China growing its peacekeeping presence


China is playing an ever larger role in peacekeeping around the world, with a strong focus on Africa.

At the beginning of August, China began a training course for senior foreign police officers on UN peacekeeping missions in Beijing in a first time cooperation event between China’s Ministry of Public Security and the United Nations (UN). The trainees include 17 senior officers from Angola, Djibouti, Kenya, Liberia, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, according to Xinhua.

In September 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China will help train 2 000 foreign peacekeepers over the coming five years.

Senior Colonel Zhou Zhe, the deputy director of China’s peacekeeping training centre, told journalists this month that China is living up to its growing commitments to global peacekeeping operations.

According to China’s People’s Daily Online, China is the largest troop contributor among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Chinese peacekeepers are deployed in six missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Liberia, Lebanon, Sudan, Mali and South Sudan, with 15 units comprising of 2 403 troops. The country contributed $863 million to the UN peacekeeping budget in 2016.

The top five UN troop- and police-contributing countries are Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and Rwanda, according to August data from the UN website.

China began deploying peacekeepers for the first time in 1990 with five UN military observers being sent to the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization. Then in 1992, China sent a military engineering unit to the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia and in 2015 its first-ever infantry battalion to South Sudan.

China has participated in 24 UN peacekeeping operations and deployed 33 000 peacekeepers since 1990, People’s Daily reports, including over 2 400 police peacekeepers to nine peacekeeping mission areas, including Timor-Leste, Liberia and Haiti. At present, 174 Chinese police are still in Liberia, South Sudan and Cyprus, according to Xinhua. China also currently has 93 military observers and staff officers operating in nine missions and at the UN headquarters.

Over the last 25 years, China has lost 13 military personnel and four police personnel, with the most recent attacks claiming the lives of two of its personnel in South Sudan in July.
“In spite of the threats, Chinese peacekeepers have constructed and repaired 13 000km of road, disposed of 9 400 mines and explosives, transported 1 200 000 tons of supplies, treated 160 000 patients and conducted 1 500 mobile patrols in their mission areas,” People’s Daily reports.

Looking towards the future, China aims to send helicopters to the United Nations for peacekeeping operations in Africa and provide $100 million in military aid over the next five years to the African Union to support the establishment of the African Standby Force (ASF) and the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC).

Experts have noted that China’s expanding peacekeeping role in recent years parallels its desire to expand its military’s capabilities farther abroad and could provide logistical and operational experience.
“They clearly want to create a more international armed force so they can operate in more challenging environments,” said Douglas Paal, director of the Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.