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China and Intervention at the UN Security CouncilReconciling Status$
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Courtney J. Fung

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198842743

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198842743.001.0001

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Status and Intervention in Libya, 2011–2012

Status and Intervention in Libya, 2011–2012

(p.88) 5 Status and Intervention in Libya, 2011–2012
China and Intervention at the UN Security Council

Courtney J. Fung

Oxford University Press

Chapter 5 analyzes China’s response to the 2011 Libya crisis. In the space of three weeks, China would vote on two landmark resolutions at the UN Security Council: a yes vote for a unanimous referral of a sitting head of state to the International Criminal Court, and shortly after, an abstention vote permitting sanctions and a “no-fly zone plus” over Libyan territory. China’s votes were largely a surprise—many analyses had predicted that China and Russia would cast tandem vetoes. Status is key to understanding China’s response. China was particularly sensitized to status due to a well-publicized speech by Colonel Gaddafi citing his domestic repression as a parallel to the Tiananmen Square Incident of 1989. Against this status trigger, the great powers (the “P3” of the United States, the United Kingdom, France) came out forcefully for intervention, and representatives of China’s Global South peer group—the African Union, the League of Arab States, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Gulf Cooperation Council—were among the first to call for a strong response. China was able to reconcile its concerns regarding an International Criminal Court referral of the Libya case as China prioritized status; China was socially isolated from its great powers peers at the UN Security Council and from its Global South peers in regional organizations. When the Global South reference group disagreed about the call for a no-fly zone, China viewed the next most feasible option as an abstention vote, so as to offend no peer.

Keywords:   China, UN Security Council, Libya, League of Arab States, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Gulf Cooperation Council, African Union, International Criminal Court, no-fly zone, Muammar Gaddafi

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