The Debate | Opinion

It’s Time to Stop the Chinese Communist Party’s Shadow Campaign for Power at the United Nations

The CCP poses a significant long-term national security and economic threat to the U.S. and our allies.

By Michael McCaul for
It’s Time to Stop the Chinese Communist Party’s Shadow Campaign for Power at the United Nations
Credit: Illustration by Catherine Putz

A recent report by the Associated Press details the extent to which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) lied to the world about COVID-19 and covered up their failures, costing precious time and hundreds of thousands of lives. The report also outlines how the World Health Organization (WHO) – led by Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus – repeatedly chose to placate the CCP rather than hold them accountable. 

Those who followed Tedros’ election at the WHO weren’t surprised at his actions. After all, it was the CCP, among others, who strongly advocated for him – after they invested $13.3 billion into Tedros’ home country of Ethiopia during his time as foreign minister. 

To put this in perspective, during the 2003 SARS outbreak, then-WHO Director General Gro Harlem Brundtland spoke publicly against the CCP for withholding information and lying to the world. Compare that to Tedros’ consistent glowing praise of the CCP during the COVID-19 outbreak – even though, as the AP reports, the WHO knew the CCP was withholding vital information. While there are some who want to give Tedros the benefit of the doubt regarding the CCP’s influence over his decisions, his incompetent management of the COVID-19 response should be enough for a swift dismissal. 

The WHO failed in its core duty to protect global health. But they aren’t the only agency struggling under poor leadership. 

Of the 15 specialized agencies that support the U.N.’s work, four are led by Chinese nationals: the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). 

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In comparison, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States combined direct the same number of these types of agencies.

How did China gain so many leadership posts for its citizens? In some cases, the CCP puts pressure on governments to withdraw their candidates. In June 2019, China forgave about $78 million in debts owed by the Cameroonian government. Shortly after, Cameroon’s candidate for FAO director-general withdrew from the race – paving the way for a Chinese national to win. 

Once in place, these officials often begin to act on behalf of the CCP. Just last year, former undersecretary-general of the U.N. and head of the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) Wu Hongbo admitted to prioritizing the CCP’s interest in his official capacity. And they use their leadership positions to slot many CCP officials into agencies they run. Also, they have placed their nationals into key U.N. offices to help stifle complaints against their personnel.

This is why I’m introducing the “United Nations Transparency and Accountability Act.”

This legislation helps counter the CCP’s malign influence operations by empowering the U.S. president to designate China and similar countries as a “malign global actor,” leveraging resources to deny them leadership roles within the U.N. system. This will help stop the next generation of CCP officials and their puppets from getting into positions of power. 

This bill also promotes U.S. interests in the U.N. by creating an office within the State Department tasked with providing alternatives to Chinese nationals and their proxies in U.N. elections. We’ve had some success with this recently. Earlier this year, a U.S.-backed candidate from Singapore beat the CCP-backed candidate to head the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which could have given the CCP a fifth leadership position within the U.N. But we need to help ensure more victories like this. 

Finally, it will require a full accounting of all U.S. contributions to the U.N. so we can make sure our taxpayer dollars are directed at countering the CCP’s influence within the U.N., among other things.

We must recognize the CCP poses a significant long-term national security and economic threat to the U.S. and our allies. That is why I’m proud to serve as the chairman of the new China Task Force. This task force is looking for solutions to the generational threat the CCP poses, including protecting global supply chains; the CCP’s regional military aggression; and, of course, their malign influence on international organizations like the U.N. 

We must take this seriously and we must succeed. If we fail, future generations will look back at this as a Sputnik moment – only this time we didn’t wake up.

Rep. Michael McCaul (TX-10) serves as the Republican Leader for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Chairman of the China Task Force in the House of Representatives.