13

According to this Wikipedia article, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 344 in 1973 with 10 votes from non-permanent members and 4 abstentions from the permanent members France, USSR, UK, and US. But the article says China was a permanent member at the time yet doesn't mention what China's vote was.

Did China really not vote on this resolution, and if so, why not (and why 'not participate' rather than 'abstain')? Was China maybe boycotting the UN or UN Security Council at the time? Why did the other permanent members abstain?

  • 2
    This UNSCR article on the resolution might help, it make reference to china also not appearing to vote in resolution 338 as well – Pete Leaman Jul 10 '18 at 15:16
  • @PeteLeaman, right, that does help. It at least verifies that China was part of the Security Council and decided not to vote, and mentions that China "dissociate[d] itself from what has been mentioned in the first paragraph" of the resolution, which mentioned Resolution 338, in which China also did not vote. Since not voting essentially amounts to an abstention, I guess the question breaks down into two sub-questions: 1) Why did China choose to not vote instead of simply abstaining? 2) Why did China (and all other PMs for that matter) choose not to vote "yes" or "no" on the resolution? – Rasputin Jul 10 '18 at 15:31
  • And 3) Why did China not vote in UNSC Resolution 338? According to Wikipedia, all other UNSC members voted for this resolution: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Rasputin Jul 10 '18 at 15:34
  • I edited in your comments concerning questions. Feel free to edit / rollback if you don't approve. – Lars Bosteen Jul 10 '18 at 22:58
  • typically if a permanent member doesn't vote that means they don't want to vote against the resolution (which would be an automatic veto) but they also don't want to be seen as voting for it. It's actually quite common. – jwenting Jul 11 '18 at 10:00
16

China did not participate in the voting as it has a long-standing policy of not participating in votes on resolutions of which it does not approve. The reasons for not participating or abstaining:

the Chinese have been reluctant to use their veto power, opting instead for abstention and non-participation in votes. In this way — typical of Beijing’s behavior in the UN as well as reflecting its cultural legacies — the Chinese are able to send a message and yet avoid the necessity of taking sides and alienating allies.

Further,

As a rule, the Chinese prefer that conflicts be settled by the parties concerned or, as a last option, by local and regional organizations, without external intervention, including that of the UN or the International Criminal Court.

China did also not participate in voting on Resolutions 338, 339, 340, 341, 346 and 347, all of which dealt with the Arab - Isreali conflict around the time of the Yom Kippur War.

The UNSCR article link provided by Pete Leaman in his comment makes clear that China disapproved of Resolution 344, mentioning that China 'dissociates itself". This is also mentioned in Resolutions and Statements of the United Nations Security Council (1946 - 1989). This same source also mentions that France abstained as it had 'reservations' about Resolution 344. There is little else on the reasons why the US, the UK, the USSR and France abstained. This Security Council report only says:

...clearly all of the permanent members of the Council had problems with this resolution. Perhaps they saw it as a challenge to their leadership on the Middle East issue.

None of the (now many) sources I've consulted explain the difference between abstaining and non-participation in voting, but we can perhaps surmise that the former indicates a lack of full agreement (without being completely opposed) whilst the latter is a stronger message indicating that China does not think that an issue should even be voted on. China is particularly sensitive about what it perceives as interference in the affairs of other states. Christopher Holland, in Chinese Attitudes to International Law, states:

In 1953 and 1954, Chinese Premier and Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai set out the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which now form part of the Preamble to China’s Constitution. These principles include mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, and non-interference in other state’s internal affairs. Throughout the Cold War, China practiced strict adherence to these principles, for example, by refusing to participate in Security Council votes on peacekeeping, or to contribute to UN missions.

Holland also notes that:

Since the end of the Cold War, Chinese foreign policy has shown “greater moderation, engagement, and integration”.


Perhaps related to at least some of the above is China's belief that the General Assembly should have greater power compared to the Security Council. Historically, China has been reluctant to use its veto on the Security Council: only 3 times by 1989, compared to 114 vetoes from the Soviet Union, 67 by the US, 30 by the UK and 18 by France. Since then, China has vetoed more frequently but not usually on issues which do not directly related to Chinese interests. Nonetheless, China strongly believes in having the power to veto.

  • 1
    I'm confused. How does "non-participation in a vote" differ from "abstaining"? – David Richerby Jul 10 '18 at 17:31
  • 4
    @DavidRicherby, it's the difference between not handing in a ballot paper and handing in a blank ballot paper. – Peter Taylor Jul 10 '18 at 17:45
  • 1
    @DavidRicherby, I was being metaphorical. In practical terms, I suspect that non-participation means not turning up for the meeting, but I haven't been able to find a source to confirm that. – Peter Taylor Jul 10 '18 at 22:13
  • 1
    @PeterTaylor Ok but, come on, that’s a pretty terrible metaphor. Not showing up vs showing up and not voting makes much more sense. – David Richerby Jul 10 '18 at 22:36
  • 1
    I know I'm going to regret this, but ... heck, since Lars is a good guy ;). For the debaters, you are looking at Article 27(3) of the UN Charter and, if you would really like to know, this is the standard work to consult (read): The Charter of the United Nations - A Commentary, 3e, Simma. – J Asia Jul 11 '18 at 15:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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