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    Greater China
     Dec 21, 2007
Page 1 of 2
There's method in China's peace push
By Rebecca Jackson

Last month, Chinese peacekeepers started arriving in the troubled Darfur region of Sudan as part of the long-debated, long-awaited United Nations and African Union hybrid mission. China now contributes over 7,000 peacekeepers to 21 missions across the world, more than the rest of the UN Security Council's permanent five members combined. Overall, China is the thirteenth-largest contributor of peacekeeping troops.

Claiming that China was complicit in the conflict through oil and 




weapons trade with Khartoum, rebels in the area immediately called for the withdrawal of Chinese troops. Nevertheless, the troops have stayed put. Their presence in the country illustrates how far China has come in its involvement in peacekeeping efforts.
Despite all this, China-watchers have tended to neglect peacekeeping as an expanding arena of involvement in international relations. Such is the case in Africa, China's showcase for peacekeeping. The continent hosts the majority of ongoing missions, but troops committed by industrialized countries now account for just 6% of all troops.

In the early years after joining the UN, in the 1970s, China avoided supporting peacekeeping missions - both financially and with contributions of troops - saying that they infringed upon the sovereignty of the states involved. But after two decades of reform and opening up, China has now started to reassess its approach to peacekeeping missions.

In 1981, China participated in its first peacekeeping vote, and in 1990 dispatched its first peacekeepers to the Middle East. Since then, the country has contributed peacekeepers to missions across the globe - beyond Africa, in Cambodia, Bosnia/Kosovo, East Timor, Afghanistan, Haiti and Lebanon.

As China expert Bates Gill, director of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, points out, in real terms, China's contribution to UN peacekeeping is comparatively small. "China contributes less than 1% of both the overall UN budget and the UN peacekeeping budget." And the financial contributions of rest of the permanent five are still significantly higher than China's.

Viewed over time, however, China's peacekeeping activities today demonstrate a significant shift.

China's participation in peacekeeping missions now also extends beyond those with a Chapter VI mandate, in which countries should first seek their own resolution to disputes, to those with a Chapter VII mandate, permitting the use of military force in order to achieve peace.

China has traditionally favored conflict-ridden countries to resolve their own disputes, as the sovereignty of states is of utmost importance. But some flexibility is now evident on the issue of non-interference, as seen most recently in China's vote in favor of the UNAMID mission in Darfur.

China has also demonstrated increased flexibility on the extent to which force can be used in missions. The International Force in East Timor (INTERFET) was permitted to "take all necessary measures" to restore peace and security to the area. As with the mission in Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo, they demonstrate that China will participate in operations using military force marking a move into peace enforcement activities.

The country's participation in INTERFET also shows that, where necessary, China will participate in missions that do not primarily use UN troops. The East Timor mission was led by Australia. Similarly, the peace operations in Somalia in the early 1990s demonstrate that even where the pivotal country is the US, China will not necessary block resolutions from being passed.

However, host state acquiescence remains an important cornerstone of China's acceptance of peacekeeping missions and was a pre-conditional to China's involvement in UNAMID in Darfur. In 1999, following mass bloodshed in East Timor, China voted in favor of a resolution to bring peace and security to the region, but only after the invitation of the government there.

INTERFET also demonstrated the utmost importance of Security Council authorization in peace keeping and peace enforcement missions.

So what has motivated China to become more involved in UN peacekeeping efforts?

Maintaining a stable and secure international environment is important for China's "rise". Appearing to be a responsible player is seen as an important way for China to achieve this, and involvement in international peacekeeping plays an integral role in projecting this image.

As Major General Zhang Qinsheng, deputy chief of General Staff for China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) put it, "Chinese peacekeeping activities demonstrate our country's image as a responsible superpower ... and in the course of peacekeeping 


Continued 1 2 


Chinese banks extend global reach (Nov 20, '07)
 
China joins UN peacekeepers in Sudan (Sep 25, '07)

At 80 years young, PLA still going strong (Aug 7, '07) 

Military backs China's Africa adventure (Jun 8, '07)
 


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