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China is of growing importance to the United Nations. Beijing aims to exert influence at the world body to legitimise and disseminate its foreign policy values and interests.
This report contextualises China’s growing presence at the United Nations by examining publicly available data on four metrics that gauge Beijing’s success in steering the global governance agenda. Those metrics are: funding for UN departments, programs, and initiatives; staffing of executive-level personnel positions; voting in the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council; and the use of PRC-specific discourse and language in UN-generated documentation.
The United Nations has become progressively more reliant on China’s general contributions, and in turn China has used a combination of levers to elevate its position within the UN system. However, this report finds that China is still selective in its overall approach to UN participation and that efforts by the PRC do not necessarily translate into successful influence at the body.
The report makes three recommendations for UN stakeholders. First, a deeper understanding must be gained of what China contributes across different UN agencies and functional areas to establish a more complete picture of its multilateral input. Second, efforts should be made to shape China’s engagement in multilateral issues, in particular those that the PRC is yet to prioritise, such as refugee management. Third, it is vital to articulate an inclusive multilateral vision for a rules-based international order that specifies under which conditions China’s contributions are embraced, rather than framing PRC input solely as a source of concern.