By Prof Sheriff Ghali Ibrahim
The restoration of all rights of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations and recognition of the representatives of the Government of the PRC as the only legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations was the beacon of hope for global peace and security. The historical legacy bequeathed by the League of Nations was a promising one which provided a foundation for the UN structural formation in the post-great war era. The League of Nations had successfully persuaded Yugoslavia to withdraw its troops from Albania; it had settled dispute between Finland and Sweden over Islands in 1920; it intervened and settled dispute between Germany and Poland over a territory in 1921; it settled disagreement between Iraq and Turkey over Mosul and the settlement of dispute over Macedonia in 1925. All these are some of the legacies bequeathed to the United Nations from its pedigree in 1945.
The 26th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations successfully adopted the “overwhelming majority,” Resolution 2758 on 25th October, 1971. This meeting was the UN General Assembly meeting number 1,976, which restored such rights to the PRC and immediately expelled the representatives of the Kuomintang from the United Nations and all its affiliated agencies. The long standing Sino-Africa relations have been fruitful as African countries have contributed to this great success of seeing the PRC restored to the general family of the United Nations. The legendary Chairman Mao used to say that “it was our African brothers, the small and medium-sized countries that carried us into the United Nations.” Mao acknowledged the above historical fact, as among the 76 “Yes” votes on Resolution 2758, 26 were African countries.
African countries have been supporting peaceful coexistence among comity of nations and always campaign in favor of justice on the world stage. This was designated by President Xi marking the 50th anniversary of the restoration, when he posited that, it came as a result of joint efforts of all peace-loving countries that stood up for justice in the world. It marked the return of the Chinese people, or one-fourth of the world’s population, back to the UN stage. On this occasion, President Xi sent a message that “I wish to express, on behalf of the Chinese government and the Chinese people, heartfelt gratitude to all countries that co-sponsored and supported UN General Assembly Resolution 2758, and to pay high tribute to all countries and people that stand on the side of justice.”
The restoration of China’s rights to the United Nations has been marked by national rejuvenation, reform and opening-up, which ensued. President Xi in his remarks mentioned that, the trend had brought about achievements in national construction and development since the founding of New China; the Chinese people have started the new historical era of reform and opening-up, and successfully initiated and developed socialism with Chinese characteristics. The reform and opening up has also paved a way for China to contribute its quota to the international system for growth, stability and development. According to President Xi, for these 50 years, the Chinese people have stood in solidarity and cooperation with people around the world and upheld international equity and justice, contributing significantly to world peace and development.
In giving to the world what China received as support from other nations, President Xi reciprocally submitted the fact that, the Chinese people do not impose themselves on people around the world and resolutely opposed hegemony and power politics. The Chinese people are a strong supporter of other developing countries in their just struggle to safeguard sovereignty, security and development interests. The Chinese people are committed to achieving common development. Some infrastructure projects developed by Chinese companies in Africa are also part of the Belt and Road Initiative which justify China-Africa friendship and cooperation. Africa is indeed having infrastructure deficit, but China has invested heavily in infrastructure development of Africa. President Xi reminded us of such projects in Africa, from the Tazara Railway to the Belt and Road Initiative, “we have done what we could to help other developing countries, and have offered the world new opportunities through our own development.” During the trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic, China has been active in sharing COVID response experience with the world, and has sent large quantities of supplies, vaccines and medicines to other countries, and deeply engaged in science-based cooperation on COVID-19 origins tracing, all in a sincere and proactive effort to contribute to humanity’s final victory over the pandemic.
In its bid to maintain the United Nations tradition, China sees other nations as equal partners and respects the sovereignty of all UN family without interfering in the internal affairs of such states. President Xi has emphasized on this when he openly justified that for these 50 years, the Chinese people have upheld the authority and sanctity of the United Nations and practiced multilateralism, and China’s cooperation with the United Nations has deepened steadily. China has faithfully fulfilled its responsibility and mission as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, stayed true to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and upheld the central role of the United Nations in international affairs. China has stood actively for political settlement of disputes through peaceful means. It has sent over 50,000 peacekeepers to UN peacekeeping operations, and is now the second largest financial contributor to both the United Nations and UN peacekeeping operations.
