By Shah Rukh Hashmi
The 66th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China witnessed multi-dimensional initiatives on domestic, regional and global levels. These include a war against corruption primarily in mainland China, the revival of the ancient Silk route in the 21st century i.e. One Belt One Road (OBOR), the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and a most recent overwhelming contribution to the United Nations’ human and financial capital funds as the global institution celebrated its 70th anniversary. This was President Xi’s first appearance at the United Nations and reflects his overall policy.
China experienced injustice from the world community for more than two decades in the aftermath of the fall of the Nationalist Kuomintang. For those two decades the most populous country in the world was deliberately deprived of its legitimate right to be recognized by the United Nation. This left mainland China with several policy options: surrender, subjugate its rightful claim and denounce the United Nations or pursue eventual recognition with patience and devotion. China opted to pursue the latter and restored its rightful place in the United Nations.
Subsequently China is leading the United Nations in the General Assembly. President Xi Spoke to the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit and offered several commitments and lucrative pledges. These includes $2 billion to achieve post 2015 development goals and $12 billion investment in least developed states, in order to bridge the gap between the policy and execution of development goals. Mr. Xi extended another generous offer by writing off intergovernmental interest free loans to the least developed countries and small island nations, a practical commitment which will help achieve new development goals. Achieving even the limited success of the Millennium Development Goals owes a great deal to Chinese efforts. China set the precedent for the Global South to meet the challenge of poverty.
The United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon labeled China as an indispensable partner for the United Nations Agenda of world Peace and Development. At the same time, the United Nations is looking for a strong and more determined role that China can play for the empowerment of women and Gender Equality in the world. The conference on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment or, informally, Beijing+20, is co-organized by U.N. Women and China. Additionally, China committed $10 million for United Nations Women. Certainly, historians will favorably view China’s role in the United Nations today and wonder about the partial, unfair and irrational policies toward China in the past.
Traditionally, the United States takes strong stands on Human Rights issues as the basic principle of its foreign policy goals. However, Beijing +20, changed the dynamics and offered Beijing strong credentials to lead the issue at the global forum. Though, the present situation on gender equality and the empowerment of women is not ideal in China, the less active role of the United States created a vacuum that favored China in the United Nations. Mrs. Clinton posted on twitter, ‘Xi hosting a meeting on women’s rights at the UN while persecuting feminists? Shameless.’
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 27, 2015
It’s nothing more than a prejudicial and political statement. However, President Obama did not personally participate in the meeting. South-South Cooperation seems to be more pragmatic with China’s active participation and leadership. There will be 600 projects in trade, education, healthcare, climate change, poverty reduction, and agriculture along with an international development knowledge center. Aid, trade, knowledge and participation will be shared equally. In the past, aid hijacked trade, technical skills, transfer of knowledge and technology. Mr. Xi promised a $1 billion donation to the United Nations for a “peace and development fund,” which will produce better results for the development of the global south and facilitate the achievement of post development goals. While addressing the United Nations General Assembly President Xi, extended $100 million in aid to the African Union for the establishment of a Quick Response force that can deal with emergencies.
Furthermore, China exceeds the other four powers of the Security Council in terms of its contribution of troops to United Nation’s Peacekeeping missions. Thus, the announcement of an additional 8000 permanent Peacekeeping forces was met with amazement and awe in the United Nations. The United States call for a greater role for China in Global Affairs from the United Nations platform can be considered satisfactory. A gigantic country, with a large population, resources, rising economy and responsible power is ready to take part in global affairs with shared but different responsibilities.
Though he assumed the office of President only in 2012, President Xi’s first entrance in the United Nations and pledges and promises made by him are noteworthy. Initiatives taken by him on the domestic front particularly in curbing corruption and the formation of a national Security Council are steps for rejuvenation of the great nation. However extreme centralization of power and concentration around his office received huge criticism. As stated by Lord Acton ‘Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ there are risks and chances of mishandling of issues. On the forging of policy front the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the One Belt One Road; the revival of traditional Silk Route in the 21st century, are challenging as well as promising projects. Yet, execution, implementation and materialization of these steps will be the test case for Chinese leadership. The future narrative of Xi’s rule will be defined by these mega and anticipated projects both domestically and on foreign frontiers. If these gigantic tasks are articulated, managed and executed well, it can be assumed the century will be the Chinese century and China will lead the world.
Republished with the author’s permission.
Shah Rukh Hashmi is a PhD (International Relations) Scholar at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Jilin University, PR China