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China’s Participation in the UN Security Council

China’s Participation in the UN Security Council

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China’s Participation in the UN Security Council

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  1. China’s Participation in the UN Security Council Joel Wuthnow Hong Kong Political Science Association August 21, 2009

  2. Argument • China has become a highly engaged actor in the UN Security Council, which itself has taken a much more active role in collective security since the end of the Cold War. • China’s positions in Council deliberations are pragmatic and instrumental, not ideological. It is especially motivated by two calculations: strategic interests and political reputation vis-à-vis the international community.

  3. The Post-Cold War Security Council • Cold War: superpower contestation; frequent vetoes; few sanctions; “traditional” peacekeeping; rare invocation of Chapter VII of the UN Charter. • Post-Cold War: consensus-oriented; few vetoes; adoption of sanctions; “non-traditional peacekeeping;” frequent use of Chapter VII.

  4. The UNSC: Cold War vs. Post-1990

  5. China’s Path to Engagement • 1971-1982: Passive learner. Frequent abstentions on peacekeeping votes. Aligned with the Third World. • 1982-1992: Increasing engagement. Begins to take initiative. • 1992-present: Active engagement. Approval of most resolutions. Participation in PKOs.

  6. Voting with the Rest

  7. China’s Troop Contribution to UN Peacekeeping

  8. China’s Strategic Rationale • The Security Council as a vehicle to check U.S. unilateralism. • Building an image of a “responsible great power” that accepts pre-existing institutions and norms. • Veto power  inherent influence on a range of regional issues, from East Asia to the Middle East to Africa.

  9. Cooperativeness • Post-Cold War voting record: 4 vetoes, 49 abstentions, 1149 affirmative votes. Worked to keep Iraq (2003) off the agenda. • Contention difficult to observe, because most of it will have happened prior to the final text that is voted on. • Nevertheless, China’s position impacts the extent to which others (e.g. the West) is able to accomplish viz. sanctions, PKO mandates.

  10. Chinese vetoes, 1990-2008

  11. Two Logics of Action • Logic of Appropriateness: Positions determined by consistency with prior-established norms and values. China’s positions should be based on sovereignty concerns, non-use of force. • Logic of Consequences: Positions determined in relation to material (economic/security) interests. China should respond to two types of calculations: strategic and political.

  12. Cases: North Korea & Sudan • North Korea: Nuclear detonation prompts re-evaluation of strategy  support for Chapter VII resolutions, new sanctions. • Sudan: Prospect of Western intervention and boycott of “genocide Olympics” causes PRC to pressure Sudan to allow UN-AU hybrid force. • Both cases involve territorial security. Strategic calculations apparent, political reputation less vital. Norms as post-hoc justification.

  13. Cooperation Mechanisms • When the issue at stake is central to China’s perceived interests, there is probably little its interlocutors can do to affect its position. But these issues should be relatively few. • When the issue is more peripheral, social pressure may be employed by tying China’s reputation to cooperation. This would depend on China being highly isolated.