Munich Personal RePEc Archive

The West versus Beijing? Determinants of the UN Human Rights Council vote (not) to debate human rights in Xinjiang

Hendrix, Cullen and Noland, Marcus (2023): The West versus Beijing? Determinants of the UN Human Rights Council vote (not) to debate human rights in Xinjiang.

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This paper addresses the factors shaping the vote of member states on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) regarding whether to debate human rights conditions in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China. Explanations for the UNHRC’s decision not to debate human rights in Xinjiang fall into three categories: 1) democracy, development, and human rights performance; 2) demographic factors; and 3) security and economic ties to major powers, specifically the United States and China. Bayesian model averaging identifies three factors as robust covariates of the Xinjiang UNHRC vote: liberal democratic domestic institutions, NATO membership, and Chinese arms transfers. Countries with higher democracy scores and NATO member countries were more likely to vote yes, while recipients of Chinese arms transfers were more likely to vote no. In addition to its direct effect, liberal democracy exerts a significant indirect effect via its effect on Chinese arms transfers, with less democratic countries more likely to receive Chinese arms. Participation in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is not a robust correlate when arms transfers are considered. Thus, our analysis lends support to interpreting the vote as a reflection of wider competition between the United States and China but rejects part of the conventional wisdom about how the two countries approach building and mobilizing coalitions in international institutions.

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