Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Two of U.S. President Donald Trump's least favorite things in the wider world these days are the United Nations, which he sees as an expensive nuisance, and China, which he views as a major rival. But in neglecting one, he might be helping the other.

The backdrop: The Trump administration said it will cut back on U.S. funding for the U.N., in part because Trump — like many conservatives in Washington — sees it as an inefficient, and in some ways illegitimate, encroachment on America's ability to do what it wants in the world.

China sees things differently:

  • The Chinese leadership views the U.N. as an important vehicle for expanding its global economic and strategic role, particularly in the developing countries that depend most on the U.N.'s services.
  • That's why Beijing is now the second largest contributor to the U.N. budget, accounting for 12% of the organization's funding, up from just 1% 20 years ago.
  • China is also the number 2 financial supporter of peacekeeping operations, and when it comes to sending actual personnel, Beijing's 2,500 peacekeepers are more than the other 4 permanent members of the Security Council combined (that's the U.S., France, the U.K., and Russia.)
  • For perspective, in 1990, China offered up just 5 troops.

China has also succeeded in getting its officials elected or appointed to a number of important U.N. positions overseeing global economic, technology, and climate issues.

It's not as though the U.S., which is still the largest single contributor to U.N. budgets, isn't aware of this.

  • U.S. officials have been trying to push back against Chinese moves at the U.N.
  • But they've confined themselves mainly to opposing specific Chinese appointments (with limited success) or scrubbing Chinese-coined terms from U.N. documents. In other words, it's a tactical pushback against China's strategic bet on the U.N.

Whether the expansion of China's role within the U.N. is a good thing or a bad thing depends on your point of view.

  • If, like the current U.S. administration, you see China as a "strategic competitor," then ceding so much influence at the U.N., whatever the organization's shortcomings, might not be smart. After all, debates about "America First vs. Globalism" are not all that interesting to developing countries where China is keeping the peace and building things.
  • On the other hand, if you think that a country that is poised, as Xi Jinping says, to "take center stage in the world" ought to take a bigger stake and more responsibilities in a cornerstone international institution, then China's larger role at the U.N. looks like an important step in its maturation as a global power.

Sign up for Signal, a thrice-weekly newsletter from GZERO Media, a Eurasia Group company, and follow @saosasha on Twitter.

Go deeper

Justice Department sues Google over alleged search monopoly

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The Justice Department and 11 states Tuesday filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, accusing the company of using anticompetitive tactics to illegally monopolize the online search and search advertising markets.

Why it matters: The long-awaited suit is Washington's first major blow against the tech giants that many on both the right and left argue have grown too large and powerful. Still, this is just step one in what could be a lengthy and messy court battle.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Americans feel Trump's sickness makes him harder to trustFlorida breaks record for in-person early voting.
  2. Health: The next wave is gaining steam.
  3. Education: Schools haven't become hotspots.
  4. World: Ireland moving back into lockdown — Argentina becomes 5th country to report 5 million infections.

In photos: Florida breaks record for in-person early voting

Voters wait in line at John F. Kennedy Public Library in Hialeah, Florida on Oct. 19. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/AFP via Getty Images

More Floridians cast early ballots for the 2020 election on Monday than in the first day of in-person early voting in 2016, shattering the previous record by over 50,000 votes, Politico reports.

The big picture: Voters have already cast over 31 million ballots in early voting states as of Tuesday, per the U.S. Elections Project database by Michael McDonald, an elections expert at the University of Florida.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!