China reciprocates the support it earned from the UN members in 1971 by adhering to programs of the United Nations. China has been among the first among countries to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals. It has taken the lead in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, accounting for over 70 percent of global poverty reduction. China has acted by the spirit of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and earnestly applied the universality of human rights in the Chinese context. It has blazed a path of human rights development that is consistent with the trend of the times and carries distinct Chinese features, thus making major contribution to human rights progress in China and the international human rights cause.
The recognition of PRC by the UN family as a legitimate representative of the Chinese people at the United Nations is a beacon of hope for global peace and security. The campaign of President Xi on world peace, development, equity, justice and democracy is a commitment to fulfilling the UN principles and tradition. President Xi called for the maintenance of this culture which its beauty is hinged on our diversity. This, for Xi, should be the guiding philosophy for building a better world. Xi also pointed out that the world we live in is diverse and colorful. Diversity makes human civilization what it is, and provides a constant source of vitality and driving force for world development. As a Chinese saying goes, “Without achieving the good of one hundred various schools, the uniqueness of one individual cannot be achieved.” No civilization in the world is superior to others; every civilization is special and unique to its own region. Civilizations can achieve harmony only through communication, and can make progress only through harmonization.
The existence of international organizations, some at sub-regional, regional, continental and inter-continental levels cannot solve global threats and challenges such as terrorism, climate change, cyber-security and bio-security without sincere commitment to multilateral cooperation especially under the United Nations and sincere regional joint efforts. President Xi was optimistic that working together by stepping up cooperation via multilateralism and sincere inclusive global governance that these challenges can be surmounted. There is the need to jointly promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind, and work together to build an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity. The human race is an integral community and Earth is our common homeland.
Global peace and security can only be achieved through effective multilateral mechanism and by resolutely upholding the United Nations principles in order to build a world community with a shared future for mankind. This requires a strong United Nations and reform and development of the global governance system. Countries should uphold the international system with the United Nations at its core, the international order underpinned by international law and the basic norms of international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. International rules can only be made by the 193 UN Member States together and not decided by individual countries or blocs of countries. International rules should be observed by the 193 UN Member States, and there is and should be no exception. Countries should respect the United Nations, take good care of the UN family, refrain from exploiting the Organization, still less abandoning it at one’s will, and make sure that the United Nations plays an even more positive role in advancing humanity’s noble cause of peace and development. President Xi inferred that “China will be happy to work with all countries under the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits to explore new ideas and new models of cooperation and keep enriching the practice of multilateralism under new circumstances.”
The current leadership of the United Nations is proud of China’s contribution to the UN family and the international project of achieving peace and security through multilateralism and inclusive global governance. The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres believes that the People’s Republic of China restored its lawful seat in the United Nations. China’s development has brought opportunities to the whole world. “I thank China for upholding multilateralism, supporting the UN’s work, and playing a major part and making significant contributions to promoting world peace and development.” Guterres emphasized that the international community needs to enhance solidarity and cooperation, uphold multilateralism, improve global governance and bring more fairness and justice. Unilateralism is by no means unacceptable.
China is indeed a beacon of hope; it restores hope of global peace and security as its restoration challenges unilateralism and envisages a world community with a shared future. For Guterres, the United Nations highly appreciates the vital role played by China in eradicating poverty, tackling global climate change, protecting biodiversity and making COVID-19 vaccines global public goods. The world should abide by the rules accepted by all countries and address disputes in the Chinese way, which is through dialogue and communication. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is inclusive in nature and beneficial to the entire world and human race. It is also in line with the above that Guterres made the inference that “the Global Development Initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping is of significant and positive importance to promoting global equality and balancing sustainable development.” It is in this journey of restoration of hope for building a world community with shared future, fortified by security and peaceful coexistence that Guterres assured that the United Nations fully supports it and is willing to enhance cooperation with China in this regard.
Prof Sheriff Ghali Ibrahim is of the Department of Political Science and International Relation, University of Abuja.
He is also the Director, Institute for Legislative Studies, University of Abuja.