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International relations

China passes Japan to become UN's No. 2 contributor

Beijing's gain could prove Tokyo's loss in terms of clout

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing this April. China will become the second-biggest contributor to the international body.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing this April. China will become the second-biggest contributor to the international body.   © Reuters

NEW YORK -- China will become the second-largest monetary sponsor of the United Nations, behind only the U.S., under newly adopted contribution plans, knocking Japan from a spot it has held since the 1980s.

The General Assembly on Saturday adopted a resolution increasing the Chinese contribution to 12.005% for 2019 to 2021, up from 7.921% for 2016 to 2018, owing to its rapid economic growth. Slower-growing Japan's share shrank to 8.564% from 9.68%. The U.S. will still pay the maximum possible 22% -- a cap left in place following discussions within the U.N. on removing it.

Member contribution rates are revised every three years based on such economic indicators as gross national income. Being knocked down to third place could weaken Japan's influence in the international body.

Meanwhile, the U.S. was assigned to pay about 28% of the budget for U.N. peacekeeping operations but would not pay more than 25%, criticizing the requested amount as overly burdensome. There are concerns that peacekeeping operations could be impacted by the refusal, which fits the tendency of President Donald Trump's administration to hold the U.N. in low regard and put "America first."

The U.N.'s finances are growing seriously strained as member states fall behind on contributions. As of early August, 77 of its 193 members were late on payments. A member nation can be barred from voting in the General Assembly if its arrears exceed two years of its contribution obligations.  

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