Briefing Paper

A strong voice for global sustainable development: how China can play a leading role in the Post-2015 Agenda

Ye, Jiang / Thomas Fues
Briefing Paper (2/2014)

Bonn: German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

To the surprise of many, China has taken a pro-active stance in negotiations on the post-2015 agenda for global development at the United Nations (UN). In September 2013, the government issued a comprehensive position paper that aptly addresses a wide range of global challenges, from poverty eradication, inclusive growth and ecological conservation to international trade and the reform of global economic governance. The statement also impresses with a candid assessment of domestic advances and deficiencies, for example, income disparities and environmental degradation.
China’s position converges with major UN reports in key aspects, such as the overriding concern for poverty eradication and sustainable development. The paper diverges from these documents by rejecting the integration of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and by excluding political factors such as good governance and human rights.
The position paper of September 2013 may not be China’s final word on the post-2015 agenda. Shortly after its publication, the country demonstrated considerable flexibility by agreeing to a resolution of the UN General Assembly which emphasises the need for a single set of goals and underlines the significance of political framework conditions for development – positions which China had previously rejected.
China’s early intervention represents an exemplary case of articulating national priorities. The country should now move to the second stage of pro-active policy formulation by specifying its contributions and ambitions. Recent statements of the communist party leadership signal a heightened interest in global governance. The ongoing negotiations on post-2015 offer a historical opportunity for China to demonstrate its commitment by increasing material support for South-South development cooperation and the provision of global public goods. The government should support the integration of MDGs and SDGs and open up to the concerns of fragile and conflictaffected countries, as articulated by the African Union and the interstate alliance G7+.
Also, China should use its influence in the global South to work for an ambitious post-2015 agenda, thus breaking the persistent gridlock in international affairs. In parallel, the country’s leadership should accelerate domestic transformation towards a low-carbon, resource-light model of prosperity and overcome social disparities.
Propelled by theses priorities, China’s leadership could significantly enhance the country’s soft power and international reputation. Acting as a bridge between the G77 and industrial countries, China could strengthen the authority of the United Nations as the legitimate guardian of global well-being. Advanced countries like Germany should follow the Chinese example by providing a comprehensive plan of action for international and domestic policies aligned to the post-2015 agenda.

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