Center for American Progress

Put Reform of International Institutions on the Bilateral Table
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Put Reform of International Institutions on the Bilateral Table

When acting in concert, the United States and China could be a powerful force to push for reform.

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When acting in concert, the United States and China could be a powerful force to push for reform. As one senior U.N. official put it “The fact is that the United States and China—the former an underperformer and the latter a super-underperformer historically —are both moving up the curve of global multilateral action. We will be in a whole new world if both the United States and China can pull in the same direction. It changes the dynamics entirely. U.S.-China cooperation through a representative, legitimizing multilateral forum is a big, big deal.”

Those efforts should be on the menu of bilateral issues at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the yearly meeting of Chinese and American officials, and presidential summits. Reform at WHO is a prime candidate. It is in China’s interests, both from a health and from a reputational point of view, for the multilateral health agency to be a highly effective showcase for Chinese leadership. The United States is an active player there as well. WHO’s current structure, however, is compromised, so a push for reform from both countries would be a positive step for global pandemic response and health more generally. Similarly on peacekeeping, the United States and China could agree to both step up their contributions to U.N. peacekeeping together. In contrast, when Chinese and U.S. views on reforms clash, progress grinds to a halt, as reform plans for the U.N. Security Council illustrate.

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