Analysis | China-UN Cooperation and 2030 Agenda: Engagement

The issue of poverty and development has been the object of debate in International Organizations (IOs) formed in the Post-War period. Passing through different orientations, ranging from the thesis of overflowing economic growth to solve the problem of poverty, to the idea of ​​human capital and focusing on the years of the liberal political paradigm. Due to this paradigm in the last two decades, the combination of financial crises, political instability and worsening poverty have forged adjustments in the IOs’ agenda.

In this context, the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are inserted. In the document, members recognize “the eradication of poverty” as a priority, and all its forms and dimensions should be tackled. Since then, the agenda has guided actions to combat poverty in a significant number of countries, supported by the recognition of the importance of returning to the role of the State and planning for its implementation.

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It was precisely the combination of an active and strong State, a driver of economic development and social public policies, that made China the first developing country to achieve this goal of poverty reduction by completing its 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) . In all, over the past four decades, around 850 million people have been lifted out of poverty. This amount represented 70% of the population left this condition in the world in that period, a result contrary to those provided by the implantation of neoliberalism on a global scale.

Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, the poverty reduction agenda mobilized party leadership and committees, as well as bureaucracy at all levels. In realizing the UN Millennium Development Goals, the Chinese president sentenced that eradicating poverty, improving people’s lives and materializing common prosperity are basic requirements of socialism and an important mission of the CCP since the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. In fact, nothing can be more a priority for the promotion of human rights than a policy to eradicate poverty.

Women in Tongren City, Guizhou Province, China / Johannes EISELE / AFP

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In addition to eradicating poverty, the current Chinese government is engaged in implementing a set of public policies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, with an emphasis on tackling the environmental issue. These challenges must be perceived not only as part of the strengthening of China’s economic and social development, but of its growing international assertiveness.

Beijing’s protagonism does not represent the posture of a revisionist power – as Western analysts suggested – but, on the contrary, a growing involvement in world governance. In other words, since the Reform and Openness policy unleashed at the end of the 1970s, China has overcome isolation, regained its seat on the UN Security Council (1971) and, between the 1980s, until joining the WTO (2001) , in the adverse context of the collapse of real socialism, became a member of practically all international organizations. Beijing is now looking for a place befitting its increased power and interests.

Thus, Chinese international engagement has deepened, combining support for international agreements aligned with its objectives and norms, such as the Paris Agreement on climate change, but without adhering to agendas that it considers divergent from its interests. The fact is that China has become a powerful force in global governance, straining the status quo including, in the sense of reforming some international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). At the same time, however, Beijing has been working to build alternative spaces for action, such as the New Development Bank (NBD) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank – AIIB), for example.

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It is noteworthy how China has expanded its role to incorporate and disseminate certain international agendas. The country is already the 2nd largest contributor to the UN budget and, by far, the largest participant in its peace operations, including the UN-China Peace and Development Fund. With the pandemic, China expanded its engagement, announcing the vaccine as a “world public good” and $2 billion in aid to peripheral countries. The US under Trump, in turn, prioritized blaming China and discrediting the WHO, rather than assuming the attributions that would fall to the hegemon.

In short, it is possible to understand the convergence between China and the UN in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the completion of this national reconstruction effort. But more than that: it also represents how Beijing has used the achievement of this goal to boost its role in world governance, while ensuring visibility to its achievements.

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Despite the modest repercussion in Western public opinion, everything indicates that the performance of the eastern country with regard to the successful fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda tends to boost its projection, in a context of systemic transition and crisis of legitimacy of the US leadership.

* Isis Paris Maia has a degree in History and a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from UFRGS. He is currently working on poverty eradication policies and state capacities in China.

* Luciana Papi is a social scientist, Master and Doctor in Political Science from UFRGS. Professor at the PPG of Public Policies and at the Public and Social Administration course at UFRGS.

* Diego Pautasso holds a doctorate and master’s degree in Political Science and a degree in Geography from UFRGS. He is currently a professor of geography at Colégio Militar de Porto Alegre (CMPA) and guest professor at the Specialization Course in International Relations – Geopolitics and Defense, at UFRGS. Author of the book “`China and Russia in the Post-Cold War”‘, ed. Jurua, 2011.

**This is an opinion piece. The authors’ view does not necessarily express the newspaper’s editorial line Brazil in fact.

Source: BdF Rio Grande do Sul

Edition: Marcelo Ferreira

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