Global Security Architecture
Influence in the UN
- China continues to veto UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions on Syria. Along with Russia, China vetoed a UN resolution to impose sanctions on Syria on February 28. The sanctions were supposed to address the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians. China’s ambassador to the UN Liu Jieyi said, “given that international investigations are still ongoing, it is too early to act now without hard evidence.” On April 6, however, Beijing did condemn new chemical attacks in the Syrian province of Idlib and announced its support for the launch of an independent UN investigation.
- UNSC resolution includes landmark Chinese concept for the first time. On March 17, the Chinese concept of “a human community with a shared destiny” was included in Resolution 2344 to renew the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan rephrased as “a community of shared future for mankind”. This is a concept that has been present in official pronouncements since at least 2007, but it was popularized by Xi, who linked it to his Belt and Road Initiative. The resolution also urged international efforts to strengthen regional cooperation and to implement China’s Belt and Road Initiative, in what is both a first and a major victory for China’s representation to the UN.
- China calls for UN and international support of Africa’s security capabilities. On March 23, Chinese envoy to the UN Liu Jieyi called for international support to build an African Standby Force and rapid reaction force. In 2015, China had already pledged to provide military aid worth USD 100 million to the African Union over five years towards this purpose.
- China takes UNSC presidency in July. Beijing has used its presidency of the UNSC to place issues of strategic concern to Beijing on the agenda, including the crises in Syria, Yemen and South Sudan.
- THAAD system triggers strong response in China. Beijing strongly opposed the deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea in March and April. While this system is designed to defend South Korea from Pyongyang’s attacks, China argues that THAAD can probe deep into its territory, undermining its national security while doing nothing to prevent North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons. The THAAD deployment strained relations between Seoul and Beijing. Although tensions were reduced after the election of new South Korean president Moon Jae-in in May, Beijing called off a trilateral meeting with South Korea and Japan in July, reportedly due to the controversy over this issue.
- ‘Double freeze’ initiative: China’s (and Russia’s) solution to the North Korea crisis. On March 8, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi announced China’s proposal to bring all parties back to the negotiation table and reach a peaceful solution to the issue. Beijing, publicly backed by Moscow after a joint statement of both countries’ foreign ministries on July 4, proposes that North Korea freeze its nuclear program in exchange for the US and South Korea stopping all large-scale joint military exercises. North Korean officials have indicated that Pyongyang would be willing to accept this arrangement but China has been unable to secure US and South Korean buy-in. In the meantime, China has also expressed support for and voted in favor of UNSC sanctions on North Korea as a response to Pyongyang’s ICBM tests in July.
- China joins nuclear powers in refusing to negotiate treaty to ban nuclear weapons. China, along with all other nuclear powers, including the United States, the UK, France and Russia, refused to participate in the negotiations that led to the adoption of a legally binding agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons on July 7 at the UN General Assembly.
- Beijing opposes India’s membership in Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). During the plenary meeting of the NSG in June, Chinese representatives continued to oppose India’s accession until New Delhi signs the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). Accession to the NPT is normally seen as a prerequisite to enter the NSG but India has secured a temporary waiver from other members.
Global Cyber Governance
- China releases its International Strategy of Cooperation on Cyberspace. Jointly released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cyberspace Administration on March 1, this document outlines China’s approach to global cyberspace governance and cooperation. It also emphasizes China’s goals of defending sovereignty, security and development interests in cyberspace cooperation.
- China and the UK agree to coordinate on cybersecurity. During the second UK-China High Level Security Dialogue, the UK’s national security adviser Sir Mark Lyall Grant, and Wang Yongqing, secretary general of China’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the CCP, agreed to “regular coordination on cyber-security related issues in order to prevent cyber-commercial espionage and related transnational criminal activity,” according to Grant.