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China faces skeptics with UNGA for world leadership status

To make matters worse, this year Xi’s Zoom invitation has been revoked – leaders are required to attend in person.

Instead, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will address the General Assembly – albeit now relegated to a weekend time slot – to project an image of his boss as a statesman. worldwide solved with innovative solutions to the world’s most intractable problems.

Expect Wang to pepper his speech with the usual bromides about “win-win cooperation”, “inclusive growth” and a “people-centered approach” designed to present Xi as a strong supporter of the United Nations system.

But this verbal smokescreen is meant to ease international dismay at China’s alignment with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, its abuses of Uyghurs in Xinjiang and its aggressive military intimidation of Taiwan.

He’s not likely to win many friends.

Instead, Wang’s speech will be aimed as much at an audience back in China as it is at diplomats and heads of state gathered at Turtle Bay – an airbrushed portrayal of Xi’s approaching international diplomacy. of the 20th Party Congress next month where he will extend his rule for at least another five years.

Wang will hammer home those messages by offering Beijing-led alternatives — including the Global Security Initiative and the Global Development Initiative — to what officials see as a US-dominated, government-ravaged international system. instability. Xi’s aim is to build support from countries in the South for a narrative that positions China as the logical successor to a US-led multilateralism that Beijing says is failing to keep the peace.

Expect Wang to hand out honey to the developing world as he sprays vinegar on what he last month called “unilateralism and bullying” by the United States.

“China detects vulnerability in the role of US-led Western countries in international security and believes that the war in Ukraine has made the role of Western countries in international stability more negative,” said researcher Tong Zhao. principal at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. and Visiting Scholar at Princeton University. “China is trying, including through the GSI, to get more support, especially among southern countries.”

Russia’s war on Ukraine and its ripple effects – risks of clashes between NATO and Russian forces and disruptions to the global food supply chain – give Wang an opportunity to tout initiatives of Xi who he believes can avoid such conflicts.

“China is trying to use Ukraine to argue that global security governance is broken [and] that the US alliance system is part of the problem and needs to be replaced or redesigned,” said Sheena Chestnut Greitens, director of the Asia Policy Program at the University of Texas at Austin.

Expect Wang’s speech at the UNGA to expand on Xi’s Global Security Initiative unveiled with scant detail at the annual Boao Forum for Asia conference in April. Xi’s 202-word description of the GSI leaned heavily on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s boilerplate, including rejection of “Cold War mentality” and opposition to “unilateral sanctions and jurisdiction”. with a long arm”. But Chinese foreign policy experts say that is about to change.

“I think the Chinese are preparing the ground for the [GSI and GDI] will be the keywords of Xi Jinping’s foreign policy for his next two years,” said Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center. “It’s not China saying, ‘Hey, I’m trying to replace the UN’, it’s China saying, ‘I’m the UN'”

Chinese state media has even coined the term “xiplomacy” as part of an ongoing propaganda campaign aimed at portraying Xi as a follower of the United Nations system. “President Xi reiterated China’s support for the UN-centered international system and pledged to further contribute to the advancement of the noble cause of the United Nations,” the official Xinhua news agency reported. october.

China is now the second biggest contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget and over the past two decades has bureaucratically rewired key parts of the UN to promote its interests at the expense of the US and of his allies.

There are already high-profile cheerleaders in the West saying that lasting peace in the 21st century depends on China leading the way in overhauling multilateral security mechanisms. “To stabilize the world order, China must become a central player in shaping common rules and standards with its friends and competitors around the world,” former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said in an op-ed in the South China Morning Post last week.

Xi says he is up to it, but not the way Washington wants. “China is ready to make efforts with Russia to assume the role of great powers and play a guiding role in instilling stability and positive energy in a world rocked by social unrest,” Xi told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday. September 15 during a bilateral conference. meeting on the sidelines of the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Uzbekistan.

The SCO — a China-initiated club of dictators that includes Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan — is timely applauding the GSI’s vaunted superiority over existing multilateral mechanisms. “The Global Security Initiative is in line with the objectives of the SCO and will make an important contribution to eliminating the root causes of international conflicts and achieving long-term peace and security in the world,” he said. said SCO Deputy Secretary General Grigory Logvinov. the week.

But the Chinese government faces a challenge in convincing non-SCO states of the wisdom and usefulness of China’s “limitless” partnership with Putin and its alignment with his invasion of Ukraine. China’s recent drastic escalation in military intimidation against Taiwan has also raised questions about Beijing’s commitment to non-violent conflict resolution.

The international community is also increasingly concerned about the rapid growth of China’s nuclear arsenal and its recent development of a hypersonic missile system. “We’ve seen the incredible extent of what they’re doing with their nuclear force – which I don’t think reflects minimal deterrence,” Air Force Gen. Anthony Cotton told the Senate Armed Services Committee. last week.

Worse still, a report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on China’s policies in Xinjiang published last month said that Beijing’s treatment of Xinjiang’s religious minorities, especially Muslim Uyghurs, “could constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity”. Beijing dismissed the report as “a politically US-directed patchwork of disinformation” and then further damaged China’s reputation by suspending all cooperation with UN human rights bodies.

Expect Wang to be undeterred by this bad press.

“We may have woken the dragon as China may now be much more concerted in its efforts to weaken the international human rights system…and also offer alternative institutions,” said researcher Rana Siu Inboden. principal at the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin.

Xi has every interest in producing a new roadmap for how countries define their national security and the measures to protect it.

“You will see a surge [by China] to try to reorganize global security governance in ways that are more favorable not only to Chinese foreign policy or national interests… but also to the security interests of the Chinese Communist Party regime,” Greitens said. “That’s a lot of the pitch we’ve seen accompanying Chinese surveillance exports to many cities and states around the world.”

It is already happening. Last week, Xi offered to fund crash courses on Chinese-style internal security oversight for SCO member states. “China is willing to train 2,000 law enforcement officers for member countries in the next five years, establish a China-Shanghai Cooperation Organization training base for professionals in the fight against terrorism and strengthen law enforcement capacity building for all parties,” Xi said at the SCO leaders’ summit in Uzbekistan last week.

Wang could also take the opportunity at the UN General Assembly to expand on Xi’s largesse for low-income countries, including suspension of foreign debt and development aid. Xi pledged $3 billion in May 2021 to support the Covid-19 response and economic recovery in developing countries.

Wang primed the pump by calling a GDI Group of Friends meeting in New York this week.

But recent reports of the debt burden imposed on developing economies by Chinese lending and questions about the integrity of Beijing’s debt cancellation programs have shaken the credibility of China’s approach to economic development in the world. ‘foreign.

Still, expect Wang to stick to the script: Xi has a vision for China-led global governance that he will implement after securing a third term as China’s supreme leader after the 20th Party Congress next month.

But Wang can’t shield Xi from the poor optics of his decision to prioritize last week’s fitness session with his bossy colleagues while skipping an in-person appearance in New York.

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