US seeks to challenge China in cultural battleground

Lazy eyes listen


The United States intends to rejoin the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), according to the State Department on Sunday. Years after leaving the body, US officials now regard it as a critical platform in Washington’s multi-domain conflict with China.

On June 8, the State Department wrote to the Paris-based body, expressing its intention to rejoin the group after a five-year absence. “It is our understanding that UNESCO leadership will convey our proposal to the membership in the coming days,” the department said to the Associated Press.

Under then-President Barack Obama, Washington stopped financing to UNESCO after Palestine became a full member of the organization in 2011. Under Donald Trump’s administration, Washington formally departed UNESCO in 2017, followed by Israel, claiming an alleged “pro-Palestinian bias” within the organization.

“China is right now the single largest contributor to UNESCO,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated in March. The envoy encouraged Congress to set aside $150 million for a prospective return, citing the US’s huge debt.

“They are developing artificial intelligence rules, norms, and standards.” “We’d like to be there,” Blinken stated.

The measure “will help address a critical gap in our global leadership toolkit and capacity, and it will also help us address a key opportunity cost that our absence is creating in our global competition with China,” said Under Secretary of State for Management John Bass at the time.

“If we’re really serious about competing with China in the digital age… we can’t afford to be absent any longer from one of the key fora where standards for science and technology education are set,” he added, arguing that the absence undermines Washington’s ability “to be as effective in promoting our vision of a free world.”

In 2021, three years after a similarly spectacular exit over claimed anti-Israel bias, the United States returned the UN Human Rights Council, likewise concerned about growing Chinese power in the global body.