China and the UN: Cooperation in 50 Years and Beyond

As an intergovernmental international organization of sovereign states established after World War II, the United Nations is viewed as a milestone in the peace and development of mankind. Contributed vehemently in anti-Fascism battles, China became a victorious state, signed the UN Charter in the first place. Nevertheless, the seat of People’s Republic of China had been stolen by the Kuomintang authorities, the voice of interests of mainland China was ignored until 25 October 1971, the Twenty-sixth General Assembly of the United Nations adopted resolution 2758 by an overwhelming majority, decided to restore all rights of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations and recognized the representatives of the government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legitimate representatives of China in the United Nations. This is a victory for new China’s diplomacy, for world justice, and for the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. All these victories endowed an unprecedented strength to world peace and development.

Year 2021 is the 50th anniversary of China’s restoration of its lawful seat in the United Nations. As the largest developing country in the world and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has always upheld the purposes and principles of the UN Charter since the establishment of the UN and especially in the past half century, vigorously promoted the spirit and philosophy of multilateralism, and made unremitting efforts and major contributions to realize the ideals of the UN and promoted its development and progress as well as human progress. Over the past 50 years, China has achieved the poverty reduction target of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 10 years ahead of schedule, which contributed over 70% to global poverty reduction. China has also constructively participated in the settlement of international hotspot issues and become the second largest contributor to UN peacekeeping operations and the largest troop contributor among the permanent members of the UN Security Council. China also has carried out thousands of package projects and material assistance projects, 10,000 technical cooperation and human resources development projects, and trained more than 400,000 people for more than 160 developing countries. Moreover, China earnestly implemented the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, proposed new measures for carbon peak and carbon neutrality and Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC). Last, but not least, China has actively led international cooperation on COVID-19, and fulfilled the important declaration of China’s vaccine as a global public good and a part of COVAX initiative. In a nutshell, China has acted in accordance with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and become an important builder of world peace, the biggest contributor to global development and a staunch defender of the international order.

With the development of globalization and emergence of global issues, profound changes unseen in a century and the pandemic are intertwined, the international landscape is undergoing significant reshaping at present. The international community badly needs cooperation to handle with challenges and achieve common development more than ever before. Economy development has cycles, so as geopolitics. Human beings now are in a period of geopolitical decline, and the impact of COVID-19 has put the global governance system to a severe test. Nowadays, the pandemic is accelerating changes that unseen in the past century, and the world is full of uncertainties and instability. During the meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of China Wang Yi, the Secretary-General of the UN, António Guterres calls on the international community to stop being divided and the world to stop falling into a new cold war. China shares the same view and firmly oppose any words and deeds that create division or advocate the cold War. In addition to the pandemic and political competition, the world is also facing up with a series of nontraditional global issues that may threaten the survival of human beings, including climate change, nuclear proliferation, peace-keeping in post-conflict regions, human trafficking and refugee issues, etc.. Climate change is the most urgent one amid the issues above-mentioned, it is the result of unsustainable human development. Only when it is coordinated within the framework of sustainable development can it be fundamentally resolved. Conflict countries have relatively weak capacity to mitigate and adapt to climate change, this fact requests the international community to increase input and to support UN specialized agencies to help conflict countries cope with the challenges.

In front of abundant global issues, in what way can the United Nations continue to perform its central role in leading the world to deal with new challenges? And what role should China play as the largest developing country?

First of all, International community members should pool their wisdom to explore new cooperation models, strengthen mutual trust and expand multilateral cooperation. The United Nations should hold the banner of true multilateralism and become a core platform for all countries to jointly safeguard universal security and share the fruits of development. It shall advance work in the areas of security, development and human rights in a balanced way to formulate a common agenda, focus on prominent issues, and take actions to implement commitments to international collaboration. Under the influence of populism, some countries have changed their political ecology and become more conservative in foreign policy and international cooperation in recent years. Thus the UN should focus on avoiding further negative impact that exerted by certain countries on multilateralism and maintaining the existing level of multilateral cooperation. To foster international scale cooperation, the cooperation between great power is of importance. Take Climate change as an example, countries should integrate climate change into their overall national development plans, and integrate it with poverty eradication, employment promotion and clean energy promotion, so as to enhance their resilience to meet climate change.

Secondly, With the rising of the third world, the United Nations should work to reform the voting weights to stabilize the international order, increase the representation and voice of developing countries in international affairs, and take the lead in promoting democracy and the rule of law in international relations. In view of the abnormal situation that the United Nations, especially the Security Council, has long been dominated by superpowers and a few western powers, the developing countries call for structural reform so that they can have more say and decision-making power and that the majority of member states can play a pivotal and fruitful role in the decision-making process of the UN. The reform of the UN should not be limited to streamlining, increasing efficiency and cutting costs, more importantly, reform should be carried out in the power structure, but in reforming Security Council and strengthening the role of the General Assembly.

Thirdly, as the permanent member of the Security Council and the largest developing country, China will continue to back the central role of the United Nations in international affairs. Throughout its thousands years history, China embrace a kind of “peace and cooperation” thought. In terms of the multilateralism, China hold the opinion that the United Nations shall agree the inclusiveness of participation, and promote democracy of international relations. The UN has become an important platform for China to advocate building a community with a shared future for mankind and a new type of international relations. Different from the narrow national interest theory that emphasizes “America first”, the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind is highly compatible with multilateralism and pursues the overall and long-term interests of all mankind. At the same time, in stark contrast to the zero-sum game mentality, China has set its foreign policy goal as building a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation. Therefore, China would continually work with other countries to safeguard world peace and stability, and make new and greater contributions to the noble cause of the United Nations.

All in all, fifty years witnessed the cooperation between China and the United Nations, under the rigorous circumstance of great changes, the world urgently calls upon international collaboration to meet global issues. Efficient global governance, together with relations between great powers are the key to stabilize the international order. Peace, development and human rights, which are the three pillars of the United Nations, shall be fostered by the United Nations with its utmost. The cooperation between China and the UN will go ahead to advance the achievement of 2030 agenda and sustainable development goals as well as other targets.

Yang Yi-zhong
Yang Yi-zhong
Yang Yizhong, Ph.D. candidate at Political Science, Institute of National Development and Security Studies, Jilin University, China. He graduated from Rutgers, the States University of New Jersey in the US where he received a master degree, he also interned and worked at the United Nations Headquarters for one year.