Does China successfully wield leadership of UN agenccies to further its own national interests of an alternative global order? We test these expectations to assess whether a rising power uses the position for formal influence—to reward like-minded states—or informal influence—to accumulate prestige.

To probe for formal influence, we leverage a comparative case study approach of 11 different IOs, combining original data collection of 12,481 IO country-projects from 1988-2022 and an ethnographic case study of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). We also conduct an elite conjoint survey experiment with IO staff to test the mechanisms of formal executive influence via a ‘pleasing the principal’ mechanism in which IO staff anticipate a leader’s preferences based on nationality cues, or an ‘agenda-setting mechanism,’ in which leaders overtly indicate their preferences. To examine informal influence, we conduct a survey experiment on representative samples of the public in the US and Brazil to examine whether partnerships between Chinese leaders and IOs enhance China’s image, again leveraging the case of the ITU.

These results have substantial implications for the way that we interpret China’s motivations toward the international order, the independence of IOs, and the broader vitality of IOs in the midst of power transitions.

Note: I do not have travel funds, and would require travel support to be able to participate.