BEIJING — “Both climate change and COVID-19 have shown us that we, as a species, as humanity, we can survive only through multilateralism.”
This emphatic and shrewd observation was made by Abdulla Shahid, president of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), in an exclusive interview with Xinhua in the lead-up to the 50th anniversary of the restoration of China’s lawful seat in the United Nations, which falls on Monday.
Indeed, those pressing planetary challenges, along with ongoing profound global changes unseen in a century, have led humanity to yet another crucial crossroads in history. Should modern history and contemporary reality be a guide, multilateralism is the only viable way forward.
No less important is the fact that multilateralism is effective only when put into action. In this regard, China sets a good example as a staunch standard-bearer of true multilateralism. Shahid spoke for all the clear-eyed around the world when he noted that “China has played a very, very important role in multilateralism.”
For starters, China has been a firm champion of the cause of the United Nations, the banner of multilateralism, supporting it playing its due role as “the core institution for addressing international affairs through cooperation.”
The restoration of China’s lawful seat in the United Nations 50 years ago helped the world body truly become the most representative and authoritative international organization. Since then, China has been committed to advancing the UN cause and promoting world peace and development.
Now China is the second-largest funding contributor to UN peacekeeping operations. Since 1990, the country has dispatched over 50,000 peacekeepers to nearly 30 UN peacekeeping missions, making it the largest troop contributor among the permanent members of the Security Council.
China’s contribution to global growth has remained the highest for 15 years running. Its anti-poverty success, Belt and Road Initiative and Global Development Initiative, among many others, have provided enormous opportunities, impetus and confidence for world development.
China has also worked tirelessly to promote international cooperation in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and other threats to humanity’s shared future. As of mid-October 2021, China has contributed over 1.5 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to over 100 countries and international organizations. It has pledged to peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.
Meanwhile, China has been a genuine practitioner of the core principle of multilateralism, which is that world affairs should be handled through extensive consultation, and the future of the world should be decided by all countries working together.
Over the past five decades, China has joined almost all universal intergovernmental organizations, signed more than 600 international conventions, and earnestly fulfilled its international obligations.
It has always stood on the side of fairness and justice, upholding sovereign equality, opposing interference in other countries’ internal affairs, power politics and hegemonic bullying, and pushing for political solutions to major regional and global disputes.
It has also spearheaded global efforts to foster a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation, and safeguard the common values of humanity, namely peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom.
Besides, China has been an untiring advocate of respect for diversity, the essence of multilateralism, promoting mutual learning among civilizations and the building of an open and inclusive world.
Diversity is a basic feature of the world, it is a reflection of the basic fact that each nation has its own unique history and culture, and it is what makes human civilization so rich and fascinating.
With that in mind, China has made it a fundamental tenet in its world outlook that all countries should respect each other’s independent choice of the social system and development path in light of their respective national conditions.
Acknowledging that differences and problems among countries are hardly avoidable, China always maintains that they need to be handled through dialogue and cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual respect.
Just as Chinese President Xi Jinping said in his address to the general debate of the 76th session of the UNGA in September, “a world of peace and development should embrace civilizations of various forms, and must accommodate diverse paths to modernization.”
Furthermore, China has been a determined defender of true multilateralism, resolutely calling out and debunking various forms of pseudo-multilateralism in an open and aboveboard fashion.
As the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates the transformation of the international landscape, the world has entered a period of new turbulence, with some countries resorting to group politics and small circles to sabotage the international order in the name of “returning to multilateralism.”
They often claim to uphold the “rules-based international order,” but refuse to clarify whether the rules they say mean the international law based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. That gives the lie to their lip service to multilateralism.
In fact, they are just scheming to impose their own will and standards on others and replace universally accepted international norms with rules tailor-made for their own selfish interests.
In stark contrast, China believes that in the world, there is only one international system, the one with the United Nations at its core, and only one international order, the one underpinned by international law.
Just as Xi stressed Monday at a conference marking the 50th anniversary of the restoration of China’s lawful seat in the United Nations, “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.”
That is a bedrock principle and a litmus test of the practice of multilateralism, as well as a guard rail for its future, which in turn matters a great deal to the shared future of humanity.
So it is high time that all members of the international community heeded the call of the times and held high the torch of true multilateralism so as to jointly build a better world for all.