Beijing Takeover of United Nations Presents Existential Threat to US: Experts

May 13, 2020 Updated: May 19, 2020

Officials and experts are sounding the alarm about the threat posed by Beijing’s outsized influence in international organizations, part of its “global governance” agenda.

With a newly updated list of communist Chinese nationals in leadership positions within the United Nations and beyond, critics are calling for concrete action to rein in Beijing.

Already, Chinese officials lead an array of powerful global agencies and organizations.

Out of 15 specialized U.N. agencies, for instance, four are under the leadership of Chinese officials—and that just scratches the surface.

At least one senior former official in the Donald Trump administration, former Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Kevin Moley, told The Epoch Times that this ongoing takeover represents “the greatest existential threat to our republic since our founding.”

“This is the fight of our lives,” he added. “It is a struggle between Western civilization and the Communist Party of China.”

A new report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), released in April, showed that the Chinese regime’s grip on international institutions is tightening quickly.

“Since the U.S.-China Commission began tracking officials from the People’s Republic of China serving in leadership positions in international organizations, Beijing’s influence has only grown over key U.N. agencies responsible for funding and policymaking on a wide range of important issues,” the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission told The Epoch Times in a statement.

“Contrary to the International Civil Servant Standards of Conduct, they [Chinese officials who lead U.N. agencies] use those positions to pursue China’s foreign policy goals,” the Commission added.

Through its growing influence at the U.N. and other international organizations, Beijing is pursuing its own interests, including greater global influence and control, according to the Commission.

“China has steadily promoted positions favoring Beijing’s own interests and views, such as internet governance, technical standards for emerging technologies, and economic development overriding human rights concerns,” the organization said in the statement.

Experts and officials who spoke with The Epoch Times, though, warned that the USCC report does not capture the full extent of the problem.

Congress and the administration must take action, they said.

Beijing’s Control Over Chinese UN Officials

Experts say Chinese nationals leading international organizations are especially problematic in light of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) expectations of absolute loyalty to the Party.

Take for example, Chinese official Meng Hongwei, who was president of the global law-enforcement agency Interpol and former vice minister of China’s public security. He was arrested by the regime while on a trip to China in late 2018. Among his alleged crimes was disobeying Communist Party orders.

Meng Hongwei, former president of Interpol.
Meng Hongwei, former president of Interpol, speaks at the opening of the Interpol World Congress in Singapore on July 4, 2017. (Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images)

At least one Chinese official has boasted on Chinese television of how Chinese officials use their influence at the U.N. to advance CCP objectives.

Former U.N. under-secretary-general and head of the U.N. Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) Wu Hongbo bragged on Chinese state broadcaster CCTV that he used his position to have U.N. police remove World Uyghur Congress President Dolkun Isa from a seminar in the U.N. building. As head of a dissident group that advocates self-determination for Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region, Isa has been targeted by the CCP.

“We have to strongly defend the motherland’s interests,” Wu explained as the audience applauded.

The Threat

Former State Department official Moley, who served from 2018 to 2019, said it was hard to overemphasize the seriousness of the threat.

In a phone interview with The Epoch Times, Moley sounded the alarm.

“I feel like Paul Revere, saying the ‘British are coming, the British are coming,’ but really, the Chinese are already here,” he warned.

Moley also served as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.N. from 2001 to 2006.

Moley said much of the media and many in the political class have downplayed or ignored the danger.

Pointing to concentration camps for Uyghurs in Xinjiang, Moley compared the situation to the late 1930s, when world leaders turned a blind eye to abuses under Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

Moley said key officials embedded within the State Department stretching back to the Obama administration and even earlier have been “complicit in what has transpired.”

Pointing to Beijing’s use of “corrupt practices” to seize control of U.N. agencies and other international organizations, he said the United States must respond appropriately.

“This is not just an uneven playing field,” he said. “We have been completely outgunned and outvoted.”

The latest USCC report represents just the tip of the iceberg, Moley continued.

“The Chinese have also flooded these agencies with interns and consultants,” he claimed.

For example, in Montreal, he said, Canadian authorities cannot keep track of the Chinese agents operating at international institutions.

Beijing has also “flooded” the World Health Organization (WHO) with interns and junior professional officers, all of whom—unlike Americans and others from Western nations—are under the direct control of their government.

“They have absolutely flooded the U.N. system with their people,” he said. Several insider sources at the U.N. also confirmed to The Epoch Times that this phenomenon existed at the organization.

Moley explained that this risks numerous global regulatory and standard-setting authorities being controlled by Beijing in sectors ranging from telecommunications to global aviation.

“Their goal is to use this to benefit China, advance their objectives, and expand their control,” he said, citing China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI, also known as One Belt, One Road) to illustrate what was happening at the global level.

“They are creating a network of infrastructure to exercise mercantile influence, and they want to undermine countries along the route,” he said.

Allowing Beijing to join the World Trade Organization was a “critical mistake,” Moley argued.

Epoch Times Photo
The World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters are seen in Geneva on April 12, 2018. (Fabrice Coffrini/ AFP/Getty Images)

Beijing is exploiting the international system to gain a competitive economic advantage over the United States, Moley said.

“America’s most important product is intellectual property … China’s most important product is also American intellectual property,” he said.

Beijing’s threats were all-encompassing. “This is cultural, military and economic competition,” said Moley. “They want to defeat the West in everything, including in terms of values.”

Moley said that during his time at the State Department, there were only a handful of people whom he could count on and fully trust on China issues.

UN Agencies Under Beijing’s Control

Almost a third of all U.N. agencies are now being led by a communist Chinese official in the top job, the USCC report showed.

These include the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which has been run by Zhao Houlin since 2015.

Before working at the U.N., Zhao worked at China’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, which is now part of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

The ITU is an important organization within the U.N. system. Multiple governments have advocated giving it sweeping powers over the internet.

When Zhao was once asked by South Korean media Yonhap news agency about Beijing’s censorship apparatus, he brushed it off.

“We [at the ITU] don’t have a common interpretation of what censorship means,” he was quoted as saying.

Another U.N. agency under Beijing’s control is the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which seeks to oversee global air travel and the aviation industry.

Headed by Liu Fang, whose career began at the Chinese regime’s aviation department, ICAO has become infamous for its hostility toward self-ruled Taiwan and proposing international taxes on air travel.

The U.N. Industrial Development Organization is led by Beijing’s former Vice Minister of Finance Li Yong.

The disgraced agency has lost multiple Western governments as members after it funded investments in the dictatorial regimes of Cuba and Iran.

Li, who runs the agency, frequently defends and promotes Chinese companies such as Huawei, with Beijing’s propaganda machine amplifying the rhetoric and claiming that the U.N. supports it.

The Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization was the most recent agency to fall under Beijing’s control, with Qu Dongyu taking the helm last summer.

Epoch Times Photo
The Chinese candidate to head the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Qu Dongyu addresses FAO members and delegates during the plenary assembly for the election of the new FAO director-general held at the FAO headquarters, in Rome, Italy, on June 22, 2019. (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images)

According to media reports, Beijing relied on bribes and threats to secure the influential post.

The agency shapes agricultural policy worldwide and distributes food aid.

The CCP also boasted that it played a “crucial role” in creating the U.N.’s Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which have been widely touted by U.N. leaders as the “masterplan for humanity.”

Secretary-general of the U.N. Antonio Guterres also boasted of the “alignment of the [CCP] Belt and Road Initiative with the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Other UN Posts

Other powerful leadership posts include Liu Zhenmin, who served as Under-Secretary-General for the U.N. Economic and Social Affairs since 2017. He took over from another Chinese official who held the job before him. Liu previously served as vice minister for Foreign Affairs.

Separately, Xu Haoliang serves as Assistant Secretary-General for the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP), an agency with a history of boosting communist regimes.

As far back as the 1980s, for instance, under the guise of “development,” the UNDP was helping Beijing’s ally in Pyongyang build a semiconductor factory that the North Korean regime uses to produce missile components.

Xue Hanqin serves as vice-president of the International Court of Justice, the primary judicial body of the U.N.

This body, which describes itself as the “World Court,” was created to settle disputes between governments.

Beijing representatives also serve in deputy leadership positions.

