Beijing and Moscow react strongly against Schmidt’s appointment.
Written by Paul Antonopoulos, independent geopolitical analyst
The Chinese Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) officially confirmed that Beijing does not accept the legitimacy of Christian Schmidt as the new High Representative in BiH. The move by China is not a surprise, especially if we consider that the Russian Ambassador to BiH, Igor Kalbukhov, recently stated that Moscow does not recognize the legality of Schmidt’s appointment. Kalbukhov also said that he does not intend to cooperate with Schmidt.
As the UN Security Council did not formally agree with the candidacy of Schmidt, a German diplomat and former Minister of Food and Agriculture, Russia and China proposed a draft resolution in July that would enable his eventual appointment as High Representative and confirm his legitimacy. However, some members of the Security Council did not accept the draft resolution, hence why Beijing and Moscow are now reacting strongly against Schmidt’s appointment.
The Chinese reaction could be the first time they have loudly opposed violations of UN Security Council rules. Beijing and Moscow are taking a principled position on violations against the proper functioning of the UN Security Council and the non-legal appointment of the High Representative.
The Chinese Embassy’s rejection of Schmidt comes at a time when the situation within BiH itself, and especially in its relations with China, the U.S. and the European Union, is becoming more complicated. BiH, created with the Dayton Agreement following the end of the Bosnian War in 1995, is struggling to function as Croats and Serbs demand more autonomy from the federal authorities in Sarajevo. However, the world today is far different from 1995.
The Biden administration strongly insists on renewing allied relations with the EU, as well as other partners such as India, Japan and Australia, to curb China’s growing international diplomatic, economic and political influence. Not only has President Joe Biden strengthened pressure against China, but the EU has also come under great pressure to harmonize with Washington regarding their attitude towards Beijing.
EU officials and diplomats are increasingly criticizing China due to supposed human rights violations in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang. More naval forces from EU member states are sending their warships to pass or patrol the South China Sea. Beijing’s way of thinking is now changing too as a result. The EU continually criticizes China’s internal affairs and its relations with its neighbors, but it now appears that Beijing is beginning to react too, something it has not traditionally done in a serious manner – unlike Russia.
The truth is though, as much as the U.S. wants to pressure and/or denigrate China as much as it can when it has opportunities to do so, the High Representative in BiH is still something that concerns the EU more so than the U.S. Despite this, Washington will still likely support its EU partners in limiting Chinese and Russian initiatives in the UN Security Council.
The complaint against Schmidt is to show Brussels that China, as a major global power that is significantly increasing influence around the world, is becoming more involved in issues that are geographically far from it. China’s message against the EU comes on the eve of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s resignation, but also next year’s elections in France and Hungary. It is expected that the EU, with potentially new authorities in the aforementioned countries, could have a significantly different and far less autonomous policy towards China than the one now led by many European leaders, like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
While relations between Beijing, Brussels and Washington are becoming more complicated, China is expanding and deepening its relations with Russia. Apart from military and economic cooperation, it seems that China and Russia are increasingly harmonizing their foreign policies, including against the appointment of Schmidt.
The truth is that while BiH is still not a major issue for China like that of the South China Sea or Taiwan, the appointment of Schmidt without the approval of the UN Security Council has become a matter of principle, especially if a precedent is set that things can be done without proper formalities and processes – just as the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 without UN Security Council approval.
Beijing’s refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the new High Representative in BiH can be seen in the context of the fact that the BiH Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sarajevo supported a resolution by the UN Commission on Human Rights regarding Xinjiang. The Serbian member of the BiH presidency, Milorad Dodik, reacted sharply, saying that the Ministry did not receive any approval from the BiH presidency for such a move.
This again demonstrates the significant issues in BiH. The presidency is a three-member body comprising of a Serb, a Croat and a Bosnian Muslim, all often with competing interests for their own communities. Dodik supports the Serbs of Bosnia being integrated closer with Serbia, which is also one of the most China-friendly countries in Europe, hence his reaction to criticisms of the Asian country by the BiH Foreign Ministry.
Dodik’s condemnation was met with approval in Beijing. Therefore, by China lambasting the new High Representative to BiH, they are actively defending their Serbian partners, whether it be the Republic of Serbia or the Serbian community in Bosnia. The challenge however is that the Croatian community in BiH, generally speaking, want closer integration with Croatia, whilst Bosnian Muslims remain completely aligned with Washington and Brussels.
Although Schmidt was assigned as High Representative to BiH without proper protocols, his mandate will prove difficult as the former Yugoslav country continues on its path towards disintegration as Croats and Serbs strongly demand union with their mother countries, or greater autonomy from Sarajevo. Washington, Brussels and Sarajevo are unwilling to capitulate on this point, but it is not tenable to expect BiH to be a functioning modern country if it remains archaic and ignores the will of most citizens, a status quo that Schmidt will undoubtedly support.
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