China’s Presence Increasingly Important in Cooling the World’s Hot Spots

Chinese Peacekeepers in LiberiaWriting for US-China Today, a student-driven publication of the USC U.S.-China Institute, Elaine Wu provides an overview of China’s increasing contributions to United Nations’ peacekeeping missions.

China has sent troops, police, military observers, and others for deployment around the world, but the majority are working across the African continent in places like Western Sahara, Sudan, Liberia, Congo, and Côte d’Ivoire. In Liberia, for example, China has contributed to the U.S.-led rebuilding of that nation’s army. China has also launched new demining assistance programs in Somalia and Sudan.

China, which has long been wary of foreign entanglements and has historically had a policy of nonintervention, is playing an increasingly prominent role in U.N. peacekeeping operations and other humanitarian aid undertakings. Earlier this year, China sent 140 engineers and troops to the Darfur region of Sudan for the UNAMID (the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur) mission, which is preparing to become one of the largest peacekeeping operations in U.N. history. […]

China currently has nearly 1,500 troops in Africa, more than any other permanent member of the UN Security Council. This is a dramatic turnaround from the early 70s when China assumed membership of the UN Security Council and basically opposed all peacekeeping operations in Africa. And not only does China increasingly support UN peacekeeping missions, it also provides financial and personnel assistance to regional organisations like the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States and their separate peacekeeping efforts.

China continues to shy away from any form of direct military involvement. Most of China’s peacekeepers are non-military personnel. Some serve as military observers, advisors and liaisons, but the majority of Chinese forces deployed are involved with engineering, transportation, medical and other civilian projects.

Under heavy international pressure, Beijing has however recently appealed to the Sudanese Government to allow a combined force of a UN and AU peacekeeping mission into Darfur. While China’s economic interests in Sudan continue to be scrutinized, this marked one of the first times China compromised its general, non-involvement stance toward a sovereign country in Africa.

June 21, 2008 6:56 PM