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Brett D. Schaefer is the Jay Kingham fellow in International Regulatory Affairs at The Heritage Foundation. Schaefer analyzes a broad range of foreign policy issues, focusing primarily on international organizations and sub-Saharan Africa. Read his research.
Chinese influence is on the rise within the United Nations system. Qu Dongyu became director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization this month, raising the number of Chinese nationals leading a U.N. specialized agency to four.
Trend - China - Force - Values - Programs
This trend is concerning, because China is not a benign force internationally. It is seeking to shift the values, programs, and policies of the U.N. in ways that benefit Chinese priorities and ideology and that undermine the values and practices that have underpinned the international system for decades.
A spate of recent news articles highlighting Chinese influence in the U.N. system commonly attributes Beijing’s ascension to a U.S. “retreat from international leadership” under President Trump. Yet the expansion of Chinese influence in the U.N. system is not a new phenomenon nor is it solely attributable to the current U.S. administration.
UN - Agency - Margaret - Chan - Reins
The first Chinese national to lead a U.N. specialized agency was Margaret Chan, who took the reins at the World Health Organization in 2007. Six years later, Li Yong became director-general of the U.N. Industrial Development Organization. In 2015, Houlin Zhao became secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union, and Fang Liu became secretary-general of the International Civil Aviation Organization in 2015.
These last three appointments–all of whom continue to lead their organizations–occurred under President Obama’s watch.
Influence - United - Nations - Trump - Oval
In short, Chinese influence in the United Nations was rising well before Trump entered the Oval Office. Regardless of why this development is now receiving attention when it did not under the previous administration, it is a legitimate concern deserving notice and response.
As Chinese influence has grown, so has its ability to assert policies at odds with...
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