The first-time participants will be the only troops to don field combat gear
Chinese peacekeepers will march for the first time in the military parade celebrating New China's 70th birthday on Tuesday, signifying the country's strong capability and commitment to maintaining global peace and prosperity.
It will be the only infantry formation in the parade where troops don their field combat equipment, including rifles, battle fatigues and their iconic blue berets. All participants have been deployed to United Nations peacekeeping operations, ranging from Lebanon to Mali.
Zhang Bingjian, one of the peacekeepers set to march in the parade, said the People's Liberation Army's participation in UN peacekeeping operations showcases its character as a defender and lover of peace.
"Joining the military parade is the dream of every Chinese soldier, and it is an upmost honor for me personally," he said. "By successfully fulfilling our parade mission, we hope to showcase the strength, peace-loving and responsible image of the Chinese military."
Official data show that China has sent about 40,000 personnel to participate in 24 UN peacekeeping missions around the globe. Currently, there are around 2,500 Chinese blue helmets in seven of the 14 ongoing UN peacekeeping operations, making China the largest contributor of peacekeepers among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
China remains the second-largest contributor, behind the United States, to the UN's peacekeeping budget, accounting for 15.2 percent of the total $7 billion, up from 10.3 percent last year. China has also established an 8,000-strong peacekeeping standby force that is ready for deployment at the UN's request, UN statistics show.
Zhang said the Chinese peacekeeping force has a great reputation around the world. Last week, the fifth Chinese peacekeeping infantry battalion to the UN Mission in South Sudan, which consisted of 700 members, received the UN Peacekeeping Medal for its dedicated service in Juba, the country's capital. The 10th batch of Chinese peacekeepers, 331 strong, was also deployed to their mission area in Wau, South Sudan, in mid-September.
In addition, the 23rd batch of Chinese peacekeeping engineers and medical staff members, 110 strong, arrived in Democratic Republic of Congo last week for their yearlong mission.
Xue Jianbing, a 26-year-old Chinese peacekeeper who participated in the UN operation in Mali in 2017 and is also set to participate in the parade, said he is very excited and proud to be part of the peacekeeper formation marching before Tian'anmen Square for the first time.
During his deployment, Xue said he saw Malian people playing soccer without shoes. So during their spare time, the Chinese peacekeepers donated shoes and other sporting equipment, and also helped the locals clear a simple soccer field and fix benches.
"We even held a friendly soccer match, and there were many people. We sang and danced and had a great time," Xue said. "We also donated backpacks and books to local schools. We wanted to help them build their home, just as we would do in our home country."
He Yin, an associate professor at the China Peacekeeping Police Training Center at Chinese People's Police University, said some Western countries often accuse China of strengthening its military presence in Africa by sending peacekeeping forces.
"Some countries are always wary of anything China does, but in reality, China's strong support for UN peacekeeping is a vote of confidence for the UN and a multilateral world," he said. "China is acting as a responsible big country, and jointly addressing common security concerns is in the best interests of the country and the world."