- The United States is worried about more Chinese being elected to lead United Nations agencies, but there is an element of hypocrisy in the American efforts to stymie the rise of a rival
The United States and its allies are increasingly fretting about China's growing influence in the United Nations, which marks its 75th anniversary this year.
With four of the body's 15 specialised international agencies that support its work already headed by Chinese, and elections to the end of 2021 set to choose the leadership of nine more, efforts are well under way to cajole and sway voting nations.
The concern is that Beijing will use its muscle to reshape the existing international order to its advantage. There is an obvious element of hypocrisy; that is exactly what Americans and their supporters have been doing for decades by using multilateral organisations to impose their will on others.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation, International Telecommunication Union, UN Industrial Development Organisation and International Civil Aviation Organisation are already headed by Chinese nationals. Britain, France and the US direct the same number of such bodies.
Campaigning is under way to choose the next director general of the World Intellectual Property Organisation, and with its Chinese deputy among the front runners, horse-trading and pressure tactics are rife.
Intellectual property protection is a key part of the trade war between China and the US, while American efforts to prevent the growth of Huawei and other Chinese hi-tech firms are in top gear. The UN's intellectual property agency has a major role in global patents and trademarks.
Beijing claims that it has made substantial inroads to meet international standards, and allegations that its privately run technology firms are fronts for state-sponsored spying have never been proven. Still, American campaigning for its preferred candidates hinges on claims that Chinese leadership would erode fair governance.
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But the US-led efforts are also about stymying the progress of a rival. American President Donald Trump's aversion to multilateral organisations is reason for Beijing to step in and take its place, and it is doing so with the support of allies in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere.
Under President Xi Jinping, China has dramatically increased its UN spending, and it is now the second-biggest contributor, behind the US, to the general budget and peacekeeping. As a rising and responsible power, there is no good reason to bar China from having a bigger stake in the global multilateral system.
The UN, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other key parts of the multilateral order were established by the victors of World War II, with the US and its allies setting the rules. Reforms are much-needed to reflect the changed world seven decades later, but pressure has been resisted. China and other rising nations should not be denied their rightful place at the international table.
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