A Strong Chinese Economy Grounds China's Acceptance Of Its Responsibilities As A Member Of The World Community

Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - 01:00

The Editor Interviews Ambassador Wang Guangya, Permanent Representative of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations.

Editor: Ambassador Wang, would you give our readers an overview of the work of the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations?

Wang: My responsibility is to represent China before the United Nations at its headquarters. Since China is a Permanent Member of the Security Council, the mission is a relatively large one. We have diplomats engaged in political, economic, social, disarmament, legal and a variety of other matters. There is an extensive workload.

Editor: What are the challenges that you face in your position as China's Ambassador to the UN?

Wang: There are many challenges, and three in particular that I see as important ones. First, the workload at the UN is heavy, and it requires profound knowledge and experience. I have to try my best to do my job well. That is a challenge. Secondly, I represent China and its national interests, but my country, with a population of 1.3 billion people, is a Permanent Member of the UN's Security Council, and that entails looking beyond one's national interests, seeing the world from a multinational perspective and being open to compromise. Reconciling these two responsibilities - for China's national interests and with respect to its place in the world community - is a challenge. The third challenge lies in the UN itself. The world is very different from what it was when the UN was established. As the Secretary General recently put it, the UN is now at a crossroads. Its authority will depend on how it addresses new challenges, such as international terrorism, drug trafficking, disease, environmental degradation, and so on. And upon how it guides the globalization discussion for the benefit of all countries. These are the issues that I discuss with my colleagues, the other ambassadors at the UN, and the discussion is one that, put very simply, affects the well-being of all humanity.

Editor: China is both a Permanent Member of the Security Council and the largest developing nation in the world. As such, China brings a unique perspective to the UN. Would you tell us about China's role as a bridge between developed and developing nations?

Wang: China will remain a developing country for many years to come. We share the interests of all developing countries, and, as a member of the developing world and in association with the Group of 77, we attempt to advance an agenda which involves a more equitable international economic and political program. At the same time, as I have indicated, we are a Permanent Member of the Security Council and, as such, in contact with all of the developed countries on an ongoing basis. We are in something of a unique position. This enables us, I think, to convey the concerns of the developing countries to the major industrialized nations in a way that gets those concerns into the international discussion. In this sense China is a bridge and takes its responsibilities in this regard very seriously.

Editor: Since the end of the Cold War, the discussion at the UN concerning many important international issues has moved in a multilateral direction. Is this a good thing, in your view?

Wang: Absolutely. I served at the UN during the Cold War period, and it was clear that any role the organization might play was severely restricted because of the confrontation between the two superpowers. Since then, the UN has become much more productive in addressing the issues, and I think most people believe that multilaterialism serves everyone's interests. No one state can address these crucial international issues - issues that affect everyone, such as terrorism or drug trafficking - alone. They are issues that demand the participation of every country that is affected, and on most of these issues that is pretty much everyone. We believe that this is a good thing for the international community.

Editor: Some would argue that it leads to confusion and an inability to reach final conclusions quickly.

Wang: Important issues need to be addressed by everyone concerned, and a certain degree of patience must be part of the process. With more participation, rather than less, I think the ultimate decision will be easier to implement because the countries which have participated will have developed a sense of responsibility for it over the course of the discussion. Greater participation leads to multilateral solutions, and that is what international democratization is all about. A somewhat longer process, but one involving more participants, may lead to a solution that has much wider acceptance than one imposed unilaterally. I think the principles behind "no taxation without representation" - which was so important to American independence - are at work here.

Editor: Would you give us your thoughts about the possible expansion of the Security Council?

Wang: The Security Council has an important mandate - to maintain international peace and security - and people have very high expectations of it. I think the expansion of the Council would serve to enhance its authority by making it more representative of the UN's membership as a whole. And since most of that membership is from the developing world, I think such an expansion should reflect that reality. The Council has a unique role within the organization, and any expansion - whether an increase of the Permanent Members or in some other category - should be deliberated carefully and patiently, and a decision reached on the basis of consensus. A forced vote, in my view, would be divisive and not in the best interests of the UN.

Editor: And about reforms designed to make the General Assembly more efficient and relevant?

Wang: Since all UN members participate in the General Assembly, it has a role in representing the views of all members that is extremely important. Nevertheless, there is a need to strengthen the authority of the General Assembly. Many of the important issues that are discussed by the Security Council are not addressed by the General Assembly, and that results in many countries feeling that they are not part of the discussion. Among the issues under review is the General Assembly agenda and, particularly, ways in which to prioritize and enhance that agenda. That is meant to make the work of the Assembly more relevant. Another aspect of the discussion concerns the implementation of the resolutions of the Assembly. If member states do not implement resolutions that have been adopted by the General Assembly, the entire authority of the Assembly is called into question. In addition, there is a need to make the work of the General Assembly more visible to the public, so that people realize that the UN is not just the Security Council. Reforms meant to address all of these concerns are under review at present, and I am hopeful that they will result in a General Assembly that has an enhanced role in the UN's deliberations.

