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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs