Mapping China's Influence at the United Nations

Mapping China's Influence at the United Nations
Photo by Christian Lue on Unsplash

Research explains how powerful states exert influence when staffing the UN system, but how do emerging powers use international civil service contributions to influence multilateral institutions? We use the case of China to explore how emerging powers exerts influence. We focus on the 2010-2019 time period and find when countries have higher UN General Assembly voting affinity with China, these China-friendly states secure greater increase in UN leadership positions. These posts generate two pay-offs for China: in turn, moving China-friendly nationals into other UN leadership positions and aligning liberal discourse with PRC discourse by using PRC-specific terms and PRC-reinterpreted words. Using text analysis methods, we show that China-friendly leadership positively correlates with the use and frequency of PRC-specific terms in its reports. Also, China-friendly leadership tends more to use PRC-reinterpreted words in line with PRC meanings. Our project speaks to a limited literature on emerging power’s attempts to advance influence in multilateral institutions.

Shing-hon Lam is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he specialises in International Relations. He earned his Master’s in International Relations from the University of Chicago and BSocSc in Politics and Public Administration from the University of Hong Kong. His latest research explores the influence of member states in international organisations with a focus on China.

Courtney J. Fung is Associate Professor in the Department of Security Studies & Criminology at Macquarie University. She is concurrently an associate-in-research at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University and an associate fellow at the Lowy Institute. She was previously an associate professor with tenure in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong. Her work investigates how rising powers address the norms and provisions for global governance and international security, with a primary focus on China. She is author of China and Intervention at the UN Security Council: Reconciling Status (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019).

Date & time

Thu 28 Sep 2023, 11am–12.30pm


RSSS Room 3.72 or Online via Zoom


Courtney Fung
Shing-hon Lam


Richard Frank


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