US should act to counter China’s subversion of UN, commission says in report to Congress

The US should take steps to counter China’s efforts to subvert the principles of the United Nations and its bodies, including preparing a report on Beijing’s actions to influence votes of UN members, an American commission has recommended in a new report submitted to Congress.

The report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which was submitted on Tuesday, comes against the backdrop of concerns in New Delhi and other world capitals about the outsize influence wielded by China in UN bodies at a time when the efforts to reform the world body have made little headway.

The commission recommended the US Congress should direct the state department to produce annual reports “detailing China’s actions in the United Nations and its subordinate agencies that subvert the principles and purposes of the United Nations”. Such reports should document China’s actions that violate UN treaties and are meant to “influence the votes of United Nations members, including through coercive means”.

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The reports should also list China’s actions to “nominate or support candidates for United Nations leadership positions that do not adhere to United Nations standards for impartiality or are subject to the influence of the Chinese government,” and actions by Chinese nationals and others holding UN positions who appear to support the Chinese government’s interests in violation of UN impartiality standards.

The commission further recommended the reports should document actions by “Chinese military and support personnel engaged in United Nations peacekeeping operations that are inconsistent with the principles governing these missions, including China’s deployment of these personnel to protect its economic interests and improve the power projection capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army”.

The commission was scathing in its analysis of China’s role at the UN, saying Beijing’s efforts to “transform global governance is really a call to change the UN system to bring it more in line with Beijing’s principles” and preferences.

“Beijing has sought to bring international law and the UN’s definition of human rights more in line with its own interests by decreasing emphasis on individual rights. China is the second-largest donor to the UN after the United States: it provides 12 percent of the UN’s total budget, up from 1 percent 20 years ago. The CCP [Chinese Communist Party] seeks to use this as leverage to reduce funding for human rights-related functions such as human rights officers in peacekeeping missions,” the report said.

Besides, China has sought to use UN legal instruments such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea for its own gain, and also exploits its influence over UN organisations to “promote specific Chinese foreign policy objectives, contrary to both the spirit and the letter of how the UN was intended to operate,” the commission said.

Noting that Chinese officials currently hold the post of director general of four out of 15 UN specialised agencies – Food and Agriculture Organization, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Telecommunications Union and United Nations Industrial Development Organization – the commission said these officials “violate UN standards of conduct and leverage the institutions they lead to promote China’s political objectives, such as policies concerning Taiwan”.

China’s election to the UN Human Rights Council in October, albeit with fewer votes than in 2016, created concerns against the backdrop of developments in Xinjiang and Hong and its assertive actions in areas ranging from the South China Sea to Taiwan to Ladakh.

In New Delhi, China is often seen as a key force stymieing reforms of the UN and the Security Council, including its expansion to include more permanent members such as India. China is the only P5 member that hasn’t backed India’s admission into a reformed and expanded Security Council.

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