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The South China Sea fiasco: Has the U.N. lost its credibility?

“The award is null and void and has no binding force. China neither accepts nor recognises it.” These were the exact words spoken by Wang Yi, China’s Foreign Minister, when asked to react on the ruling made by the Public Court of Arbitration (PCA)  a U.N. organisation based in The Hague, Netherlands. It is a clear message from China: It doesn’t care what the U.N. says – or for that matter – what the world says if a decision hinders its national interests. It is not to say that such incidents haven’t happened before, they have.  Countries such as Iran and Iraq have violated U.N. orders in the past. However this casual shirking away of international responsibilities comes from none other than China, a country aspiring to be a Superpower, a country which might be a role-model for other developing countries over the turn of the century.  Now the question to ponder over is this: Has China demonstrated, by its casual bashing of the U.N. order, that U.N. is no longer credible?

Now there are many factors which are impacting the United Nations’ credibility. Russia recent annexation of Crimea, calls for a complete overhaul of the United Nations Security Council and Saudi Arabia’s recent refusal to withdraw its forces from Yemen are just some of them. All this coupled with the recent South China Sea fiasco further highlight the that the U.N.is a tiger without teeth. Actually the U.N. hadn’t any credibility to start with anyway. The U.N. did nothing to control the Cold War or the war in Afghanistan. The U.N. regained its credibility with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and with the consequent shift of the power politics from bi-polar to uni-polar. With the rise of China, the world is again transitioning to a bi-polar structure, and with that goes the U.N.’s credibility. This can be easily understood by the following graph:


See the low credibility ratings from 1950 to 1980? That was the approximate duration of the Cold War. Both the United States and the Soviet Union openly and casually snubbed international law leading people to believe that U.N. is as good as extinct. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the credibility ratings rose sharply. it was a period when the U.N.under the leadership of the West,   actively intervened in international disputes.  Even a layman will notice that the U.N. loses its credibility in a bi-polar structure and regains it in a uni-polar structure. Now notice the sharp decline in the graph in 2015. Yep, that is the rise of China, and as U.S.- China disputes get uglier, the trajectory of the graph isn’t expected to change until the next century. The thing to worry about is: We haven’t seen the worst of it, yet.

2 Replies to “The South China Sea fiasco: Has the U.N. lost its credibility?

  1. It is true. The U.N never had credibility to start with. In fact, the U.N were late to act, or at least to respond, during the Ebola crisis, which constructed a massive impact towards the countries in suffering. It seems with other viruses such as the Zika, they were only able to respond. One of the most concerning issues associating the U.N, is that their actions contradict their voices. The U.N urges to seek for a female secretary general as it has been males the whole time, running this organization. Well, by displaying this, the U.N doesn’t seem to comprehend that they should be electing a secretary general based on their skills, competence and ability, not basing solely on one’s gender! Yet, one of their goals is to seek gender equality. In actual fact, they are promoting inequality. Everyone deserves an opportunity, regardless of male or female. There are countless of complaints in regards to the U.N….the list could go on and on.


    Does it actually deserve credibility? That’s the main question.

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