China Uses UN General Assembly’s Annual Session to Promote Unilateralism and Boost its Global Influence

Ehsan Sadeqi Chimeh
October 2018

The 73rd annual session of the United Nations General Assembly was held at a time that protecting international peace and security, which is one of the main missions of the UN according to its Charter, was overshadowed by unilateral measures of the United States. All countries and officials taking part in the annual meeting tried to come up with their own solutions for the protection of international peace and security and share them with their counterparts. At the present time, the United States, which is among the founders of the international system and the Charter of the United Nations, is following certain policies that, as said before, are threatening the multilateral world order. On the other side, many stakeholders in this world order have been taking steps to take advantage of conditions created as a result of the United States’ policies and boost their own international clout through multilateral actions and cooperation with other international actors.
The actor of concern for us in this paper is the People’s Republic of China. Chia is one of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, one of the main financiers of this important international body, and one of the biggest forces taking part in the UN peacekeeping missions across the world. Now, in view of the global developments that result from the US administration’s policies, China has come into the limelight of international attention. This comes at a time that Beijing is under mounting pressure from Washington in political, security and economic fields. For example, US President Donald Trump has made frequent speeches both at the UN Security Council and at its General Assembly in which he has sharply criticized China over a variety of issues, including adoption of “unfair” trade policies or trying to interfere in the United States’ internal affairs.
The participation of the Chinese foreign minister at the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly at this sensitive juncture provided China with a good opportunity to give voice to its positions on important global challenges and expand its international influence.
Chinese foreign minister’s positions at the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly
-To encourage member states of the UN to adopt multilateral policies
The Chinese foreign minister argued that the existing world order has been created on the basis of the goals and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. He maintained that these principles could be only bolstered through multilateral actions. To defend this 70-year international order, he noted that this order has been conducive to peace and development for all countries in the world. However, he added that international norms and multilateral mechanisms are currently under attack from adventurist and unilateral policies, which have cast doubt on the future outlook of this order due to the abundance of factors that foment uncertainty and instability.
-Inviting other states to take serious part in maintaining international peace and security
The Chinese foreign minister maintained that China, as a country and a responsible actor in the international system, considered itself committed to development of peace and was trying to closely cooperate with other countries in this regard. At the same time, he noted, this country would also play a part in restoration of global peace and security.
In his viewpoint, major issues and challenges that exist, which must be overcome within the framework of the UN mission to protect international peace and security, are as follows:
1.On the Korean peninsula: The Chinese foreign minister invited all involved parties to move toward nuclear disarmament on the Korean peninsula and establishing mechanisms to create permanent peace in that region;
2.On the JCPOA: The Chinese foreign minister called on all parties to this international accord to implement their obligations and remain committed to it;
3.On the issue of Palestine: He encouraged all involved parties to start a new round of talks to find mediatory mechanisms for the resolution of the Palestinian crisis;
4.On the Rohingya crisis: The Chinese foreign minister urged rapid resolution of the ongoing crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine state to speed up return of refugees to their homes.
He also highlighted the United Nations’ pioneer role in showing coordinated reactions to nontraditional security challenges at international level, which the Chinese foreign minister argued was necessary to establish global peace and security.
-Defending balanced global development and free trade
1.Emphasizing the necessity of going ahead with the development drive and calling on other countries to adopt policies conforming to their domestic conditions in order to achieve this goal;
2.Highlighting the need to adapt countries to the globalizing trend of economy and emphasizing the comprehensive and balanced nature of this trend, which can has major benefits for all international parties;
3.The Chinese foreign minister also defended the global free trade and international norms. The Chinese foreign minister highlighted the existing gaps in the free trade system, noting that China will not submit to the existing pressures, which was an allusion to the ongoing trade war between China and the United States;
4.He also emphasized rapid implementation of the 2030 sustainable development agenda and called on member states to make that agenda part of development strategies for their countries.
Chinese foreign minister’s speech at the US Council on Foreign Relations
The Chinese foreign minister also took part in a meeting at the US Council on Foreign Relations and in his speech, he defended China’s desirable model for globalization. He rejected accusations by American officials that China is trying to become the world’s hegemonic power and noted that the accusation was the result of a serious strategic misunderstanding on the part of the United States. From the viewpoint of China’s foreign minister, tensions and suspicions between China and the United States were natural, because the two countries were ruled by two totally different political and social systems with different levels of development. However, the issue that was stressed by the Chinese foreign minister was the approach that must be taken to differences, how to assess them and how to manage them. He added that China was neither trying to challenge the United States, nor to establish a new world order.
In short, this important international multilateral session provided China with a good and valuable opportunity to expand its international influence and make an effort to fill the void created by the United States’ absence in global multilateral mechanisms. Of course, other power poles within the international system, including the United States and the European Union, have always looked at China’s efforts with suspicion, and many of their analysts have noted that adoption of unilateral policies by the United States has provided China with an opportunity to spearhead the fresh drive for the creation of the new international order. However, from Iran's viewpoint, this issue can be considered as a new opportunity that an emerging power like China, which has close relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, would emphasize global multilateralism. This will also allow Beijing to join hands with other emerging powers to maintain international norms and take a major leap toward creation of a multipolar world.