsibilities and duties stand questioned when the big nations make it a point to continuously flout the mandates set by the international order.

That’s where China enters.

China’s growing impact inside the United Nations is unavoidable, owing to President Xi Jinping’s much more assertive foreign policy and the way that China’s evaluated contributions to the world body are currently second just to those of the United States. Traditionally centered around the UN’s development exercises, China presently utilizes its muscles in the core of the UN, its peace and security work. The Chinese-Russian strategic arrangement in the UN Security Council challenges insurance of human rights and humanitarian access, exhibited in July 2020 when China and Russia vetoed two resolutions with respect to Syria and both obstructed the appointment of a French national as special emissary for Sudan.

China increased its influence in crucial non-UN multilateral bodies and is now in a “dominant position” in several such organisations in terms of personnel and funding, including the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).

China’s commitment to these endeavors has been on bodies that assist with setting international norms and standards in order to support the fortunes of Chinese organizations and to boost Beijing’s tasks like the Belt and Road Initiative, says a review by Mumbai-based foreign policy think tank Gateway House.

The review referred to UN figures to show China’s extending impact has been empowered by the nation’s increased financial contributions to the world body – its mandatory contribution as a UN member rose by 1,096 per cent somewhere between the years of 2010 and 2019, while voluntary donations expanded by 346 per cent from $51 million in the year 2010 to $172 million in the year 2019.

The mandatory contributions and voluntary donations combined made China the fifth largest donor to the UN, with the country’s total funding rising from $190 million in 2010 to $1.6 billion in 2019.

“The voluntary contributions enable the UN’s funds and programmes agencies to run their special projects, as only administrative, daily expenses are covered by the UN’s core budget. So, when China makes a $7.5 million contribution to the UNDP, it can influence the way development projects are implemented,” the study said.

The study noted ITU sets global standards for telecommunications, where China’s Huawei is a major player. ITU also has Chinese representatives serving two terms. “This ensures that Chinese national champions like Huawei and its standards become embedded and implemented by UN agencies engaged in development work in sparsely penetrated markets like the African continent, the Pacific, and South and Southeast Asia,” the study said.

The study also concluded that China’s participation in UN bodies has “grown more sophisticated over the years”, with the country choosing “clusters of agencies to lead, whose work can be interwoven with and are interlinked to its own domestic agendas like ‘Made in China 2025’, and the rise of Chinese companies”.

However the feelings of trepidation that China is changing the United Nations from inside have still not taken a concreate shape. Whatever its aspirations, China has not supplanted the United States as the UN’s most important member state. Yet there remains an impending danger that China can move towards the direction of furthering its goals.

“Other countries are definitely realising the impact of these moves and some have taken steps to counter China’s action,” said Kartik Ashta, Gateway House’s lead researcher for the study.

It is time for India to take cognizance of China’s strategy to become a key player in the global economy and policy making, not just India but the other nations should also do everything they can to counter the growing power of China.