Tag Archives: United Nations

Beijing And Washington Slug It Out For Global Leadership

WE READ IN dispatches from the United States that Beijing is using the coronavirus outbreak, Covid-19, as an opportunity to expand its desired alternative system of international governance by floating the idea of a Chinese-led rival to the World Health Organization to lead the global coordination of the fight against Covid-19.

Axios, a Washington-based portfolio of newsletters, says the soundings are being taken by China National Petroleum Corp.’s Economics & Technology Research Institute, a pivotal player in the formation of national oil and gas policies, if not, hitherto, in international health.

The report provides, in truth, a thin reed from which to build such a proposition. However, for this Bystander, it is another straw in an emerging narrative of would-be Chinese global leadership, as is the foreign ministry spokesman’s statement that it is still undetermined in which country Covid-19 originated and that China had acted to protect the health and safety of the rest of the world.

It also comes on the heels of a hard-fought battle to appoint the new director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization, a UN agency. Washington lobbied hard for the eventual appointee, Daren Tang, who heads the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, over Wang Binying, a former Chinese government official who is currently a deputy director and 28-year veteran of the organisation.

Had she been successful, Chinese nationals would have headed five of the UNs’ 15 specialised standards-setting agencies, including the International Telecommunication Union and the Food and Agriculture Organization. No other permanent member of the Security Council (France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) heads more than one.

In January, the Trump administration appointed its former special envoy to North Korea, Mark Lambert, as a special envoy to counter China’s influence at the UN. Its China hawks have become concerned by China’s success at the UN in securing top positions within its agencies and at rallying members behind foreign-policy initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative and efforts led by Russia and backed by Beijing to establish a new cybersecurity treaty.

The combination of the Trump administration’s ‘America First’ retreat from multilateralism and its support for weak and politicised candidate for top UN jobs has created a vacuum that Beijing has readily sought to occupy both directly by filling positions of influence in the existing multilateral agencies and indirectly by starting to lay out a Chinese-led international order to supplant the US-led one that has prevailed since 1945.

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Beijing’s Home-From-Home Syrian Veto

hoto taken on Feb. 4, 2012 shows the general view of the United Nations Security Council meeting at the UN headquarters in New York. Russia and China on Saturday vetoed an Arab-European draft resolution on Syria for a second time since October 2011 backing an Arab League plan which demands a regime change in the Middle East country. (Xinhua/Shen Hong)China’s veto of a UN Security Council resolution on Syria this weekend was not its first, but it is the more controversial. Forget China’s protestations that it exercised its veto to be supportive of Moscow’s “reasonable concerns” over the resolutions’s wording and to help maintain the unity and authority of the Security Council, seen above in session on Feb. 4th. Forget, too, the Iranian dimension to all this. There was never a realistic chance that Beijing would support a resolution calling for forced regime change in the face of popular protests and “a political transition to a democratic, plural political system.”

“The sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria should be fully respected,” said Li Baodong, China’s permanent representative to the UN. Change one proper noun in that sentence and it will sound awfully familiar.

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India Trumps China At UN

Our man in New York sends word of a little noticed election at the United Nations in which the dragon has suffered a reverse at the hands of the elephant. For the past 10 years, Beijing has occupied a seat on the UN’s Joint Inspection Unit, the UN system’s independent external oversight body. But it has been ousted with A. Gopinathan’s 106-77 defeat of Zhang Yan for a five-year term starting in 2013. Gopinathan is India’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva; Zhang is Beijing’s well-regarded but somewhat controversial ambassador to New Delhi.

This was a rare head-to-head confrontation of Asia’s two regional powers, and while the post is of greater importance within the UN than without, it serves as a reminder that Beijing’s sway is not omnipotent, regardless of the fact that China has a permanent seat on the UN’s Security Council, whereas India has only a rotating one. We also understand that New Delhi only decided to fight for the post after Beijing asked it not to field a candidate for Asia’s second seat at the unit. Japan holds the other one.

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