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China Tries to Keep Things Cool in the Security Council: A New Podcast Episode

Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun whipped out a fan during an Aug. 1 media briefing to say that his country’s plans as president of the Security Council in August include lowering the temperatures of his fellow ambassadors amid rising tensions. The idioms in the fan, written by Lao Tzu, suggest that the “best virtue is like water,” Zhang said, with water capable of being soft and hard, so it can change everything.

As Security Council president in August, China wants to keep the UN body “cool” — literally and figuratively — by navigating the fine line of staying close to Russia while not souring relations too much with the West; discussing global “security” without mentioning any of China’s own human-rights problems and contested territorial claims; and championing a no-tie look while giving Chinese fans to Council ambassadors amid lowered air-conditioning temperatures in UN headquarters.

We are joined in our latest podcast episode of UN-Scripted by Richard Gowan, the UN director of the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization based in New York City. Gowan offers insights into China’s approach to the presidency of the Council this month — keeping dynamics “light” in the dog days of August. As Ambassador Zhang Jun said on Aug. 1 at a media briefing, China wants to cool down the “working temperatures” of his fellow ambassadors, whose tensions have been running high. To do so, his country is offering fans to fellow ambassadors written with a saying by Lao Tzu, the ancient philosopher, who used idioms to express that the “best virtue is like water”; meaning, water is both soft and hard, so it can “change everything,” Zhang said.

Each month, PassBlue profiles UN ambassadors as their countries assume the Council presidency. To hear more details about the goals of China in August and to hear Gowan’s assessment of the country, listen to UN-Scripted, produced by Kacie Candela and Damilola Banjo, with research by Allison Lecce, on SoundCloud and Patreon. (A text article on China’s presidency will be published separately.) — DAMILOLA BANJO and KACIE CANDELA


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Damilola Banjo is a staff reporter for PassBlue. She has a master’s of science degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a B.A. in communications and language arts from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She has worked as a producer for NPR’s WAFE station in Charlotte, N.C.; for the BBC as an investigative journalist; and as a staff investigative reporter for Sahara Reporters Media.

Kacie Candela is an assistant editor for PassBlue and a news anchor and reporter with WFUV, a public radio station in the Bronx, N.Y., where she covers the UN and other beats. Her work has won various awards from the New York State Associated Press Association, New York State Broadcasters Association, PRNDI, and the Alliance for Women in Media.

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