Report reveals China’s deep role in UNESCO


The report by Ij-Reportika also sheds light on China’s rising influence ensuing reactions from other global players, most notably the US, as they gear up to counter China’s actions within the organization…reports Asian Lite News

A report by Ij-Reportika has shed fresh light into China’s deep role in UNESCO and how the world body is fast turning into a battleground between Beijing and Washington.

The dynamics of the UNESCO-China alliance, encompassing various aspects such as increased funding, the presence of Chinese personnel in top management roles, the controversial blockade of Taiwan’s participation, and the alleged rewriting of history to suit China’s narrative.

The report also analysed China’s rising influence ensuing reactions from other global players, most notably the US, as they gear up to counter China’s actions within the organization. The report also sheds light into the controversies surrounding the publication “The UNESCO Courier” and UNESCO’s handling of intangible cultural heritage, particularly the inclusion of Sowa Rigpa and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

In a deep dive into UNESCO’s tumultuous history, the report unearthed significant controversies that have shaped its reputation over the years. Some of the issues raised include the Israel-Palestine dispute, the Palestinian youth magazine controversy, and the Islamic University of Gaza controversy.

It also goes on to reveal instances of corruption within UNESCO and explore the contentious issue of the New World Information and Communication Order. The report also delves into UNESCO’s role in mediating the Kurdish-Turkish conflict, assessing the challenges faced and the outcomes achieved.

Deep ties

China has been increasing its influence in UNESCO in recent years. This is evident as Beijing is now the largest contributor to UNESCO’s annual budget, providing around $65 million. This gives China a significant say in how UNESCO’s resources are allocated.

China also has several people in top management positions at UNESCO, including Xing Qu, who is the deputy director general. This gives China a strong voice in decision-making at the agency. Meanwhile, Qian Tang is UNESCO’s president of International Bureau of Education that is responsible for promoting education around the world. Qian Tang has been a strong advocate for China’s educational policies in UNESCO. She has worked to promote China’s experience in education and to ensure that China’s voice is heard in the organization’s decision-making process.

Meanwhile, Zhang Xu, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of China to UNESCO has been a strong advocate for China’s cultural heritage in UNESCO. He has worked to promote China’s World Heritage sites and to ensure that China’s voice is heard in the organization’s decision-making process.

In 2018, China hosted the 40th session of the UNESCO General Conference. This was the first time that China had hosted the conference since 1980.

In 2019, China launched the “Silk Roads: Roads of Dialogue” initiative, which is a UNESCO-led project to promote cultural cooperation along the ancient Silk Road.

In 2020, China was elected to the UNESCO Executive Board for a four-year term.

In 2023, the United Nations celebrated Chinese Language Day on April 18 at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France. The theme of the 2023 event, “Chinese Wisdom for a Green World,” reflected China’s growing influence in the multilateral body.

French writer Nicolas Idier mentioned that the French government places great importance on Chinese language education, with over 40,000 French middle school students learning Chinese between 2022 and 2023.

Chinese and U.S. flags flutter outside a company building in Shanghai, China November 16, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song – RC2DVQ90RYWC

US, China tussle

Meanwhile, UNESCO’s governing board voted 132-10 on Friday to accept the US proposal to rejoin the Paris-based agency. The North American country’s membership will become official once Secretary of State Antony Blinken, or a designee, formally accepts the invitation, according to White House officials.

Blinken said the vote would “restore US leadership on a host of issues of importance and value to the American people”.

“I am encouraged and grateful that today the membership accepted our proposal, which will allow the United States to take the next, formal steps toward fully rejoining the organisation,” he said in a statement.

Russian, Palestinian and North Korean representatives had held up consideration of the US proposal on Thursday with hours of procedural delays. That session was adjourned due to fatigue on the part of UNESCO interpreters.

In addition to Russia, North Korea and the Palestinians, those that voted against readmitting the US were Belarus, China, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Nicaragua and Syria.

The administration of US President Joe Biden had announced in early June that the US would apply to rejoin the organisation mainly because it was concerned that China was filling the gap left in its absence. The 193-member UNESCO plays a major role in setting international standards for artificial intelligence and technology education around the world.

The administration of former President Donald Trump announced in 2017 that the US would withdraw from UNESCO, citing anti-Israel bias. That decision took effect a year later.

The US and Israel stopped financing UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member state in 2011. The Biden administration has requested $150m from the 2024 budget to go towards UNESCO dues and arrears. The plan foresees similar requests for the ensuing years until the full debt of $619m is paid off.

That makes up a big chunk of UNESCO’s $534m annual operating budget. Before leaving, the US contributed 22 percent of the agency’s overall funding.

Israel has long accused the United Nations of anti-Israel bias. In 2012, over Israeli objections, the state of Palestine was recognised as a non-member observer state by the General Assembly.

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