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Liu Fang has been head of the International Civil Aviation Organisation since 2015. Photo: Xinhua

Which Chinese hold top jobs at key international bodies?


Meng Hongwei’s detention and resignation as president of Interpol has put a spotlight on Chinese officials in key roles at international organisations.

Since it ended its self-reliance policies in 1978, China has stepped up its involvement in global bodies from which Beijing has sought substantial development aid, such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and United Nations agencies.

In the past decade, it has also pushed for bigger roles in these international institutions. A number of Chinese officials have taken up top jobs in finance, diplomacy and industry, underscoring the country’s growing and increasingly controversial influence in these agencies that have been traditionally dominated by the West.

Here are some of China’s top officials who hold senior positions at global organisations.

China accuses former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei of taking bribes

Liu Zhenmin, undersecretary general for economic and social affairs at the United Nations

The senior Chinese diplomat took up the job at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs last year, replacing Wu Hongbo – another Chinese diplomat who had been in the role since 2012.

According to the UN website, Liu is responsible for advising the UN secretary general on social, economic and environmental issues and guides UN Secretariat support for follow-up processes under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Liu’s diplomatic career began in 1982 and he has served as China’s deputy foreign minister in charge of Asian affairs, border and maritime issues. He has been involved in multiple international negotiations, including climate change talks for both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.

Liu Zhenmin took up the job at the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs last year. Photo: ImagineChina

Zhang Tao, deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund

The former deputy governor of China’s central bank was appointed to the International Monetary Fund role in 2016.

He succeeded Zhu Min, a Chinese official who also previously served as deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China.

China holds 6.09 per cent of the IMF’s voting power – the third largest share after the United States and Japan, according to its website.

Zhang Tao became deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund in 2016. Photo: Xinhua

Yi Xiaozhun, deputy director general of the World Trade Organisation

The former deputy commerce minister is now on his second four-year term as one of four deputy directors general at the World Trade Organisation.

As the first Chinese national to take up the job, Yi, who was China’s ambassador to the WTO, was a key negotiator in China’s WTO accession process. He was also involved in multilateral and regional trade negotiations during his time with the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

In an interview with Sina Finance in June, Yi rejected claims that trade deals had led to a decline in jobs growth. “We cannot simply blame the loss of jobs in manufacturing on free trade,” Yi told the news outlet. “Humans can’t argue with technology – so they vent their anger on free trade, and I think this is the core issue.”

Yi Xiaozhun is one of four deputy directors general at the World Trade Organisation. Photo: Handout

Liu Fang, secretary general, International Civil Aviation Organisation

The veteran official with China’s aviation authority is in her second term as head of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, a role she has held since 2015.

Liu, who has worked for the Montreal-based agency in various capacities since 2007, is also the first woman and the first Chinese to hold the position in the agency’s 70-year history.

The organisation was founded in 1944 and is in charge of setting safety standards and rules for air transport.

China confirms detention of former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei

Zhao Houlin, secretary general of the International Telecommunication Union

The senior engineer was elected to the job at the International Telecommunications Union in 2014, becoming the first Chinese national to lead the 150-year-old United Nations agency for information and communication technologies promotion, collaboration and standardisation.

Zhao Houlin is the first Chinese to lead the International Telecommunication Union. Photo: AFP

Xue Hanqin, vice-president of the International Court of Justice

Born in Shanghai and educated in China and the US, Xue was appointed vice-president of the International Court of Justice in February, making her the first Asian woman in the role.

She is also the first female judge from China sworn in as a member of the ICJ in 2010 to fill the vacancy created by Shi Jiuyong, a Chinese judge and former president of The Hague-based court that settles legal disputes between states and gives advice on legal questions referred to it by other UN bodies.

A senior legal scholar and former Chinese ambassador to the Netherlands, Xue has been involved in a number of high-profile legal negotiations. They include with Britain on legal matters relating to Hong Kong, and with the Portuguese government in relation to Macau; on property damage after the US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999; and on the delimitation of the maritime boundary of territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Beibu Gulf between China and Vietnam.

Xue Hanqin is the first Asian woman to be appointed vice-president of the International Court of Justice. Photo: UN Photo/ICJ-CIJ
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: chinese in top roles around the world