China is working to assume control of multiple key United Nations agencies in order to subvert U.S. influence and advance its anti-democratic agenda, current and former senior Trump administration officials told the Washington Free Beacon.
China currently holds 4 of the top 15 leading positions within the organization, including a seat on the powerful Security Council. The country’s sway was on full display this year when it successfully pressured the World Health Organization (WHO) to hide information about the coronavirus pandemic.
The Communist Party is also using its influence at the U.N. to thwart investigations into its human rights record and other state-backed atrocities, including its coronavirus cover-up. China has blocked dissidents from petitioning the U.N. Human Rights Council and has even threatened retaliation against diplomats seeking an investigation of these abuses.
"China is constantly working behind the scenes to gain more influence globally," Nikki Haley, the administration’s former ambassador to the U.N., told the Free Beacon. "That's especially true at the U.N., whether it's distracting from their own human rights abuses, manipulating to gain control of U.N. agencies, or bullying smaller countries to vote their way. For them perception is everything, and it's why we can never stop being loud, calling them out, and bringing attention to their behavior."
China’s ambition extends far beyond the WHO, Trump administration officials say. The White House is placing a greater emphasis on combating China’s manipulation of the U.N., which could entail withholding further funding to the body and sanctions on top Community Party figures. These efforts are likely to receive bipartisan backing in Congress, as both Republicans and Democrats seek to hold China accountable in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dan Blumenthal, director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said the United States can pressure the U.N. by withholding its funding.
"We need a focused and intensive diplomatic campaign to replace Chinese and Russian-backed heads of international organization, with people who support the values of the free world," he said.
The United States discussed new efforts to counter China’s influence at the U.N. in its Strategic Approach to China, a comprehensive document published earlier this month that outlines the White House’s response to Chinese hegemony. If China is permitted to exploit the U.N. unchecked, America risks losing its place at the center of global affairs, the document warns.
China’s Belt and Road projects—a Communist Party-run global development program aimed at expanding the country’s influence—have emerged as particularly concerning to the Trump administration.
In one example of the Trump administration's efforts to combat China's influence, the State Department recently identified efforts by Beijing to expand the Belt and Road Initiative into Afghanistan. By inserting language into a 2019 U.N. Security Council resolution on Afghanistan assistance, China hoped to justify an increased presence in the country that the United States sees as damaging.
The State Department said in a 2019 report on voting practices at the U.N. that it was able to erase the Belt and Road language, describing the action as a significant win for America in its push to counter China, according to a copy of that report obtained by the Free Beacon.
China’s influence has been particularly evident within the U.N.’s human rights organs, where China enjoys membership. It has prevented these bodies from investigating its abuse of the ethnic minority Uyghur population, as well as other human rights abuses.
"Chinese officials heading international organizations lack independence from the CCP, and have a proven track record of using these leadership roles to mold the U.N. agenda to serve the CCP’s own self-serving interests," a senior administration official, who was not authorized to speak on record, told the Free Beacon.
While China presents programs like Belt and Road as part of aid packages for developing countries, primarily in Africa, it uses the leverage gained by the programs to infiltrate a country’s economy and military, according to the White House.
The United States and China recently engaged in a heated war of words over global health aid during the WHO’s annual meeting earlier this month. As the Free Beacon first reported, the administration renewed commitments to combat China’s narrative that it is supplanting America as the world’s most generous aid donor.
In Congress, lawmakers have forwarded a range of initiatives to sanction Chinese officials complicit in human rights abuses and the cover-up of the coronavirus. Congress could also move to withhold critical funding for bodies it deems under China’s thumb.
A spokeswoman for leading China hawk Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) told the Free Beacon the senator and his like-minded colleagues will use their leverage to block the ascension of Chinese officials to key U.N. bodies.
"The Chinese Communist Party systematically seizes control and subverts international organizations, one by one, to advance their interests at the expense of those organizations’ credibility and our national security," said Cruz spokeswoman Lauren Aronson.