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China: China's Role in International Organizations
Country Study > Chapter 12 > Foreign Relations > An Overview of China's Foreign Relations > China's Role in International Organizations

CHINA'S ROLE IN INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS


Participation in international organizations is perceived as an important measure of a nation's prestige as well as a forum through which a nation can influence others and gain access to aid programs and sources of technology and information. The People's Republic was precluded from participating actively in most mainstream international organizations for the first two decades of its existence because of its subordinate position in the Sino-Soviet alliance in the 1950s and the opposition of the United States after China's involvement in the Korean War. China repeatedly failed to gain admission to the UN. In 1971 Beijing finally gained China's seat when relations with the United States changed for the better. Taipei's representatives were expelled from the UN and replaced by Beijing's.

After becoming a member of the UN, China also joined most UNaffiliated agencies, including, by the 1980s, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. China's willingness, under the policy of opening up to the outside world beginning in the late 1970s, to receive economic and technical assistance from such agencies as the UN Development Program was a significant departure from its previous stress on self-reliance. In 1986 China renewed its application to regain its seat as one of the founding members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

By the late 1980s, China had become a member of several hundred international and regional organizations, both those of major significance to world affairs, including the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Intellectual Property Organization, and the International Olympic Committee, and associations or societies focused on such narrow subjects as acrobatics or the study of seaweed. Besides providing China a forum from which to express its views on various issues, membership in the 1970s and 1980s in increasing numbers of international groups gave Chinese foreignaffairs personnel wider knowledge and valuable international experience.

It is notable that by the late 1980s Beijing had not sought formal membership in several important international organizations representative of Third World interests: the Group of 77, the Nonaligned Movement, and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Despite the emphasis China placed on Third World relations, China's independent foreign policy and special position as a somewhat atypical Third World nation made it seem unlikely in the late 1980s that China would seek more than observer status in these groups.

By the second half of the 1980s, China's participation in international organizations reflected the two primary goals of its independent foreign policy: furthering domestic economic development through cooperation with the outside world and promoting peace and stability by cultivating ties with other nations on an equal basis. As expressed by Zhao Ziyang in a 1986 report to the National People's Congress, "China is a developing socialist country with a population of over 1 billion. We are well aware of our obligations and responsibilities in the world. We will therefore continue to work hard on both fronts, domestic and international, to push forward the socialist modernization of our country and to make greater contributions to world peace and human progress."

In the 1970s and 1980s, Chinese foreign policy was the subject of numerous books and articles reflecting diverse perspectives and disciplinary approaches. Excellent coverage includes A. Doak Barnett's China and the Major Powers in East Asia, King C. Chen's China and the Three Worlds (which includes many relevant documents), Wang Gungwu's China and the World since 1949, Melvin Gurtov and Byong-Moo Hwang's China under Threat, Michael B. Yahuda's China's Role in World Affairs, and Robert C. North's The Foreign Relations of China. Richard H. Solomon's chapter in The China Factor covers China's relations with many countries in addition to its primary focus on United States-China relations. China and the World, edited by Samuel S. Kim, provides a comprehensive view of many facets of Chinese foreign relations. Barnett's The Making of Foreign Policy in China is a pathbreaking study of a subject previously little understood outside China.

The following periodicals often contain informative or analytical articles on Chinese foreign policy and relations with specific countries or regions: Asian Survey, Asia Pacific Community, Asiaweek, China Quarterly, Current History, Far Eastern Economic Review, Foreign Affairs, Issues & Studies, Journal of Northeast Asian Studies, Pacific Affairs, Problems of Communism, Washington Quarterly, and World Today. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of July 1987




Last Updated: July 1987


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for China was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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