In This Review

China and Intervention at the UN Security Council: Reconciling Status
China and Intervention at the UN Security Council: Reconciling Status
By Courtney J. Fung
Oxford University Press, 2019, 304 pp

Fung makes sense of China’s seemingly confused voting record at the UN Security Council on issues involving armed interventions and the referral of leaders to the International Criminal Court. In 2005, China used an abstention to allow a referral of the Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir to the ICC, and in 2007, it voted for a peace-enforcement operation in Darfur; in 2011, it voted for an ICC referral of the Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi and refrained from vetoing the no-fly zone that led to his fall from power. But between 2012 and 2014, China vetoed a series of resolutions that would have authorized interventions against Bashar al-Assad in Syria. What explains these carefully modulated choices, in Fung’s view, is Beijing’s effort to balance its commitment to the principle of sovereignty with its desire to play a major role on the international stage alongside Western powers while also maintaining solidarity with key regional actors, such as the African Union and the Arab League. She thinks that in the future, Beijing will mostly resist what it sees as Washington’s fetish for regime change. But her analysis also suggests that Beijing would more willingly authorize UN interventions if it saw them as serving its own interests instead of Washington’s.