Episode 30 | How is China Changing - And Being Changed by - the UN

Episode 30

How China is Changing - And Being Changed by - the UN

Released on March 28, 2021


China’s growing clout in the world economy is being matched ever more closely by its rising influence over major international institutions — none more so than the United Nations. For several years now, Chinese leaders have extolled the UN’s virtues as the most authoritative multilateral body in world affairs. But more recently it has taken action to back its rhetoric, becoming the second-biggest contributor to the UN’s financial coffers. Chinese citizens have also taken several leading roles in UN organisations.

Yet China’s growing presence in the UN has come during a period when the institution’s focus has shifted in ways that seem to run counter to Beijing’s interests and beliefs, for example in the UN’s increased willingness to intervene within countries to resolve conflict or protect human rights.

Meanwhile China’s actions at the UN, for example in vetoing several attempts to put more pressure on the government in war-torn Syria, have drawn heavy criticism from major Western powers, and raised questions about whether its approach to international relations conflicts with the UN’s developing conception of its own role in global affairs.

To help unpick and explain some of these issues we are joined by Professor Rosemary Foot, a senior research fellow in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford. Rosemary’s new book, ‘China, the UN, and Human Protection’, offers a superb analysis of China and its approach to the UN. We will also hear insights from Courtney Fung, an associate professor in International Relations at the University of Hong Kong who also written and researched extensively on China’s role at the UN.

Rosemary Foot

Rosemary Foot is Professor and Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Relations. She is also an associate of the China Centre, and an Emeritus Fellow of St Antony's College. Previously she was Professor of International Relations, and the John Swire Senior Research Fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford University from 1990-2014. She was Senior Tutor, 2003-2005, and Acting Warden of the College from December 2011 to September 2012. She studied at the University of Essex (1972), the London School of Oriental and African Studies (1973), and the London School of Economics and Political Science where she completed a Ph.D. degree in 1977. She then took up a post as Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Sussex, in the School of English and American Studies, acting as Sub Dean of the School from 1985 and 1987, and moving to Oxford in 1990.

Courtney Fung (@CourtneyFung)

Courtney Fung is an associate professor of international relations in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong. She is concurrently an associate-in-research at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University and an associate fellow in the Asia-Pacific Programme at Chatham House. She was a 2016 - 2017 research fellow with the East Asia Institute in their Program on Peace, Governance, and Development in East Asia, and an honorary research fellow at the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. She earned her B.Sc. in international relations from the London School of Economics, her M.A. in security policy studies from the George Washington University, and her Ph.D. in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. She also appeared on Episode 12.

China, the UN, and Human Protection: Beliefs, Power, Image

By Rosemary Foot
Over a short period of time, Beijing moved from dismissing the UN to embracing it. How are we to make sense of China’s embrace of the UN, and what does its engagement mean in larger terms? This study focuses directly on Beijing’s involvement in one of the most contentious areas of UN activity – human protection – contentious because the norm of human protection tips the balance away from the UN’s Westphalian state-based profile, towards the provision of greater protection for the security of individuals and their individual liberties.
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