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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid