Despite its growing status as a major economic and military power, China continues to be a strong supporter of UN peacekeeping operations. China is not only the second-largest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping (after the United States), it has roughly 2,500 personnel deployed in ongoing missions, including in active combat zones in Mali and South Sudan—far more than any other permanent member of the UN Security Council. This Special Report examines what China hopes to gain from its participation in UN peacekeeping, as well as the challenges it will face as its troops find themselves in more dangerous “peace enforcement” situations.

Summary

  • Despite its growing status in the international system, including in the military sphere, China continues to be a strong supporter of United Nations peacekeeping operations (UNPKO), a stance commonly considered to be more the purview of medium powers. China is also a major contributor of peacekeeping personnel and support.
  • Beijing’s current UN peacekeeping policies have helped China expand its diplomacy throughout the developing world, a notable action given the ongoing evolution of its Belt and Road trade initiatives.
  • In spite of recent Chinese peacekeeper casualties, the country continues preparations— including new training programs and units—to permit its peacekeeping personnel to more effectively operate in active combat zones such as Mali and South Sudan.
  • China is now in a position to become more active in UNPKO reforms and provide greater input into mission parameters, given its greater contribution to the UN budget and expanded international commitments.
  • China’s support for UN peacekeeping operations has become more visibly integrated into its military reform policies. However, Beijing must engage in a policy dialogue about how modern peacekeeping can be reconciled with traditional Chinese views on state sovereignty, impartiality, and being a “responsible great power.”

About the Report

This Special Report assesses China’s evolving participation in international peacekeeping missions in the context of its rise as a major economic and military power. The report is based on data collection on Chinese foreign and security policy issues as well as fieldwork in China and Norway. Supported by the Asia Center at the United States Institute of Peace, the report is part of USIP’s broader effort to understand China’s engagement in the peace processes and internal conflicts of other nations.

About the Author

Marc Lanteigne is a senior lecturer in security studies in the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at Massey University in New Zealand. Previously, he was a senior research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, where he specialized in Chinese and Northeast Asian politics and foreign policy, as well as Asia-Arctic relations, international political economy, and institution building. He has written on issues related to China’s regional and international relations as well as economic security, the politics of trade, and energy issues.

Related Publications

Could China Play a Role in Venezuela’s Crisis?

Could China Play a Role in Venezuela’s Crisis?

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

By: Anthony Navone

Few countries can rival the creditor-lender relationship between China and Venezuela on pure volume.  China has loaned more money to Venezuela — some $60 billion — than to any other country in the world and is Venezuela’s largest lender by far. But as Venezuela descends further into uncertainty amid a host of economic, political and social crises, Beijing has remained mostly silent regarding the domestic political struggles of one its largest trading partners in Latin America.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes; Global Policy

Tribunal Gives Voice to China’s Uyghurs Amid International Gridlock

Tribunal Gives Voice to China’s Uyghurs Amid International Gridlock

Thursday, June 10, 2021

By: Lauren Baillie; Rachel Vandenbrink

Over the past week, members of China’s ethnic Uyghur minority have provided moving testimony about their persecution to the Uyghur Tribunal, an unofficial, civil society-led investigation into possible genocide and crimes against humanity committed by Beijing. Although the “people’s tribunal” is not backed by any government and its findings will not be binding on any country, the hearings play an important role in providing recognition to victims’ suffering and in strengthening the legal argument for a U.N. Commission of Inquiry or other international accountability mechanisms. As such, the tribunal serves as an important tool for civil society to move atrocity prevention efforts forward when U.N. or international court action is blocked.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Human Rights

Myanmar: China, the Coup and the Future

Myanmar: China, the Coup and the Future

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

By: Jason Tower; Priscilla A. Clapp

In making major deals with Myanmar’s military rulers, China seems to be violating its official guidance for investment abroad: Avoid conflict zones. Although Myanmar is in a state of collapse and widening rebellion, China continues to advance plans for a complex economic corridor in the country with the military unveiling steps to move ahead with big joint-venture projects. The generals’ bid to appear in control of things is obvious. China, on the other hand, seems to have fallen into a trap. Cozying up to the junta puts its investments at immediate and long-term risk and erodes its standing in regional organizations. To protect its interests, Beijing should press the junta to curb its rampant violence against the population and to restore the elected government.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Conflict Analysis & Prevention

View All Publications