In recent years, China’s higher education sector has started to establish special programs to train and support talents to seek career opportunities in the United Nations (UN). To explore these special programs and understand their relationship with China’s internationalization strategies and its higher education, we used the center-periphery model as the theoretical framework. We analyzed 53 institutional documents and conducted semi-structured interviews among 5 university staff members and 21 students/recent graduates who were involved in these special programs. The analysis on the special programs implied Chinese higher education’s peripheral position in supporting talents to work in the UN. This was reflected by the conforming practice, including accepting current UN recruitment regulations and English’s dominance in the UN recruitment practice. However, we also identified alternative dynamics that China and its higher education do not simply obey the center-periphery model and accept their peripheral status. Instead, special programs were established to achieve China’s global strategy of moving to the center of international arena via multilateralism and international organizations such as the UN. This study sheds light on further explorations of the state-university relationship in China in the globalization era, especially from the perspective of cultural diplomacy and soft power.