Article

China and Peacekeeping

Miwa Hirono

in Chinese Studies


Published online January 2019 | e-ISBN: 9780199920082 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0168

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In the early 1990s the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) began looking beyond traditional war-fighting operations and engaging in so-called military operations other than war (MOOTW), which include United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations. Before the late 1980s, China repeatedly objected to UN peacekeeping activities as violations of, or interference in, the affairs of sovereign states. However, it reversed its policy in November 1988 when it joined the UN Special Peacekeeping Committee. Since its first peacekeeping operation in 1990, China’s involvement in such operations has expanded steadily. Among the United Nations Security Council permanent member states, China has most often contributed the largest number of peacekeeping personnel (monthly contribution being 2,583 persons on average in 2017). As of September 2018 it ranks eleventh among the nations that contribute military and police forces to UN missions and first among the permanent members of the UN Security Council. In 2016, China’s financial contribution to UN peacekeeping operations surpassed that of Japan—formerly the second largest contributor—to now rank as the second largest contributor. At a UN peacekeeping summit in September 2015, Xi Jinping declared that China would further support UN peacekeeping by establishing a permanent peacekeeping police force, creating an eight-thousand-strong standby force and contributing US$1 billion in military assistance to the African Union. China’s peacekeeping contribution has evolved in terms of quality as well. The majority of Chinese peacekeepers dispatched from the People’s Liberation Army are so-called force enablers such as engineers and medical and transportation companies; however, when they go to areas in which force-protection is necessary, and the protection of civilians is included in UN mandates, China dispatches “security units,” “guard detachments,” or infantry forces equipped with light arms and armored vehicles. China’s peacekeeping activity has attracted the attention of not only China scholars but also those who study international peacekeeping: this is because the abovementioned expanding activities specifically, and the rise of China more generally, may have considerable impact on the future of international peacekeeping. The key debate in China’s peacekeeping literature resonates with a wider international relations debate on the implication of China’s rise for the international order—is China a “status quo” power that helps strengthen the existing international peacekeeping order, or a “revisionist” power that challenges it? In other words, to what extent does China’s behavior accord with or begin to shape the evolving international norms of UN peacekeeping, which have been established by dominant Western states over a long period? Relatedly, China’s expanding contribution to UN peacekeeping also raises a question about what approach China might have to one of its diplomatic principles—that of non-intervention/non-interference. Although UN peacekeeping operations can go ahead only when host states give consent to such operations, contemporary peacekeeping takes place where there is no peace to keep. Thus, troop contributing countries will have to take up arms and engage in fighting when necessary. Further, the UN is “assisting,” or sometimes close to creating, the fundamental components of sovereign states—a judiciary system, police and military forces, and sociopolitical institutions, among others. China’s proactive participation in this type of operation may meddle with its principle of non-intervention/non-interference. Many policy-relevant studies, such as those by the International Crisis Group and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), provide policy recommendations to Chinese and Western governments suggesting ways in which China’s peacekeeping contribution can be beneficial to the current peacekeeping order. Given that the study of China’s peacekeeping began, in the main, in the 2000s, the majority of publications can be found in journals, with the exception of a number of autobiographies written by Chinese peacekeepers, which have been published as books in the Chinese language.

Article.  13202 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Studies ; Asian History ; East Asian Philosophy ; East Asian Religions

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