What is the role of China in UN peacekeeping
Analysis of examples of China's attitude toward humanitarian crises. Recent and current deployments under United Nations. Changes in China's attitude towards peacekeeping. Determination of reasons for the change in China’s attitude towards peacekeeping.
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Seminar: China's South-South relations
"What is the role of China in UN peacekeeping?"
Chinese Studies (M.A.)
Student: Liudmila Ilina (2050144)
Table of contents
china united humanitarian crises
Examples of China's attitude toward humanitarian crises
Recent and current deployments under UN
Changes in China's attitude towards peacekeeping
Reasons for the change in China's attitude towards peacekeeping
China's opinion on sovereignty and intervention has been shaped by the historical experience during its century of humiliation - period from 1839 to 1949 characterized by repeated invasions of foreign armies, aggression of imperialist states and violation of sovereignty through unequal treaties. Since founding in 1949 People's Republic of China in its foreign policy adhered to a conception of state sovereignty and insisted on the principle of noninterference in other states' internal affairs. Adoption of strict anti-interventionist position reflected the sense that China could prevent a recurrence of past humiliations through a strong defense of sovereignty. Davis, Jonathan E.: “From Ideology to Pragmatism: China's Position on Humanitarian Intervention in the Post-Cold War Era,” in: Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 44:217 (2011), p. 217-283
In early 1950's China invented "Five principles of Peaceful Coexistence": respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity, nonaggression and noninterference in other states' internal affairs as guideposts for interstate relations. PRC also began to develop a policy on permissible foreign interventions, including the position that target state consent was necessary for legality of any intervention.
In 1971 PRC replaced Guomindang government in seat at the United Nations and on the Security Council. China continued to support conceptions of sovereignty and noninterference opposing UN peacekeeping efforts by refusing to participate in Security Council debates or votes on peacekeeping, or to contribute money or resources to UN missions.
In early 1980's Deng Xiaoping launched the "reform and opening program" that provoked Tiananmen Square events of 1989 resulting in China's reinforcement of its absolutist conception of sovereignty. From its founding in 1949 until late 1980's few events led China to reconsider its anti-interventionist opinion. Davis, 2011, p. 225-226.
The activist agenda of the Security Council in the 1990's made China to develop more nuanced policy toward humanitarian intervention. China has argued that humanitarian intervention causes more harm than good, it promotes the interests of the intervening state rather than the target state's population, violates UN Charter and general principles of international law. China insists that legality of any intervention depends on authorization by the Security Council after a determination that the situation constitutes a threat to international peace and security. China's position is best understood as rejecting claims to a unilateral right of humanitarian intervention, while agreeing to the exercise of a multilateral right through the Security Council.
China's adoption of such a position safeguards its interests by allowing it to retain control over any outcome by way of its status as a permanent veto-wielding Security Council member. However, China's position carries political risks: by insisting that the Security Council is the sole legitimate actor China risks focusing attention on its position anytime it obstructs Security Council action with attendant consequences for China's international image and reputation. China's second requirement for supporting humanitarian intervention is consent of the host state or the parties to the conflict. The prerequisite of consent essentially derives from China's insistence that respect for sovereignty and the principle of noninterference are fundamental to international law.
China has demonstrated flexibility on its requirement to consent. In order to understand the development of Chinese attitudes toward the humanitarian intervention we should consider its position's determinants, such as: historical, ideological, domestic political and international systemic factors. The ideological mistrust of Western motivations as consequence of historical experience and communism's opposition to Western imperialism continues to influence Chinese attitudes toward humanitarian intervention. Chinese domestic political system also influences its position on humanitarian intervention. China's status as a weaker power made an absolutist opinion on sovereignty and nonintervention useful for preventing China from becoming a target of intervention or interference itself. China's historical positioning as a defender of developing countries' rights also plays a role in its attitude toward humanitarian intervention. Davis, 2011, p. 270-278.
Examples of China's attitude toward humanitarian crises
Soon after the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq's military dictator, Saddam Hussein, denounced Kuwait of obtaining an unfair share of oil revenues. In August 1990 he uttered a declaration that Kuwait was a part of Iraq and commanded his armies to intrude and usurp Kuwait.
The Iraqi invasion alarmed the world leaders for three reasons: first, it was an act of aggression by a strong nation against a weaker nation, second Kuwait opened the way to an Iraqi conquest of the world's largest oil-producing nation, Saudi Arabia, third, the combination of Iraq's military power and aggressive actions would allow it to dominate the other countries of the Middle East.
