Since the United Nations was founded at the end of the WWII, it has played a seminal role in preserving the world peace and international justice from time to time. Based on the U.N. Charter which champions the no-use of force and collective security, the U.N. is seen as a relatively efficient global organization of sovereign states since then. There is no question that the U.N. has historically promoted the decolonization and changes in the composition of the international community when the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples in 1960. Since then, it is fair to say that the new states have come to end the dominance of the West which then commanded a majority of the seats in the General Assembly.
From the very beginning, a world public opinion is seen as the most potent of all forces for peace. Nowadays, it has been since more strongly developing throughout the world. In particular, the U.N. General Assembly is declared to be “the open conscience of the world as Hans Morgenthau used to argue. China has consistently and persistently championed the legitimate rights of the all states in general and the small/weak countries in particular. As Chinese government has reiterated that as the world’s largest developing country, China will continue to stand with all developing States, who are no longer the silent majority in international and multilateral processes.
Also as one of Five Permanent Members of the U.N. Security Council, China should and also must stand up to defend the sacredness of the United Nation as it is a permanent forum in which countries could come together to deliberate and attempt to resolve disagreements rather than sowing the seeds of hatred among them. In reality, the U.N. has been used properly but is also misused and even abused by some governments for the purposes of politicalizing the issues and demonizing its rivals with no moral criteria or any bottom lines. Given this, this essay argues for the necessity of preserving the sacredness and purity of the U.N. for the original goal of acting a collective security rather than unilateral tool abused by any small bloc.
Recently, China allies itself with the statement made by Eritrea on behalf of a group of like-minded countries. Chinese ambassador Geng Shuang made it clear that remedy and reparation is an important way to deliver justice, offer consolation and promote reconstruction after wars and conflicts. Deeply victimized by numerous foreign wars against China in the modern history, China has endured immense losses. Accordingly, the Chinese people and the elite empathize with the heartbreaks of war victims, and sympathize with their misery. Meanwhile, China opines that any remedy and reparation should be achieved through correct political means and legal proceedings in line with international will, fairness and justice, and the humanitarian spirit. The U.N. Security Council and the General Assembly should and can play the role as expected by the international community.
Regarding the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, China has reiterated its sincere concerns with the current situation in Ukraine and the four points about what must be done in the wake of the outbreak of the crisis and the four things the international community must do together later. It is self-evident that given a global, composite crisis in Ukraine, it is important to give serious thought to the following: first, conflicts and wars produce no winner; second, there is no simple solution to a complex issue; and third, confrontation between major countries must be avoided. China has and will continue to look forward to a resumption of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. At the same time, it is imperative that the U.S. and its allies of the NATO and the EU should hold direct dialogues with Russia. This is the nature of classic diplomacy championing negotiation, persuasion and mutual compromises rather than driving a decisive victory in the battlefield.
Due to the discussion of China’s stances on the international issues and the role of the UN in the crises management, it is quite easy to perceive China’s refusal of the draft resolution on remedy and reparation submitted for actions of the Emergency Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly on November 16 since it has obvious flaws and loopholes and does not conform to China’s position and proposition. However, Chinese Ambassador Geng Shuang presented three points to verify the general principles and practices of the UN as a collective security forum.
First, legally speaking, China believes that the draft resolution intends to address the issue of international legal responsibility directly through the General Assembly, thereby overstepping GA’s authority. As it is well-noted that the UN Charter clearly stipulates the mandates of the principal organs of the UN and the General Assembly is not an international judicial body. Thus, it has no legal power to define and hold accountable for internationally wrongful acts. As a matter of fact, the resolutions previously adopted by the 11th Emergency Special Session of the GA do not constitute solid legal basis for remedy and reparation.
It is clear that the draft resolution aims to invoke the Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts to pursue accountability, yet, doing so lacks legal basis in a professional way. The aforementioned Articles are research products of the International Law Commission which is an expert body. It is not an inter-governmental treaty and not legally binding. From a perspective of international law, neither do the Articles provide legal norms to define an internationally wrongful act or determine whether such an act exists. Hence, it is not appropriate to cite the Articles to make legal determination and pursue accountability.
Second, given the fact the draft resolution intends to bless the creation, by some countries, of a mechanism for reparation and a register of damage outside the UN framework, thus it deviates from the normal practice. The above mentioned mechanisms proposed by some countries are not in the framework of the UN, not overseen by the UN, and do not report to the UN. Nevertheless, the General Assembly is requested to adopt a resolution specifically for their creation. This approach makes no sense and has no precedent in practice.
It deserves noting that the issue of remedy and reparation is of great dimensions and far reaching implications. It concerns peace and security on the one hand, justice and conscience on the other. Moreover, it concerns not only the sacredness of the United Nations, but also the justice of international rule of law. Thus, the issue of remedy and reparation needs to be presented in a legal and procedural way. Historically, countries in the world victimized by internationally wrongful acts such as colonialism, external interference, unilateral sanctions and economic blockade have the right to seek remedy and reparation. The action taken by the General Assembly today should help to provide correct guidance for the settlement of possible future claims of relevant countries for remedy and reparation. Yet, the red-line is that it should help to maintain the impartial image of the UN that treats all member states equally. It should help to ensure various UN bodies can work in concert according to their respective mandates. Regrettably, the sponsor states did not organize consultations in earnest, did not substantively respond to the concerns of member states, and instead insisted on pushing the General Assembly to take a hasty action which is totally unconstructive.
As it is well-known that the Ukrainian crisis has been ongoing nearly nine months. It has sent shockwaves throughout the world and brought more uncertainty and instability to the world. Since the crisis serves no parties’ interests including Ukraine and Russia, China has appealed to all parties concerned to return to dialogue and negotiation as soon as possible. In so doing, the international community, including the General Assembly, should work actively to this end, instead of intensifying tensions, provoking confrontation and aggravating divides. In fact, China’s position on the Ukraine issue is clear and consistent. That is to say that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter must be fully observed. However, the legitimate security concerns of all countries must be also taken seriously. Accordingly, China endorses the tireless work with the international community to play a constructive role in promoting the early realization of ceasefire and cessation of hostilities.
To sum up, China has no bias against any parties concerned in the Ukrainian crisis. Yet, the key is that China must act a responsible power to upload the authority of the UN Charter and the credibility of the General Assembly. Given this, China decided to vote against the draft resolution along with more than ten other countries, though they were a minority. For the end of safeguarding true multilateralism and maintaining the international rule of law and fairness and justice, China has done as it should do as always.