U.N. Peacekeeping and Chinese Diplomacy

At The Atlantic, Anna Richardson describes the growth and implications of China’s U.N. peacekeeping deployments:

With little fanfare, in the space of 20 years, China has steadily increased its commitment to UN peacekeeping missions. Today, the country contributes more peacekeeping troops than any other permanent member of the UN Security Council [though far fewer than many other countries (PDF)], with 1,860 “blue beret” peacekeepers deployed across nine different UN missions. By contrast, the United Kingdom has 298 peacekeepers in the field, the United States a mere 118.

[…] But reconciling China’s growing commitment to peacekeeping with the country’s stated policy of non-interventionism is problematic. The inviolability of state sovereignty has served as the rhetorical backbone of Chinese foreign policy since the “century of humiliation” — a period of Western and Japanese intervention and imperialism in China — came to an end in 1949. This commitment extends to the present day. In his first press conference as prime minister on March 17 Li Keqiang asserted that despite willingness to “shoulder our international obligations”, China’s leadership maintains an “unshakable commitment” to state sovereignty.

Richardson refers to lessons learned from the “embarrassment” of China’s 2011 evacuation of Libya, in which it “had to rent, beg or borrow planes and ships in order to evacuate 36,000 of its citizens” (as well as 900 other workers from Bangladesh, Nepal and Vietnam). Many assessments at the time were more positive, however: the evacuation was hailed as “a genuine foreign policy success, and an example of some nimble Chinese diplomacy,” “a reflection of the country’s growing comprehensive national power and rising naval capabilities,” and a source of national pride.

See also a recent interview with Major General Chao Liu, the Chinese leader of the peacekeeping force in Cyprus, via CDT.

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