Authors: Max-Otto Baumann, Sebastian Haug and Silke Weinlich
China has become an increasingly visible player across the UN development pillar as its funding for, staff representation in and diplomatic engagement with UN development work have expanded. In light of the financial and political resources at its disposal, however, China’s engagement has largely remained moderate and selective. The thematic priorities and selected arenas China has focused on include rural development, big data and South-South and triangular cooperation.
China appears to be taking an increasingly assertive and long-term approach towards changing some of the traditional contours of UN development work. Attempts to enshrine Chinese concepts in UN resolutions and the Global Development Initiative seem to be directed at building the foundation for development multilateralism with Chinese characteristics. The significant increase in the number of Chinese interns at the UN seems to be a deliberate investment in better understanding and shaping the UN in the future.
China can make use of an asset that Western member states do not have at their disposal: the combination of its roles as a superpower and a UN programme country. China has capitalised on this duality to expand ties with the UN, notably through South-South cooperation support schemes. While many Western powers approach UN development organisations as project implementers, China has UN entities act as brokers or facilitators for processes and initiatives that are more immediately relevant to Chinese interests.
The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.