Exactly ten months after China's admission to the United Nations, the Peking delegation last week wielded its first veto as a permanent member of the Security Council. The issue was particularly embarrassing for a country that had itself been excluded for 22 years—the admission of Bangladesh.
Formerly the eastern half of Pakistan, Bangladesh broke away in the short bloody war last December, during which China supported Pakistan, while India backed the rebels. Since then the new country has clearly earned entrée to the U.N.; 85 nations already recognize it. But China, speaking for Pakistan, strenuously opposed Bangladesh's admission while more than 90,000 civilian and military prisoners were still in Indian hands, contrary to U.N. resolutions. China felt compelled to support its ally in order to maintain a toehold on the Indian subcontinent.
That awkward situation provided an opportunity for the Soviet Union to embarrass Peking. Moscow hoped to demonstrate that China, contrary to disclaimers, is a superpower, and that in no sense does she champion the impoverished, backward Third World. In the crucial Security Council vote on admission, eleven of the 15 members of the Security Council, including the U.S., Russia and India, voted to recommend membership, three abstained, and only China voted to oppose the entry of Bangladesh. Now, unless the Pakistanis themselves recognize Bangladesh soon, the Chinese may find themselves further embarrassed by the reintroduction of the issue as a topic of debate in the forthcoming General Assembly.