Editor: With its accession to the World Trade Organization, China is assuming a leading role in the world's economy. Please tell us about the implications of this step for China.

Wang: The role that the Chinese economy plays in the world today is not, of course, a result of China's membership in the WTO, but rather of the policies adopted 25 years ago by Deng Xiaoping. Nevertheless, China's accession to the WTO is an important step forward in the evolution of both China's economy and the world's economy. First of all, WTO membership benefits China in giving a further push to the policy of reform initially adopted in 1978. Being a member of the WTO requires all sectors of the Chinese economy to act in accordance with international standards and rules. This is a new reality, and it places pressure on both the Chinese government and on the business community to advance the reform agenda to conform with international practices. Legislation, rules and regulations, and business practices are expected to be in place and to be enforced. All of this serves to underscore the irreversibility of the policy of reform, which is a very positive thing for China.

In addition, with China a member of the WTO, trade relations between China and other countries are placed into a predictable environment in which all parties are treated equally. Increased trade activity will result. This will benefit all parties. WTO membership - which evidences China's adherence to the international trade regime - has resulted in increased international confidence in China and its business entities. This, in turn, is leading to increased international investment in China.

Finally, WTO membership has made China a part of the team addressing the issues of international trade. It is good for China and for everyone else that we work together on these issues.

Editor: As globalization proceeds, are there ways in which it can be better managed? Ways in which to share its benefits in a fairer and more equitable way? What is China's role in such a process?

Wang: Many people say that globalization is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, with globalization many countries are becoming more interrelated, more interdependent in their economic relations, and that serves to accelerate economic development. On the other hand, globalization imposes new competitive challenges on many countries, particularly in the developing world, that they find difficult to meet. On the whole, the process of globalization is positive, but its benefits are not distributed evenly, and this has meant that the gap between the rich countries and the poor has been increasing. Indeed, the gap between the better off and the poor in individual countries has also been getting wider. These social problems represent the side of globalization that is not so positive. I think that the members of the international community can better manage globalization by working to improve the rules that govern international trade, and to develop new rules where necessary, in order to manage the process in a way that results in the benefits of globalization being shared in a more equitable way.

The trade of the developing countries is a necessary part of the globalization process. People argue that a developing country benefits far more from an increase in its exports than from an increase in the development aid provided by the developed countries. I think it is important for the latter to provide better access to their markets to the developing countries.

Since the advent of globalization, people have begun to talk about the digital divide, the increasing gap in science and technology between the developed and developing nations. I do not think that it is possible for the developing nations to catch up on their own. The transfer of science and technology on concessional terms - and I am aware of the strong views many people have concerning patents and the protection of intellectual property rights generally - is something that is in the interests of everyone in the long run. This, too, should be part of any discussion on making the process of globalization more equitable.

Editor: Please tell us about China's position on the Millennium Development Goals.

Wang: As the world's largest developing nation, China considers the Millennium Development Goals extremely important. The specific measures that China has taken to implement the steps leading to these goals are themselves a major contribution to world implementation. Four years ago, when the Millennium Development Goals were adopted, it was the first time that the world's leadership formally recognized that the peace and stability of the world depend upon the development of the poorer countries. Next year the UN will have another summit to assess progress on the implementation of the steps leading to these goals. Much remains to be done if the eight objectives are to be realized in 15 years, as originally anticipated. In light of the fact that many developing countries are going to be very hard pressed to implement on their own, international cooperation is necessary.

I am hopeful that that cooperation will include assistance in the form of science and technology and, as such, help to address the digital divide.

In addition to implementing Millennium Development Goals within its own borders, China has attempted to reach out to a wider community. We have established a framework called the Sino-African Cooperation Forum to help the African countries. They are, in our view, in the most difficult position to achieve these goals. We provide training, promote economic exchanges, encourage Chinese business to investigate opportunities in Africa, support debt relief, and so on. This is part of China's contribution to the attainment of the goals in the international arena.

Editor: Is there anything you would like to add?

Wang: Over the past 25 years the Chinese economy has grown dramatically. That has been a cause for concern for some people. However, China has a quarter of the world's population, and a Chinese economy that is in poor shape is not good for the rest of the world. A strong Chinese economy, on the other hand, contributes to a strong world economy. In addition, with the growth of the Chinese economy there has come a recognition of China's responsibility in the region and across the world. A vibrant Chinese economy is, I think, the best guarantee of China's continuing acceptance of its responsibilities as a member of the world community.