Liu Jian, for instance, serves as chief scientist and acting director of the science division for the agency known as U.N. Environment, an organization that helps shape environmental policies worldwide.

Chinese officials have been major proponents of slashing CO2 emissions in Western nations, while China’s own emissions continue to grow.

Until 2018, Chinese official Tang Qian served as assistant director-general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and was nominated by Beijing to take over the entire agency, though the bid ultimately failed. His boss was Irina Bokova, daughter of a famous Bulgarian communist politician.

UNESCO plays an enormous role in global education policy, helping shape the minds of billions of children.

In 2018, as Tang was on his way out, new UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay, a French Socialist, appointed Communist Chinese official Qu Xing to serve as deputy director-general of the agency. He is not listed in the USCC report.

At the WHO, which has been criticized during this pandemic for parroting Beijing’s talking points, Chinese official Ren Minghui serves as assistant director-general for “universal health coverage.”

Before being replaced by the Beijing-backed Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO was led by Margaret Chan, a former Hong Kong official loyal to Beijing.

Tedros and Xi WHO and CCP
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom (L) shakes hands with Chinese regime leader Xi Jinping before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Jan. 28, 2020. (Naohiko Hatta/AFP via Getty Images)

Citing the COVID-19 scandal, Trump recently blasted the WHO as “very China-centric” and has ordered U.S. funding to be halted, pending a review into the WHO’s pandemic response.

Another key Chinese leader at the U.N. is Wang Binying, deputy director-general of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Beijing lobbied for Wang to become head of the agency.

Experts raised concerns that if a Chinese official headed the agency, Beijing would have access to the world’s largest repository of intellectual property and secrets, with implications for American companies and U.S. national security.

Zhang Wenjian serves as assistant secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization , an agency that shapes climate policy.

Some senior U.N. posts occupied by Beijing’s agents are not mentioned in the USCC report, such as Secretary of the International Plant Protection Convention Xia Jingyuan.

And the number of Chinese consultants and contractors in key positions of influence dwarfs those who are officially appointed, multiple sources told The Epoch Times.

Beyond the UN

Beijing also has officials installed at other international organizations, spanning financial and banking policy to infrastructure and development, according to the USCC report.

At the International Monetary Fund (IMF), for example, Zhang Tao has served as deputy managing director since 2016, a post he took up after serving as deputy governor of China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China.

Meanwhile, Lin Jianhai serves as secretary of the IMF and of the International Monetary and Financial Committee.

The IMF’s executive director for China, meanwhile, is Jin Zhongxia, another former official at China’s central bank.

The World Bank also has Chinese officials in multiple influential positions.

Among them are Yang Shaolin, managing director and chief administrative officer; Hua Jingdong, vice president and treasurer; and Yang Yingming, executive director for China.

With an annual bond issuance of $50 billion and the ability to shape government policy around the world, having multiple Chinese operatives at the helm of the World Bank is a major threat to freedom, experts say.

The recently formed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), proposed by Beijing and comprised of Indo-Pacific nations, is headed by Chinese official Jin Liqun. The bank hopes to rival the U.S.-backed Asian Development Bank.

But even the Asian Development Bank, which has traditionally been backed by the West and the United States, includes Beijing’s Chen Shixin as vice-president of operations and Cheng Zhijun as executive director for China.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) also includes Chinese governor, Yi Gang, who simultaneously serves as the governor of the People’s Bank of China.

The WTO, which has been instrumental in aiding Beijing’s economic rise to global superpower status, features Chinese official Yi Xiaozhun as deputy director-general.

Meanwhile, Beijing’s Zhao Hong serves on the WTO’s Appellate Body, which decides disputes between nations and governments.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which regulates the use of nuclear technology, also has a Chinese deputy director-general, Yang Dazhu.

Beijing is planning to inject more officials into the U.N. and other organizations; there is a relatively new “School of Global Governance” offering training at the Beijing Foreign Studies University.

Non-Chinese Assets

Former U.S. State Department official Moley and other former senior Trump officials emphasized that even many non-Chinese officials are doing the bidding of Beijing.

