The United Nations was formed at the end of world war II, to maintain peace throughout the world. Within the structure of UN, Security Council is ranked above all.

There were only five permanent members selected. These nations includes US, UK, USSR(now Russia), France and China.

I don't know what criteria was used for this selection, but first four seems obvious to me. US & USSR were two superpowers emerged after war. UK & France were victors and former superpowers, and were still controlling many colonies at that time. But China doesn't fit in picture anywhere. It was not a superpower at that time, neither it had a strong economy or military as of today.

Is it because China fought from victor's side or is it due to it's large population, or is it selected as representative of Asia.


3 Answers 3


China (at the time) was one of the "Big Four" Allies (France was not) during World War II. (The "United Nations" originally meant the united, anti-Axis nations.) It's true that the "Big Three" were the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union, but there were a number of much weaker, plausible "number four" states, including China, France, and Poland (the latter two were German-occupied, with large Free French and free Polish contingents). Of these, China was the strongest and most important. France was "number five," added at the end of the war. This hierarchy was put forth by U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who planned on having China as a counterweight after the war against British and French colonialism, and prophetically foresaw China's rise to world power (although in a different form than he envisioned).

Although China wasn't very successful in World War II, it played an important role in tying up the Japanese forces, acting as the Pacific "anvil" to the Americans' "hammer." As in Europe, the Americans fought only one fourth of the Japanese army (but most of its navy), with China absorbing most of Japan's remaining power. China's capacity in this regard was demonstrated only six years after World War II, when China spearheaded the "anti-UN" (basically anti-US) efforts in Korea.

In order to win World War II, the Axis had to defeat all three of America's major allies; Britain, the Soviet Union and China. Suppose the second worst case scenario, that the Germans had conquered the British Isles (e.g. by submarine warfare) in 1944, and European Russia by the end of 1945. Then America would be the leader of "Free British" forces in India, "Free Russia" forces in Siberia, and "free China." By mid-1945, the Allies had actually recaptured the Philippines, plus parts of Indochina and modern Indonesia, and Japan's Pacific Islands. Then Eisenhower's "Normandy" invasion could have instead liberated Japanese-occupied China in 1945, in cooperation with local Chinese forces. A "United Nations" of North and South America, China, India, Siberia, Australia, and today's ASEAN nations (even if Britain, Russia, Africa and the Middle East were lost to the Germans) would probably have sufficed to wage and win a "Cold War" with the Axis. Take China out of the equation and the "Allies" lose. (This is a thesis of my unpublished World War II book, "Axis Overstretch.")

  • 1
    Two points. India was not an independent nation until 1947 and thus would not have been considered for the UN security council. Second, while I agree China acted like a sponge for Japanese resources, why would the US invade China when invading Japan ends the war more quickly? The US preferred to deal with the Axis directly, round about attacks are more a British thing.
    – Schwern
    Mar 10, 2015 at 2:49
  • 1
    Inspite of its poverty? India was neither an economic power nor a military power. At most, Indian regiments had fought in Europe and Asia, Indo-China. Even there the chain of command was predominantly British. Besides, the partition crippled it further. Hence I don't find it valid that India was on its way to being a major power. One may say, it could have a regional influence due to its population resource
    – Rohit
    Mar 10, 2015 at 14:12
  • @TomAu I would not simply lump them together. France and Poland were nations just prior to the war with governments in exile ready to step into Security Council seats. India was not a nation prior to the war, there was no government in exile, no constitution, it wasn't even a single nation. Who would take the seat, the Muslim League or the Indian National Congress? While it can be argued India was a plausible member, it was not simply an occupied nation.
    – Schwern
    Mar 10, 2015 at 19:48
  • @TomAu (I'm not sure how Saudi Arabia and Arabic came up.) I'm not arguing against the idea that India may have deserved a seat. It's about considering India an occupied country, in the sense of France and Poland, in 1945 when the Security Council was formed. Who would decide who took the seat? Would the British decide until an Indian government formed? At this point, we need some sort of historical citation that India (in whatever form) was considered.
    – Schwern
    Mar 10, 2015 at 20:16
  • @Schwern: As I remember, the original plan was to have American trained Chinese forces liberate China by 1945, then join in an attack on Japan in 1946 to save American lives. Chinese defeats in 1944 set back this timetable, while the unexpected success of American "island hopping" allowed for an invasion of Japan from the "eastern" (Pacific) side by (mainly) Americans in late 1945 instead of 1946.. And the A-bomb rendered both plans unnecessary.
    – Tom Au
    May 11, 2016 at 0:53

The Peoples Republic of China was not originally on the security council, as it did not exist in 1945 at the time the security council was created. The Peoples Republic of China inherited the Republic of China's seat on the council when it took over the ROC's place in the United Nations in 1971.

Originally the United States supported the ROC's place on the security council. The reasons for this obviously are subject to interpretation and were highly political. Possibly one factor was that the council was going to include Britain and France (both former colonial powers) and the US saw the ROC as an ally and counterweight to the European presence on the council. Also, the US may have seen the need for an Asian representative on the council.

This latter motivation, having all continents represented, is also suggested by the fact that the United States also supported having Brazil on the security council, although this was firmly opposed by Britain and France.

  • 5
    last paragraph makes no sense, as there's no permanent seat appointed to Africa (and who'd it be anyway? Nazi symphatetic South Africa was the only independent entity on that continent in 1945 with any military and political clout to speak of).
    – jwenting
    Aug 4, 2014 at 11:04
  • 1
  • @Schwern maybe they did, but that'd still leave out Africa and Australia.
    – jwenting
    Mar 18, 2015 at 14:40
  • @jwenting You're arguing against yourself here. If there was no good candidate to appoint a seat in Africa, then they have disincentive to represent that continent. Australia was not clearly independent from the UK until the 1989 Australia act. May 12, 2016 at 17:13
  • Do you want to comment on the influence of the Soong family on the politics of US/ROC relationships? It is related to the first part of your answer. Jun 20, 2016 at 20:47

I thought it was because FDR demanded it. The USA was in fact fighting in China against Japan prior to Pearl Harbor. The Russians had a non aggression pact with Japan until the final days of World War 2. Since no one really wanted a United Nations anyways I'd call this one a "Presidential." Unlike Russia, Great Britain and France (to a very limited degree) the USA placed no territorial demands on anyone as a result of its Victory in World War 2. We wanted the dollar as the World's global reserve and deterrence to prevent another Pearl Harbor...all of which the USA did in fact get. The postwar US economic boom was the biggest in US History and didn't involve "imperial anything" until the 1980's. Turned out to be great news for Japan and Germany ironically...but they will never be members of the Security Council sad to say. South Africa, Brazil and India still have a long way to go too.

Saudi Arabia is a possible #5 tho.

  • 3
    This is speculation, not history, and Saudi Arabia as #5 is not even close to reality. Jun 21, 2016 at 2:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.