Date
14 December 2017
China maintains a large diplomatic presence in UN organizations to ensure its voice is heard in international forums. Photo: Xinhua
China maintains a large diplomatic presence in UN organizations to ensure its voice is heard in international forums. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese diplomacy and what it takes to be heard in Geneva

The cost of running diplomatic missions overseas can be prohibitive.

One example is Denmark which closed a number of consulates general, including one in Hong Kong, in 2012.

Thus, it should come as a surprise that China has four senior ambassadors in Switzerland and a 200-strong contingent in Geneva alone.

In addition to the Chinese ambassador in Bern, the Swiss capital, China has two ambassadors to the United Nations office in Geneva and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Yi Xiaozhun represented China before he became WTO deputy director general, according to the Hong Kong Economic Journal, parent of EJ Insight.

The large number of Chinese diplomats in Geneva has brought burgeoning business to local Chinese restaurants.

And Air China (00753.HK) launched direct flights between Beijing and Geneva last year to serve Chinese diplomats and their families. Reports say they’re all full-fare passengers.

China wants a bigger say in global affairs and sending large numbers of people abroad to represent its views is worth the expense.

Chinese diplomats in Geneva are grouped according to specific tasks — labor, trade, education, climate change, human rights, etc.

A diplomatic envoy might have to deal with a range of issues but that’s not the case for Chinese diplomats. Usually, there will be at least two of them for one specific issue at an international conference.

The Chinese foreign affairs ministry is particularly generous with resources and manpower when it comes to human rights issues. After all, Geneva is the seat of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and China is a lightning rod for human rights criticism.

It is said that almost all human rights hearings are attended by Chinese representatives and they do not just quietly sit there and listen.

When anyone criticizes the Chinese government for alleged human rights abuses or political persecution, they will vigorously rise to the occasion to refute the allegations.

– Contact the writer at [email protected]

RA

EJ Insight writer

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