News / Asia

China’s Rise Poses Challenges for Its African Peacekeeping Missions

Members of China's peacekeeping police contingent, who have been to Haiti, hold a banner as they wait in line to attend a funeral for eight Chinese peacekeepers killed in the Haiti earthquake, at Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing, January 20, 20
Members of China's peacekeeping police contingent, who have been to Haiti, hold a banner as they wait in line to attend a funeral for eight Chinese peacekeepers killed in the Haiti earthquake, at Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing, January 20, 20
Ivan Broadhead

China has long adhered to a foreign policy of non-interventionism, where it tries to appear neutral in disputes outside its borders. As the country becomes more of a global power, however, it is less able to stay on the sidelines. China’s role in United Nations peacekeeping missions is changing, and the country may be compelled to play a greater role in peacekeeping policy.

China joined the United Nations in 1971, but it was not until 1990 that Beijing undertook its first peacekeeping foray under the U.N. banner, sending a handful of observers to the Middle East. Since then, Beijing has been a steadfast contributor to the U.N. peacekeeping effort, says Courtney Richardson, a research fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

"The Chinese have experienced dramatic growth in terms of their deployment levels, especially when we realize the international environment that China faces - simultaneously being asked to do more as a developing country, while also... not promoting any negative perception of [a] rising military," said Richardson.

China's appearance of neutrality


In the last 20 years, more than 20,000 members of China’s army and police force have donned the blue beret synonymous with U.N. peacekeeping. Today, about 2,000 Chinese are on active U.N. duty; that's more personnel than are deployed by any other permanent member of the Security Council.

"The Chinese take very seriously this commitment. It’s the only venue that Chinese troops are being deployed abroad. At the same time, I won’t be the first researcher to point out that peacekeeping provides a very useful soft-power tool for China, in the sense that [it] can help promote a positive reputation of the Chinese," said Richardson.

Citing its commitment to non-interventionism, Beijing has never deployed combat troops, even in the midst of humanitarian disasters like Darfur. Instead, China has provided U.N. missions with enabling personnel - engineers, medical staff and police officers - to assist capacity building in countries as far apart as East Timor and Western Sahara.

Marc Lanteigne is research director of the New Zealand Contemporary China Research Center at Victoria University of Wellington.

"Interestingly enough, if you look at the history of Chinese peacekeeping, its activities have been more in keeping with small-to-medium states who are seen as neutral - able to provide an unbiased, and non-partisan security role in a peacekeeping mission," said Lanteigne.“China really tried to stress that [they] are not interested in pushing ‘our security ideas’, ‘our policies’ on other states; certainly not in the developing world.”

Marked shift with Libya

However, during the recent turmoil in Libya, this long-adhered-to policy evolved. China joined the 14 other members of the U.N. Security Council in supporting non-consensual military action in response to how Gadhafi was treating the Libyan people.

"For China, this was seen as a very significant move. If you support non-consensual military action then this is, of course, at tension with a very strict policy of political non-intervention, non-interference," said Richardson.

Lanteigne suggests that this shift corresponds to China feeling more at ease with the notion of itself as a global power.

"China is now starting to settle into the role of being a great power, and maybe... wanting to look after its own interests to a greater degree," said Lanteigne.

The escalating conflict between Sudan and South Sudan is emerging as a potential case in point. China sources almost one tenth of its national petroleum supply from oil fields controlled by the government in Juba, which are transhipped to China through Port Sudan via a Khartoum-controlled oil pipeline.

China challenged by oil dispute

With Juba halting oil production until Khartoum agrees to a cheaper oil shipment deal - or until it has time to build a new, Chinese-funded pipeline via Kenya - China’s national interests appear increasingly threatened. China has peacekeepers deployed in both Sudan and South Sudan, and is well-placed, therefore, to leverage its soft-power to influence an outcome in the oil crisis.

Ironically, though, China’s status as a world leader with close ties to developing countries, particularly in Africa, may require that it scale back its deployment of troops and instead focus on broader peacekeeping policy.

"It is coming to the point where China is now approaching the same problem that the U.S. and Russia have: They do field peacekeepers, but in very low numbers because there is automatically the perception of bias," said Lanteigne.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon began his second five-year term January First. Marking the occasion, he told Chinese state news agency Xinhua that he expects Beijing to play a "crucially important" role in global peace and development in the future.

From the Korean peninsula that borders China, to the oil fields of Sudan, Beijing might have little choice but to accept such a responsibility in an increasingly partisan manner, despite its best efforts to appear a neutral player in the eyes of every nation.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid