The annual UN General Assembly and the controversial topics related to China and the United States will always be the focus of public opinion. During the UN General Assembly in 2018, US President Donald Trump accused China of interfering in the US midterm elections in order to elect the Republican election in the midterm. As a result, this allegation is gone. At this year’s UN General Assembly meeting, Trump made various criticisms of China as usual, and there was no change in content and intensity, but the effects were very general. Looking at the contest between China and the United States in the United Nations personnel arrangements in the past year, the United States seems to be slightly inferior.
On September 24th, Trump criticized China’s “unfair” trade policy in the UN General Assembly speech, but even so, Trump and his aides remained positive on trade negotiations after the meeting. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow even mentioned on September 26 that China has bought soy and pork in the commodity market in recent days, convinced him that China may soon reach a trade agreement with the United States.
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce also said that it has purchased a considerable amount of US soybeans and pork. On September 26, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who represented China at the UN General Assembly, also mentioned that the United States “shows good will and actions in China’s import tariffs on goods.”
In addition, Trump also mentioned Hong Kong in the speech of the UN General Assembly, and also accused China on issues such as religious freedom, but overall it continued the number of roads before, and public opinion did not form an overwhelming advantage. The United States has limited pressure on China’s pressure on the United Nations platform.
In fact, from the perspective of Trump’s confrontation with China on the United Nations stage after he took office, China clearly began to occupy certain advantages. The US’s blind pursuit of isolationist diplomacy, coupled with its scornful attitude toward relevant UN agencies and mechanisms, has led to a decline in its influence.
During the 74th UN General Assembly, the issue of UN membership fees was raised again. The Trump administration’s cuts in UN contributions are partly due to Trump and the conservatives behind him who believe that UN agencies are bloated, inefficient, and that some institutions are even “illegal”, eroding US leadership on the UN stage.
But China’s vision is completely different.
The Chinese government views the United Nations as an excellent arena for expanding and demonstrating China’s economic and strategic role. China is currently the second contributor to the United Nations and the second largest contributor to peacekeeping in the world. As the second contributor to China, China paid full payment of 12.01% of the regular budget of the United Nations, or $334.7 million, on May 3, 2019. The total US arrears are as high as $8 billion. In addition, the number of Chinese overseas peacekeeping troops is as high as 2,500, far exceeding the total number of peacekeepers in the four other UN Security Council member states. In 1990, China’s peacekeeping contribution was only five people.
The United States’ arrears in United Nations funding are largely “political” reasons. According to a poll released by the poll research institute Pew Research Center on September 23, most Americans (59%) are positive about the United Nations. However, this attitude varies greatly between the two parties in the United States. Among them, only 36% of Republicans have a positive attitude toward the United Nations, and the Democratic Party has a 77% support for the United Nations. The attitude of the Republican Party is the most negative one since 1990.
In addition to the arrears of contributions, the Trump administration’s efforts to block the Chinese from holding important positions in the United Nations for two years have had little effect.
On January 22 this year, UN Secretary-General Guterres appointed Xia Huang from China as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa. He officially took up his duties on April 1. At that time, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, blocked the appointment of the United Nations but ultimately failed. On the one hand, the United States has passively responded to the multilateral agenda of the United Nations.
Other Chinese who serve in UN agencies are also concerned by international public opinion. For example, Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs; Zhao Houlin, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union, which opened his fourth term in January 2019; defeated France and Georgia in June 2019, and was elected as Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. China was then Vice Minister of Rural Agriculture Qu Dongyu and so on.
Even the China-based Belt and Road project has been supported by the UN leadership.
Amina J. Mohammed, UN Under-Secretary-General, made it clear in 2018 that the Belt and Road Initiative can contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. She even called on African leaders to support the Belt and Road construction and improve their own economic and infrastructure through such projects. In April this year, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the “One Belt, One Road International Cooperation Forum” in Beijing that the green economy is the future. It promotes prosperity, creates decent work, resolves the root causes of conflicts, and contributes to the full enjoyment of human rights.
On the contrary, the United States sang against Taiwan in the United Nations and China. In addition to criticizing the Belt and Road project and boycotting Huawei technology on a global scale, the Trump administration has also used the UN platform to criticize China’s trade policy, human rights record, and global power expansion. So far, the US efforts in this area have not received significant results.
The analysis believes that since the end of the Cold War, China has begun to actively assume the responsibility of the major powers and shoulder more international missions. This is complementary to the growth of China’s strength and influence. At the same time, the decline in US leadership, especially the spillover effect of the political struggle between the two parties in Washington, the United States, has made it impossible for the United States to arbitrarily give orders as in the past. Now, both China and the United States are calling for reform of relevant UN agencies, but how to change it is also a new game between the leadership and thinking of the two countries.