Context: The United Nations turned 75 this year. India also beat China in the elections for a seat on the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). This was the first such victory in a decade.

China’s strengths at international forums

  • Taking advantage of its position as a member of the P-5 and as a huge aid giver, China captured the top positions at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). 

Reason behind China’s rise

  • World War I and II: China saw an opportunity in World War I to rid itself of German occupation from some of its territory and allied with the United Kingdom and France. 
    • But the West sided with the Japanese and China refused to sign the Versailles Peace Treaty.
    • The United States later helped reach a peace deal between China and Germany.
    • World War II saw strong U.S.-China collaboration against the Japanese, including U.S. operations conducted from India. .
  • America’s ‘forgotten ally’

    • The U.S. included the Chinese in the ‘Four Policemen’, a group of the most important countries for ensuring world peace post- World War II, along with the real victors of World War II — the U.S., the USSR and the U.K. 
    • This group changed into the P-5, with France being added by the UK at the San Francisco conference held in 1945 where the UN charter was finalised. 
    • The Republic of China (RoC) led by the Kuomintang were soon ousted on the mainland China. 
    • RoC retained the UN seat of China till 1971 when it was expelled from the UN and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) admitted as a member. 
    • U.S. President Richard Nixon visited Beijing in 1972 and the U.S.’s opening to the PRC certainly paved the way for the unprecedented economic growth of China. 

However, in its march to global hegemony, the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt China.

China’s reduced stature:

  • China lost the election to tiny Samoa for a seat on the UN Statistical Commission. 
  • It just about managed to get elected to the UN High Rights Council, coming forth out of five contestants for four vacancies. 
  • China’s candidate had lost to a Singaporean in the race for DG World Intellectual Property Organization.

Three defeats and a near defeat for China in elections to UN bodies post-COVID-19 and the negative reaction to its threat of veto to forestall a discussion on the pandemic in the UNSC clearly point to a disenchantment with China in the globe.

Multilateralism under threat

  • Multilateralism is under unprecedented stress fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic and a certain disenchantment with globalisation
  • At the root, of course, is the rise of China and its challenge to U.S. global hegemony. 

Need for institutional reforms

  • There is a need for multilateralism backed by strong multipolarity relevant to contemporary realities. 
  • Most important are institutional reforms in the UN Security Council (UNSC) and at the Bretton Woods Institutions so that their governance leverages the capabilities of the major players among both the developed and developing countries. 

Way forward

  • Global dialogue: India was elected as a non-permanent member of the UNSC for a two-year term. India will also host the BRICS Summit next year and G-20 Summit in 2022. 
    • India should use these oppurtunities in mobilising the world in critical areas that require global cooperation especially climate change, pandemics and counter-terrorism. 
  • India also needs to invest in the UN with increased financial contributions in line with its share of the world economy and by placing its people in key multilateral positions.

It is good that recently India, Germany, Japan and Brazil (G-4) have sought to refocus the UN on UNSC reform. As proponents of reform, they must remain focused and determined even if these changes do not happen easily or come soon. 

India at UN

  • India was one of the largest contributors of soldiers in the war against Germany and Turkey and became a founding member of the League of Nations even though it was a colony. 
  • At the end of WWII, India participated in all the three UN conferences becoming a charter member of the UN even before Independence. 
  • Pakistan, on the other hand, joined the UN in September 1947 on application.


After reading this article, answer the following question for Mains answer writing practice. Also you can get your answer checked free of cost by clicking on the following link.

For Mains:

Q) The Coronavirus crisis is an opportune time for New Delhi to push for institutional changes and reformed multilateralism in the global system. Discuss. (150 words