A former senior U.N. official with more than 30 years’ experience in the world of U.N. diplomacy echoed concerns of other experts about the ability of Beijing to count on diplomats from other nations to do its bidding.

“China understood very early the importance for its interests of a growing influence within the United Nations,” said the U.N. official, who requested anonymity to speak frankly amid continued dealings with the U.N.

“This resulted in an uncompromising struggle for obtaining high positions guaranteeing decisive responsibility in the U.N. agencies,” the former official said, adding that governments within the “Group of 77” (the G77 + China alliance of more than 130 governments) functioned as “satellites” of Beijing and had “become the armed wing of the Chinese U.N.-related diplomacy.”

Because decisions in most U.N. bodies are made on the basis of one vote per government, China has been able to gain a great deal of leverage despite its relatively meager funding of organizations.

Using its allies in African, Latin American, and Asian governments, China has been able to “effectively tip the scales” when needed, the former U.N. official said.

“With time, big money and political intimidation, the U.N. became the Cosa Nostra of China and most UN agencies drifted into a typically mafia-type modus operandi dominated by large-scale corruption and embezzlement schemes, collapse of rules and internal laws and abuse of power,” the source said.

“The giant Chinese octopus is having its tentacles spreading ever wider every day,” the former official added.

Whistleblowers who have opposed China’s human rights abuses from within the U.N. expressed similar concerns.

Former U.N. human rights official Emma Reilly, whose case was the subject of an in-depth article in The Epoch Times, also noted that non-Chinese U.N. officials are frequently helping Beijing.

“While there has been a lot of focus on Chinese nationals being appointed as heads of U.N. agencies, that is merely a very obvious sign of a more general issue,” she told The Epoch Times. “China does not need to have its nationals appointed when those at the top will simply do the Chinese government’s bidding and break the rules in order to help them identify victims for torture and genocide.”

Reilly alleged that the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights handed the names of Chinese dissidents seeking help to Beijing.

She has filed a complaint before the U.N. Dispute Tribunal. The U.N. human rights office has previously declined to comment on Reilly’s allegations, “given current litigation.”

China exercises its control over staffing, too, Reilly said.

“China as one of the permanent five on the Security Council can simply use its influence to block appointment of anyone likely to act independently and apply the same rules to China as to everyone else, as U.N. staff are formally required to do by the U.N. Charter,” she said.

Problems Under Obama and Before

As The Epoch Times reported in September, there is now a concerted effort to blame the ongoing takeover of the U.N. by the CCP on Trump.

However, Moley and others argued that the Trump administration was among the first to take China’s threat seriously.

Moley said that the problems began even before the Barack Obama administration, going back to when President Bill Clinton welcomed Beijing into the WTO.

Still, multiple sources from within the U.N. and the State Department, as well as external experts and analysts, said the Obama administration was crucial in allowing the current crisis to materialize.

“The Communist Chinese infected the U.N. with their malign influence—and the Obama administration helped hold the syringe,” said Christopher Hull, Ph.D., a senior fellow with Americans for Intelligence Reform, who has closely followed China’s growing influence in the international system.

In particular, Dr. Hull and several others pointed the finger at Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Nerissa Cook, who has served in that position since 2010.

Another U.S. official whom insiders said facilitated the problem is Bathsheba Crocker, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs during the Obama administration.

She was quoted by Chinese propaganda organs celebrating Beijing’s growing role within the U.N. system, with state-run newspaper China Daily reporting that Crocker was “particularly pleased” to see China taking more responsibility in the U.N.

When Trump’s appointees tried to have Cook and other senior officials provide details on Beijing’s growing control over U.N. agencies, they did everything possible to stall, two inside sources told The Epoch Times. Those officials then worked to get Trump’s appointees ousted, according to the sources.

Moley said a report was drafted, identifying the nationality of key officials, including those representing Beijing, within international organizations. But he did not receive the report until months later. Another State Department source confirmed the stalling.

Neither the U.S. State Department, Crocker, or Cook responded to requests for comments made by phone and email.

China’s mission to the U.N. did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Alex Newman is an award-winning international journalist, educator, author, and consultant. He serves as the CEO of Liberty Sentinel Media and writes for diverse publications in the United States and abroad.