UN's role in spotlight amid crises
China spearheads UN in safeguarding intl order, multilateralism
Published: Sep 21, 2020 09:53 PM Updated: Sep 21, 2020 10:15 PM

United Nations headquarters in New York Photo: Xinhua

As the world is struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, regional conflicts, growing geopolitical confrontations and a weak economy, the UN kicked off  high-level events this week in a virtual format for the first time, which raised a lingering question: Will a virtual UN assembly address real world challenges and offer solutions, or is the UN still relevant?  

The answer from Chinese analysts is that the UN is needed now more than ever, and its relevance can only be strengthened, not weakened, amid US  hegemony and unilateralism. 

The UN week officially started on Monday with high-level events marking its 75th anniversary.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday made four proposals on the development of the UN and its role in the post-COVID era, the Xinhua News Agency reported. 

The UN must stand firm for justice, uphold the rule of law, promote cooperation and focus on real action, said Xi while addressing a high-level meeting to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the UN via video.

With the theme, "The future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism," Monday's meeting was aimed at reinvigorating multilateral action to tackle global challenges.

On Tuesday, nearly all permanent members of the UN Security Council were scheduled to speak, which will see the largest participation of world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Several major events, including a General Debate, summit on biodiversity, and the fourth world conference on women, will take place mostly virtually until October 5.

Liu Xinsheng, a member of UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee and former Chinese ambassador to Cyprus, told the Global Times on Monday that the UN usually holds anniversary activities every five or 10 years, and this year the commemorations were especially needed as many countries dissatisfied by the US withdrawal from international organizations expect the UN to play a bigger role, and are expected to voice support for multilateralism. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many global conferences and events this year to either cut scale or cancel, the UN events have provided a platform for world leaders to address their challenges, Liu said.  

'Battlefield' in US-China rivalry?

The UN's significance was undermined during the Cold War when the US manipulated the UN. But after the Cold War, its role in improving the global economy and upholding multilateralism has been strengthened, especially with China as the mainstay in UN to firmly safeguard the international order and system with the UN at the core, analysts said. 

Some Western media, which called the UN's high-level events "zoom diplomacy" and "gigantic international parties with no one showing up," questioned the effectiveness of the virtual meetings, and the relevance of the UN, as it failed to end wars in Syria, Yemen or Libya, and the number of people forcibly displaced worldwide has doubled over the past decade, and the number suffering acute hunger is also expected to nearly double by the end of the year. 

Amid US sanctions, hegemony and trade protectionism, the role of the UN in leading the positive development of the global pattern and improving global governance is particularly important, and the UN's guidance in tackling the worsening global issues on human rights, inequality and climate change is also irreplaceable, Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times. 

"As the world is at the crossroads of whether to globalize, go the multilateral way or de-couple, the role of the UN can only be strengthened, not weakened,"Li said. 

Liu said that this year's COVID-19 pandemic also proved that the UN's role has improved, as it has been the core coordinator in global actions to combat the disease. 

During the High-Level Meeting on Monday, member states will formally adopt a declaration, vowing to build a post-pandemic world promoting justice, equality, and protection, the UN said.

The declaration, published on the UN's website, said it is the only global organization that "gives hope to so many people for a better world, and can deliver the future we want."

Some critics ironically claimed the UN, which was born out of the horrors of World War II, has turned itself into a battlefield for the China-US rivalry in recent years, which Chinese analysts criticized. 

"Such views are narrow-minded and not fair to the UN, which has been a platform to tackle global crises, and a forum to settle differences between countries, including the US and China," Li said.

Li added the world has to be alerted that it was the US politicians who have been sparing no efforts to use multilateral platforms to split the world into different camps. 

United Nations Photo: VCG


The world will watch on Tuesday when the leaders of China, the US and Russia speak. 

Chinese analysts said Trump will probably continue to blame countries, such as China, for the global pandemic and economic slump, while attacking China on issues like Xinjiang, Hong Kong and South China Sea. 

However, no one will buy his stories, as the US has increasingly isolated itself on global issues, analysts said. 

In the most recent example, the US attempt to re-impose sanctions on Iran was repulsed. 

More and more countries have seen through the old tricks of the US to attack China's human rights situation in Xinjiang at the UN Human Rights Council, Liu said. 

The international order is going through a change, especially with tensions between the US and China, Pakistani Ambassador Moin ul Haque told the Global Times at the Peace Garden Peace Festival on Monday. 

 "We should avoid the Cold War mentality and unilateralism, which will be defeated by the multilateral approach, in which China is leading that way," Haque said. 

China is expected to voice the significance of multilateralism, to safeguard the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and defend the UN-centered international system and order based on international law at the UN High-Level Meeting, analysts said. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on September 10 issued the Position Paper of  China on the 75th Anniversary of the UN, saying the anniversary presents opportunities, and the international community should jointly uphold the outcome of the World Anti-Fascist War and reject unilateralism, hegemony and power politics. China is ready to work with all countries to build a community with a shared future for humanity, the paper said.

Internationally, China and Russia have been playing an increasingly important role in improving the US-dominated world order.  They also recently confronted Western countries in a number of international issues, and more countries have been joining China and Russia to hold on to the consensus of building a multilateral, just and equal order, analysts said. 

The UN declaration called for an upgrade of the UN to create a more agile, effective, and accountable organization that can deliver better in the field and adapt to global challenges.

The UN was established after World War II to promote peace and prosperity. But with the changing times, the Pakistani ambassador said the UN's role also has to evolve.

Chinese analysts said UN reform should focus on balancing fairness and efficiency, on representation and the voice of developing countries, especially small and medium-sized countries in international affairs.

China has been promoting its reform in accordance with basic UN principles and rules. China initiated the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and other international economic organizations, which made the world pay more attention to infrastructure problems restricting the growth of developing countries, analysts said.

It's worth mentioning that the new international economic organization which China initiated will not replace the old organization, but will complement it, analysts said.

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