House Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Counter China’s Influence at UN

August 9, 2020 Updated: August 9, 2020

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) has introduced a new legislative proposal aimed at strengthening U.S. leadership at the United Nations, while countering malign influences from adversary countries such as China.

The bill, named the United Nations Transparency and Accountability Act of 2020 (H.R.7939), would empower the U.S. President to name countries found to engage in malign influence operations within the United Nations (UN) system as “malign global actors.”

The Secretary of the State would also be required to report on U.N. member states found to engage in these operations.

“For years, the Chinese Communist Party and other malign actors have infiltrated the United Nations system in pursuit of their own goals,” stated McCaul in an Aug. 7 press release.

He explained: “This legislation would enact key reforms to increase transparency and to ensure the U.S. Government has the resources and personnel to better ensure accountability in the UN system.”

The bill seeks to expand a current unit within the State Department that encourages Americans to take up jobs at international organizations, into a full-blown office. The new Office of American Citizens would support Americans to take up leadership or oversight roles at those organizations.

The bill would also mandate the expansion of a U.S.-sponsored Junior Professional Officer program, which allows Americans to train at several international organizations, such as the U.N., Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and International Atomic Energy Agency.

Finally, the bill would make U.S. contributions to the U.N. more transparent, such as requiring reports to be made publicly accessible after their submissions to Congress.

“It’s critical we have the right amount of U.S. engagement and leadership to counteract those who try to undermine the founding ideals of the United Nations so we can best solve international problems together,” McCaul said in the press release.

China

As China has transformed from an agrarian economy into an economic juggernaut, it has also expanded its influence within the U.N. system.

“China is interested in expanding its influence within the U.N., not because it supports the founding principles of the U.N., but in order to shift the values, programs, and policies of the U.N. in ways that benefit Chinese priorities and ideology,” according to an April 2019 report by the Washington-based think tank The Heritage Foundation.

Among the 17 specialized agencies under the U.N., Chinese nationals currently head up four of them: the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the FAO, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

The World Health Organization has recently come under fire for repeating Beijing’s claims about the pandemic, which critics said exacerbated COVID-19’s global spread.

Within the U.N. system, China has also sought to assert its sovereignty claims over self-ruled island Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province.

The ICAO has blocked Taiwan, a major air traffic hub, from participating in its meetings since 2016. On Feb. 1, U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus expressed concerns, after ICAO blocked some Twitter users who criticized the agency for its continued exclusion of Taiwan.

Then, on Feb. 13, the ICAO issued a document titled “Economic impact estimates due to COVID-19 travel bans,” in which it addressed the island as “Taiwan Province.”

The United States sees Taiwan as one of its key partners in the Indo-Pacific region and has supplied the island with military hardware for its self-defense against China’s threats of invasion.

McCaul’s bill is not the only proposal attempting to address China’s influence at the world body.

In September 2019, Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) introduced a bill (S.2528) requiring the U.S. Director of National Intelligence to provide a report on China’s objectives, tactics, and influence at international organizations.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer