Multilateral action in bodies such as the UNCHR has at least two factors in its favour: it helps to legitimize and universalize decisions that might otherwise be seen as reflecting individual interest; it also provides some protection, where necessary, for the individual actors that as a collective arrive at the decision in question. Governments that might be a target of this consensual understanding have three major options at their disposal: they can ignore it, seek to break apart the consensus, or comply with the demand to a greater or lesser degree. Much Chinese effort after the 1995 vote in the UN Commission was directed towards the middle course of action, although it also claimed increasing levels of compliance with the international human rights regime in order to boost the chances for success of its main strategy.
The intensity of China's dislike of the yearly voting ritual at the Commission was plain, even though the body had no ability materially to punish China, only to attempt to shame it. Since Beijing cared about international image for domestic and global reasons, this ruled out either ignoring or dismissing the condemnatory language as irrelevant to its concerns. Instead, it sought to prevent the country's human rights record becoming the focus of attention. Its relative success in weakening the multilateral route over the next few years demonstrated anew the power of language and of China's material attributes. The perceived importance of Beijing's role in the maintenance of the global and regional security order also assisted its attack on multilateralism. China's material and strategic weight influenced the policies of European governments, intent on increasing their economic and political profiles in China relative to the USA and Japan. Security issues were of particular moment to Washington and Tokyo, concerned to ensure there would be no overt military conflict either on the Korean peninsula or between China and Taiwan.