50 Years of China at UN: true multilateralism and building of a community with a shared future for mankind.

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By Allawi Ssemanda.

Yesterday, 25th of October marked 50 years since United Nations’ (UN) 26th session of the General Assembly passed Resolution number 2758 restoring full rights of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations. The resolution meant that only representatives sent by Beijing were the only legitimate representatives of the country. To Chinese people, this was a huge victory and arguably a victory to entire world especially the Global South.

Despite being a founding member of the UN and one of only 5 permanent members of the UN and Chinese delegation which included Dong Biwu on behalf of Communist Party of China signing the Charter of the United Nations in June 1945, representatives of defeated Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomingtang government still occupied China’s seat at UN despite the country having new leadership. Resolution 2758 which was sponsored by Albania, Algeria and other 21 countries meant that China’s rights at UN were restored and representatives of Kuomingtanga were expelled with only representatives of PRC government being reorganised as the only legitimate representatives of China to the UN. Uganda is among other countries that overwhelming supported China’s return to the UN.

In many ways, this resolution was a turning point and a good move for the well-being of all UN member countries especially developing countries and entire global south. Since regaining her rightful seat at the UN, China has always used its position at UN both as a member and one of only five countries with permanent position to vote in support of developing countries. China also on many occasions has used her position at the UN to defend Africa and other developing countries’ sovereignty with Beijing’s non-interference policy in affairs of other independent countries. For example, using its position at UN as a permanent member, when the U.S lead invasion of Libya allegedly to defend human rights citing resolution 1676 which calls for Responsibility to Protect (R2P), China and other countries proposed Responsibility While Protecting (RWP) arguing that if a country invades another on pretext of R2P, that country should be held to account to ensure lives and property of people and their rights are protected since most interventions often result into disastrous wars as was the case in Iraq and Libya among others. Also, International politics experts argues that responsible protection is important explaining that it would help in case of any foreign interference or invasion in affairs of another country, intervening countries take responsibility and be held to account in case of any violations.

Put differently, despite enjoying veto powers as a permanent member, China has always respected and supported principal of fairness, justice and respecting international laws and norms which calls for respect for all independent UN member countries. The Chinese believe in equality nonmatter one’s country, colour or race. If taken from the former Chinese leader’s words Deng Xiaoping; “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.” In other words, it doesn’t matter whether the country is big, rich or small. Provided it is an independent country, its territories and people must be respected.

Indeed, speaking during a conference to mark the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the People’s Republic of China’s lawful seat in the United Nations, president Xi Jinping was clear. “We should vigorously advocate for peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom, which are the common values of humanity, and work together to provide the right guiding philosophy for building a better world. Peace and development are our common cause, equity and justice our common aspiration, and democracy and freedom our common pursuit. The world we live in is diverse and colorful. Diversity makes human civilization what it is, and provides a constant source of vitality and driving force for world development.” In this context, The Chinese have taught us that despite our differences, we must strive to live in peace and harmony while respecting each other.  Quoting a Chinese saying, President Xi observed that “Without achieving the good of one hundred various schools, the uniqueness of one individual cannot be achieved. No civilization in the world is superior to others; every civilization is special and unique to its own region.”

For the last fifty years, China and Chinese people in general have proved to the world especially developing countries China’s readiness and willingness to work together for the well-being of mankind. From supporting the construction of Tanzania-Zambia railway line also known as Tazara Railway in 1960s when China was a poor country to today’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China has proved beyond reasonable doubt that Beijing is a friend in need.  BRI has so far improved infrastructure in more than 141 countries and about 32 international organizations. World Bank and experts from other organizations project that BRI will on top of easing transportation of goods and services across the world, the project has provided employment opportunities to thousands of people in countries implementing the project.

In support world’s health sector, as the world’s largest developing country, China is the second largest contributor to World Health Organisation’s annual budget. Taking the example of containing the current Covid-19 pandemic, as the rest of developed countries embrace vaccine nationalism, as of today, China has contributed over 1.2 billion doses of vaccines to more than 100 developing countries. This is in addition to Beijing $100 million to Covax program. From all the above and Chinese example, we learn that to succeed, countries must work together for the well-being of their people. As president Xi observed while marking China’s return to UN; “The human race is an integral community and Earth is our common homeland. No person or country can thrive in isolation. Humanity should overcome difficulties in solidarity and pursue common development in harmony.”

From security perspective, China has also played a leadership role in ensuring the world is a peaceful place to live in. Since 1990, China has deployed over 50,000 peacekeepers under the UN in over 25 UN peacekeeping missions including in South Sudan. Today, China is the largest UN peace keeping contributor with over 2,500 personnel deployed in different UN peace operations. China is also the second world’s largest contributor of UN budget contributing 12%.

The writer is the executive director of Development Watch Centre, a foreign policy think tank, and author of Why Africa Deserves a Permanent Seat on United Nations Security Council.





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