In a significant statement at the United Nations, China has declared itself as part of the Global South, aligning its goals and challenges with those of less-developed nations and positioning itself as an alternative to what it terms “Western hegemony.” Vice President Han Zheng delivered this message on behalf of President Xi Jinping at the annual UN meeting, emphasizing China’s role as a natural member of the Global South.
Defining the “Global South”:
The term “Global South” refers to nations worldwide that are less developed and less economically affluent than traditionally referred to as “first-world nations.” These countries may not necessarily be located in the Southern Hemisphere, and the term is loosely defined. The concept of the Global South has gained prominence in discussions at the United Nations recently.
Leaders of several large developing nations, including Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and India’s Narendra Modi, have presented themselves as potential leaders for the Global South, aiming to unify and represent these nations on the global stage. China has also positioned itself similarly, particularly since the launch of its “Belt and Road Initiative,” aimed at expanding Chinese influence and development in other countries, especially developing ones.
China’s Role and Balancing Act:
China’s assertion that it belongs to the Global South aligns with its strategy to balance its status as a major global economic and diplomatic power with its identity as a developing nation. For decades, China has presented itself as an alternative to Western dominance, particularly in international affairs. This counternarrative has been a consistent feature of China’s international identity.
By associating itself with the Global South, China can potentially portray its statements as representing numerous nations, even if they may not be in a position to object to such a powerful government’s characterizations.
Debate Over China’s Inclusion:
Whether China, with its $18 trillion GDP, should be considered part of the Global South remains a topic of debate. In some instances, such as Modi’s summit earlier this year, China was not included among the participating countries. This exclusion may be influenced by China’s complex relations with other nations, particularly India.
Notable Absence at UN Meeting:
Xi Jinping’s decision to send Vice President Han Zheng to the United Nations comes at a time when China’s diplomatic activities appear to be in flux. Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s expected appearance did not materialize, leading to speculation and uncertainty about China’s diplomatic direction.
Han Zheng’s speech covered several familiar topics, including China’s stance on Taiwan, human rights, and the situation in Ukraine. China reiterated its claim that Taiwan is historically part of China and emphasized its approach to human rights, which has faced scrutiny from Western nations. Regarding Ukraine, China called for a cease-fire and peace talks as the only path to ending the conflict.
China’s declaration of its alignment with the Global South and its positioning as an alternative to Western dominance underscores its evolving role in international affairs. As China continues to assert its influence on the world stage, its ability to navigate complex diplomatic landscapes and shape global narratives will be closely watched by the international community.