Role of China's 'blue helmets' is growing

China Daily
Yao Jianing

Nation demonstrates responsibility expected of a great power, helping to ensure world stability and the security of Chinese abroad

Every May 29 is International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, while this year marks the 70th anniversary of the UN peacekeeping operation and the 28th anniversary of China's participation in UN peacekeeping activities.

In the past 28 years, China has been participating actively and firmly in the UN peacekeeping operation and serving as the second-largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget. It contributes more troops to UN peacekeeping missions than any other permanent member of the UN Security Council.

So far, China has sent a total of more than 37,000 peacekeepers and participated in as many as 24 UN peacekeeping operations, and is regarded as the key force in UN peacekeeping activities.

Regional conflict and civil wars in some countries have long been a problem and threaten global peace and security. Therefore, UN peacekeeping is essential for stopping wars, resolving conflicts, easing tension and creating peace.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council and the world's second-largest economy, China has taken an increasingly active approach to fully engaging with and participating in UN peacekeeping operations.

2015 can be regarded as a landmark year in highlighting China's rise as a global security provider. President Xi Jinping announced at the UN Peacekeeping Summit at UN headquarters in New York in September 2015 that China would join the UN standby mechanism for peacekeeping capacity. He also committed China to providing 8,000 troops for the UN peacekeeping standby force - one-fifth of the 40,000 total troops committed by 50 nations.

In addition, help in training 2,000 peacekeepers worldwide was pledged, as well as $100 million in aid to building the African Union standby force and $1 billion to establish the UN Peace and Development Trust Fund.

So far, the 8,000 Chinese standby peacekeeping troops are ready and 1,600 peacekeepers worldwide have been trained.

Historically, China's foreign policy was to have less engagement and nonparticipation in international multilateral organizations and their operations, such as UN peacekeeping activities.

It was not until the 1990s that China's policy toward peacekeeping started to shift, and China joined its first military peacekeeping operation by deploying five observers in 1990 to the UN Truce Supervision Organization in the Middle East.

The reasons and motivations for China's increasing involvement in UN peacekeeping operations can be understood from three perspectives.

First, China is showing and bearing the responsibility expected of great powers. With rapid economic development and rising international influence, China needs and also is willing to make more contributions to international society.

By actively participating in UN peacekeeping operations, China's global reputation and its status as a cooperative, responsible global stakeholder can be strengthened. This will also be a powerful counter to the so-called "China threat" or "China's new colonialism". And by doing so, China's soft power can be increased.

Second, China is increasing the experience and capacity of Chinese peacekeepers. The Chinese military has been in a peaceful environment for decades and lacks experience dealing with tough situations. By participating in the UN peace mission, it can gain invaluable field experience, including how to effectively cooperate with the militaries of other countries. From sending noncombat peacekeepers such as engineers and medical staff to dispatching combat troops to South Sudan, the steadily improving participation in the UN peacekeeping mission shows clearly the strong determination of the Chinese government to deploy peacekeepers abroad, despite the risks.

Last but not least, with increasing Chinese overseas investment and more Chinese doing business or traveling abroad, joining the UN peacekeeping activities and safeguarding world peace and stability will certainly be beneficial for Chinese people and investment abroad.

In the era of globalization, international peace and security needs international cooperation and joint efforts from all countries in the world. China will certainly continue to play its role and make greater contributions to the UN peacekeeping service.


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