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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease 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.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid