The United Nations is a battlefield for world powers

Some U.N. diplomats said China has been working to spread and formalize President Xi Jinping’s political thought.

“Xi Jinping-thought attempts to rewrite the rules of multilateralism,” said a senior European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We may disagree with them … but ‘Xi Jinping’ is a clear concept, which they promote and get into resolutions.”

An example is that for the past three years a Security Council resolution to renew the mandate for the U.N. political mission in Afghanistan included a reference to China’s Belt and Road initiative, a massive plan to recreate the old Silk Road. But the United States and other members said this year they could no longer accept that language.

A senior Asian diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States had made it easy for China to show leadership at the United Nations.

“For example, the U.S. has been largely absent from discussions at the U.N. on sustainable development, climate change and financing for development,” the diplomat said. “This gives China and other countries the opportunity to show support for these important issues and also showcase their own contributions, like the Belt and Road Initiative.”

A U.S. defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said there was concern about growing Chinese influence in international organizations as the United States has pulled back in some ways, but called it a “slow-moving train.”

Former U.N. political affairs chief and veteran U.S. diplomat Jeffrey Feltman, now a fellow at the Brookings Institution, argued that the United Nations had become more of a competitive rather than cooperative environment.

“It’s not realistic to think that the United States is going to be able to single-handedly lead these organizations the same way that they could after 1989,” he said, referring to the collapse of the Soviet Union. “If the U.S. leaves a vacuum in the leadership of the U.N., others will fill it. China is doing a very good job of increasing its influence.”