Tri­lat­eralmech­a­nism

China-africa re­la­tions in the UN sys­tem are well aligned for the fu­ture

ChinAfrica - - Cover Story - By Bob Wekesa

LOOK­ING back in his­tory, it was in 1971 that African coun­tries used their nu­mer­i­cal strength in the United Na­tions (UN) to tip the scales in fa­vor of China. With the firm sup­port of the con­ti­nent, China was able to gar­ner the two-thirds ma­jor­ity vote needed to re­claim its le­gal seat 45 years ago. This act is of­ten re­mem­bered in nos­tal­gic strokes as Africa hav­ing car­ried China into the UN on its shoul­ders. At­tempts were made through­out the 1970s and 1980s for a re­ver­sal of China’s seat at the UN, but failed thanks to African coun­tries’ stead­fast­ness in up­hold­ing China’s po­si­tion.

Since then, China and Africa have been great al­lies in the UN sys­tem. In a 1974 speech at the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly, China’s then top leader Deng Xiaop­ing enun­ci­ated China’s view of the world un­der the “three worlds the­ory” that called for sol­i­dar­ity among de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. This view was not only wel­comed by African coun­tries at the time, but has re­mained a point of con­ver­gence be­tween China and Africa. This is for in­stance clearly stated in dec­la­ra­tions and ac­tion plans un­der the Fo­rum on China-africa Co­op­er­a­tion (FOCAC). The dec­la­ra­tions and ac­tion plans call for the re­form of the UN sys­tem to en­sure that African coun­tries are prop­erly rep­re­sented in the UN sys­tem, a call seen to be re­sisted by de­vel­oped na­tions.

Quite sym­bol­i­cally, Chi­nese and African lead­ers have since 2009 held high-level dis­cus­sions on the side lines of the an­nual UN Gen­eral Assem­bly in New York. The af­fir­ma­tion of China-africa co­op­er­a­tion in the UN sys­tem can be seen in the vot­ing pat­terns over cru­cial is­sues in spe­cial­ized UN ses­sions and at the Gen­eral Assem­bly. Faced by cen­sure, con­dem­na­tion, em­bar­goes and sanc­tions by West­ern coun­tries in UN agen­cies such as the UN Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights (UNHRC - re­named UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil in 2006), African coun­tries have voted in sup­port of China’s po­si­tions and China has voted in fa­vor of African coun­tries’. It is a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship where African coun­tries use their nu­mer­i­cal su­pe­ri­or­ity to sup­port China and China uses it veto power in the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil to sup­port African coun­tries’ in­ter­ests. In th­ese re­spects, China and African coun­tries have forged ties in­ter­preted as a global south bal­ance of power vis-à-vis the global north.

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