published on The Loop, 14.07.2023
Chinese engagement with the UN development pillar reflects a notion of multilateralism that differs from established (Western) concepts. These concepts frame UN entities as actors in their own right, nurtured by core resources and drawing legitimacy from their neutrality. China seems to see the UN more as a platform for facilitating bilateral exchanges, thriving on individual member state contributions. The Chinese approach could help adjust the UN to changing political realities, but brings risks for its commitment to individual and human rightsChina’s approach receives low scores on conventional global governance indices. But it might well offer a mechanism for adjusting the UN to changing political realities. Beyond Chinese power and expertise, a stronger – and more explicit – focus on bilateral stakes might strengthen the UN’s relevance among an increasingly divided membership. It might also open avenues for drawing on development solutions from across the board, and overcoming outdated North-South assistance models. However, China’s approach also comes with a major risk. A UN built more directly around states’ discrete and immediate priorities will find it difficult to maintain its commitment to individual and human rights and a long-term focus on global public goods. In line with the UN Charter, it is in the interest of all member states to ensure that the global organisation provides a stable normative foundation for multilateral cooperation.