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China’s position in reforming the UN Security Council

Already in December 2004, a group of international experts tendered recommendations for reforming the United Nations to Secretary General Kofi Annan, including for a

Reform of the UN Security Council - China’s significance in UN reform

But in the last years, not much has actually happened. As a permanent member of the Security Council, China has veto power, so its position in the reform process plays a large role espacially in Germany’s endeavor to obtain a permanent seat on the Council. Theoretically, China could use its veto to throw the process off balance and block Germany’s demand. What’s more, China sees itself as an advocate for developing countries and especially supports stronger representation for the African nations. A simple expansion of the Security Council to include candidates Germany, Japan, India, and Brasil—who met on the sidelines at the General Conference in September 2004, cannot expect China’s approval.

China’s official position

German’s request was not officially supported by China, yet neither would China stand in the way of Germany’s endeavor to achieve more international political responsibility, according to Shen Guofang, Acting Ambassador to the UN.

As a rule, the People’s Republic approves of UN reform. It believes that the Security Council in particular must become more efficient and that representation of developing countries must be strengthened—but expanding the veto right would limit the UN’s ability to act. To the question of whether the five permanent members should maintain their veto power and if that power should be expanded to new permanent members, China has not offered an official position; but it is improbable that the five permanent members will give up the veto or agree to grant it to other states. However, this would mean that the Council would have two classes of permanent member, one with and one without veto rights. It is questionable whether the new members would be content with such a solution.

China’s position on other candidates

China and Japan

It is clear that Germany, working on its own, will get no seat. But China has clear reservations, at least regarding Japan. In autumn of 2004, Japan’s advances on the edges of working discussions for multilateral negotiations with North Korea went without comment by China. The argument that Japan pays more membership fees than any other member except the USA is not accepted by China, as the Security Council is not the International Monetary Fund. Moreover, China has always had problems with Japan, stemming from the latter’s occupation of the former before and during the Second World War. Officially, China holds itself back to avoid endangering economic relations with Japan (thus for example, there is even today no memorial day for the Nanjing massacre), but opines that Japan is still not conscious of its historical responsibility. Diplomatic ill-will between the two reigns because of this (disputes over the depiction of war crimes in Japanese schoolbooks, visits to the Yasukuni shrine for war dead by Japanese prime ministers, etc.). China also fears that relations between Japan and China would be negatively influenced if China used its veto power to block a Japanese initiative; China wishes to prevent such a situation.

China and India

India’s claim is supported by China despite 1962’s border disputes between the two nations. Since then, China’s mistrustful attitude towards India has changed, and China recognizes that India is an important partner in security for southeast Asia. After all, India is a nuclear power and the second most populous country in the world. Pakistan, also a nuclear power, could present a problem. To date China has made an effort to maintain neutral relations with India and Pakistan and to treat both equally. A denial of the Indian application to membership could be understood as support of Pakistan, encouraging India to align itself with the USA.

China and Brazil

Brazil’s application, too, is supported by China, even though Brazil has competition in Argentina for a permanent seat. China is Brazil’s third-largest trade partner, after the USA and Argentina.

China and Nigeria

Nigeria is considered one of the key nations in Africa; it is the largest country on that continent and stands a better chance of winning a place on the Security Council than do South Africa and Egypt.

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