Ms. Wright quoted British historian Mark Mazower to describe the efficacy of the UN throughout its history. “International institutions are only as effective as the great powers allow them to be.”
This led us into a discussion of the evolution of China’s engagement with the UN. In the eyes of western members of the Security Council, having China as an active participant in the UN is a plausible way to keep China entrenched in a “rules-based world order.”
Ms. Wright broke China’s UN involvement into three phases.
1: 1971-1978, “Ideology before interests.”
During this period, China largely abstained from UN activity
2: 1978-1989, “Opening”
China recognizes that it must participate in the world order should it seek to change it.
3: 1990-2015, “Benefactor and Participant”
China receives a great deal of multilateral assistance form the World Bank.
China sees opportunity in the UN as a force for global stability. China, now an inextricable part of global society, is more and more enthusiastic about institutions that promote global stability and welfare.
Ms. Wright detailed the structure of the UN’s budget and the contributions of various nations, noting that China’s voluntary contributions have long been notably low.
She also noted that, of late, China has been contributing a greater number of peacekeeping forces to the UN, a role often carried out by poorer nations. It is hypothesized that peacekeeping missions are an effective way for Chinese troops to gain some form of combat experience.
Abigail Wright’s presentation on the United Nations distilled an incredibly complex and dense organization into a succinct, easy to process group of sub-organizations and responsibilities.
While others received Swedish Fish and Snickers this Halloween, the Tsinghua-SAIS fellows received a comprehensive look at the world’s most important international institution.