UN secretary general-elect Antonio Guterres called for China to take up a stronger role as “honest broker” in addressing global challenges as he began on Monday his first visit to Beijing since being elected as the next UN chief.
With a month to go before he takes office, Guterres is already facing the challenge of reaffirming the role and relevance of the UN at a time of a growing backlash against globalisation. That hostility is reflected in US president-elect Donald Trump’s protectionist agenda, and Britain’s recent decision to leave the European Union.
“We see that economic progress and technological progress have not been able to reduce inequality, and inequality is becoming an important factor in stability in the world,” said Guterres after an hour-long meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday morning.
In a separate meeting, President Xi Jinping said the UN had to play a bigger role in global affairs and that China would continue participating in UN missions. He also said the Paris climate change agreement had to be implemented, state-run CCTV reported.
The incoming UN leader stressed the importance of upholding multilateral mechanisms for addressing global challenges.
He also urged closer cooperation between the UN and Beijing, saying that China is “a solid pillar of the multilateralism in the world”.
He called on Beijing to play a stronger role as “a very important honest broker”, mediating conflicts in different parts of the world.
“China can play a very important role in democracy and peace that the world badly needs today,” Guterres said.
Trump’s election victory this month has sparked discussions on the possibility of a weaker US role in world politics, as well as questions about whether Beijing would be ready or willing to take up a stronger role.
Speaking along with Guterres, Wang said the UN remained “an effective platform” and “central mechanism” in leading global affairs.
“In the face of a chaotic world, countries should have higher, instead of lower expectations for the UN,” Wang said. “Therefore, the role of the UN must be strengthened rather than weakened.”
Guterres’ visit to Beijing, which was to end on Tuesday, came after a visit to Moscow the week before.
During a decade-long tenure as the high commissioner for refugees at the UN Guterres was known as a champion of collective diplomacy and multilateralism in conflict resolution.
He was the prime minister of Portugal before moving to the UN.