Multilateralism, Shared Peace and Development
– Statement at the General Debate of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly
H.E. Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China
New York, 28 September 2018
Every September, global attention focuses on the United Nations and on this stately Assembly Hall. People watch closely what is happening here, hoping that the United Nations will deliver to the world peace, development, harmony and prosperity. People look to the UN to help realize their dream for a better life, a UN that is committed to “Making the United Nations Relevant to All People”, thus making our world a better place for everyone to live in.
The contemporary international order, which began with the founding of the United Nations, is based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and enhanced by the vision and practice of multilateralism. It has, over the past 70 years or more, brought about general peace and rapid development. A people-centered philosophy has gained wide acceptance, and broad consensus has formed on the need for inter-dependence and win-win cooperation. Yet, it is also true that the international order today faces problems and challenges and needs steady reform and improvement.
The world is changing. As we celebrate mankind’s proud achievements and progress in an ever-changing world, we must never lose sight of the challenges and difficulties we face, and must remain vigilant. What we see today is that international rules and multilateral mechanisms are under attack, and the international landscape is filled with uncertainties and destabilizing factors.
Should we stay committed to multilateralism or let unilateralism have its way? Should we seek to uphold the architecture of the world order or allow it to be eroded upon and collapse? These are questions of critical importance bearing on the future of all countries and the destiny of mankind, questions that all countries must carefully reflect on and seek answers to.
China’s answer is clear-cut. All along, China has upheld the international order and pursued multilateralism. Though once kept out of the UN for 22 years, China has never wavered in its conviction to multilateralism and to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. China stayed true to its commitment throughout the negotiation process on its return to the GATT and then accession to the WTO, negotiations that lasted 15 long years and were concluded at a certain price. China fulfilled its promise and integrated itself into the world economic system. After the international financial crisis broke out, China chose not to stand idly by but to work together with other countries to tide over rough times. For years running, China has contributed to over 30% of global growth. It has played its part in helping restore global recovery.
In the face of new developments and severe challenges, China will keep to its commitment and remain a champion of multilateralism. Standing at this podium back in 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping, in his statement reflecting the keen understanding of mankind’s common interests and the future of our planet, called for building a community with a shared future for mankind. This major initiative is in keeping with the trend of history, and it echoes the call of the times. It adds to our conviction and strength as we pursue the common endeavor to protect this global village. It points to the direction for us to work together to open up an even better future for mankind. To uphold multilateralism in the new era, we believe the following principles need to be adhered to:
First, we must pursue win-win cooperation. Our world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century. Also unseen before are the problems and challenges we are faced with. No country can meet them alone or stay immune to their impact. What we need to do is to replace confrontation with cooperation and coercion with consultation. We must stick together as one big family instead of forming closed circles. We must promote common development through consultation instead of taking a winner-takes-all approach. This is a sure way for a bright future to be ushered in to the world.
Second, we must act upon rules and order. State-to-state relations should be based on credibility, not willful revocation of commitments. International cooperation should be guided by rules, not impulse. Practicing multilateralism is, first and foremost, about upholding the UN Charter, observing international law and the basic norms governing international relations and honoring international agreements reached upon through negotiations.
Third, we must uphold fairness and justice. In international affairs, fairness and justice means equality between all countries, big or small. It means responsibility for big countries to help the small and the rich to assist the poor. Fairness and justice also means respect for other countries’ sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, as well as their choice of development path and the right to a better life and to more development opportunities.
Fourth, we must act to deliver real results. Multilateralism is not about making empty rhetoric. It must be pursued to solve problems. Efforts must be targeted, results-oriented, and measured by visible progress. Whether a multilateral mechanism works depends on the will and engagement of countries in the world. It is imperative that we work together to uphold the international system with the United Nations at its core as well as the multilateral trading system centering on the World Trade Organization.
Multilateralism requires a strong United Nations. China supports Secretary-General Guterres in his endeavor to advance reform of the UN system in the three critical areas of peace and security, economic development and internal management. Such reform should be led by member states. It should be designed to prioritize concerns of developing countries, make the UN more efficient and enhance oversight and accountability. Crucial to the UN’s proper functioning is stable and predictable funding. China will continue to fulfill its due financial obligations, and China calls upon other member states to pay their membership contributions and peacekeeping assessments on time and in full.