It was the first time that the Security Council declared a humanitarian crisis to be a threat to international peace and security and made Resolutions on the basis of UN Charter Chapter VII UN Charter, Chapter VII: ACTION WITH RESPECT TO THREATS TO THE PEACE, BREACHES OF THE PEACE, AND ACTS OF AGGRESSION, available HTTP: <http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter7.shtml> (accessed February 12, 2015), such as Resolution 678, resolution 660. China voted in favor of resolution 660 demanding Iraq's unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait, but abstained from voting on resolution 678 which authorized military action to enforce resolution 660's demand. This abstention demonstrated China's reluctance to endorse Security Council's authorization of the use of force by member states under Chapter VII and China's position that the Security Council should not consider or take action on question concerning the internal affairs of any state.
After the outbreak of civil war in 1991 in Somalia, the UN brought relief to millions facing starvation and helped to stop the large-scale killings. From 1992 to 1995, two UN operations sought to restore order, protect delivery of humanitarian relief, promote reconciliation and help reconstruction. Under difficult conditions, various UN agencies continued to provide humanitarian assistance.
China supported all Security Council resolutions despite the fact that those resolutions dealt with the purely internal humanitarian situation in Somalia. This case was the first authorization by the Security Council to use of force without host state consent according to Chapter VII based on purely humanitarian concerns.
China supported the humanitarian intervention in Somalia and expressed reservations on Security Council authorizing member states to use force for humanitarian purposes, on the assumption that the intervention was an exceptional action in view of the unique situation in Somalia being a clear reference to the absence of a functioning Somali government and impossibility to obtain host state consent, namely no legitimate state authority to approve or reject foreign humanitarian action.
In 1990, the UN observed the first democratic elections in Haiti. After a military coup in 1991 that forced the President into exile, the UN mediated an agreement for the return to democracy.
The case again shows China's insistence on the principle of noninterference to the internal affairs of a country. Still, China supported the Resolution by the Security Council imposing a fuel and arms embargo on Haiti and freezing the financial assets of the new Haitian government with the motivation that it was the unique and exceptional situation as the sanctions were requested by the legitimate permanent representative to the United Nations being member of Aristide's exiled government.
Further the Security Council adopted the Resolution under Chapter VII authorizing restoration of the legitimate authorities of the Government of Haiti and departure from Haiti of the military leadership by multinational force. China abstained from voting on this resolution strongly objecting to Security Council invocation of Chapter VII authorizing the use of force to resolve the situation in Haiti.
The Rwandan Civil War was a conflict within the Central African nation of Rwanda, between the government of President Juvenal Habyarimana and the rebels. The conflict began in 1990 and ended in 1993 with the signing of Accords to create a power-sharing government.
However, the killing of Habyarimana in 1994 turned out the accelerator for the Rwandan Genocide. The closely interrelated causes of the war and genocide led the observers to presuppose that the reports of mass killings were new amplification of the war, rather than a different phase.
It was the unique case of nonintervention rather than intervention. China voted positively on the Resolution by the Security Council to establish in Rwanda the UNAMIR - a peacekeeping force with the mandate to monitor a ceasefire agreement according to Chapter VI UN Charter, Chapter VI: PACIFIC SETTLEMENT OF DISPUTES, available HTTP: <http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter6.shtml> (accessed February 12, 2015), but shortly after the Rwandan genocide the Security Council adopted the Resolution according to which the contingent of UNAMIR was reduced from 2500 to 279 troops. China has not expressed any opinion on this resolution.
China voted positively on the subsequent resolution made by the Security Council authorized UNAMIR expansion up to 5500 troops as it considered the situation in Rwanda as increasingly grave, but instead of expanding it the Security Council adopted a Chapter VII resolution authorizing deployment of the multinational force since the scale of genocide in Rwanda became larger.
China abstained due to its point of view that the Rwandan crisis was a civil war and that use of armed force or mandatory measures would only worsen the situation. China also demonstrated its preference for a traditional peacekeeping force over enforcement powers. China also pointed out the lack of consent of the conflicting parties to the deployment of multinational force. Despite Rwanda's humanitarian crisis China proved unwilling to support the Security Council's authorization of humanitarian intervention in the absence of consent of the parties concerned.
Bosnian War was an international armed conflict that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. The war came about as a result of the breakup of Yugoslavia. The case represents Chinese attitude toward sovereignty and intervention in the early and mid-1990's. The Security Council established the UNPROFOR to oversee the ceasefire agreements, signed at Geneva and Sarajevo.
China voted in favor of the initial UNPROFOR resolution as it was established with the Consent of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The UNPROFOR operations frequently exhibited characteristics of humanitarian intervention and China's position on the expansion of UNPROFOR's mandate clashed with its unwillingness to support Chapter VII enforcement actions and its insistence on obtaining the conflict parties' consent.
With intensification of fighting in Bosnia in early 1993 China softened its position in view of ethnic cleansing and deteriorating humanitarian conditions noting that the situation in Bosnia was an exceptional case, a great threat to peace and security in the region. China's favorable votes on a number of enforcement resolutions indicated a degree of flexibility in its position on consent as resolutions adopted under Chapter VII do not require the consent of the parties concerned.
The case of the Bosnian crisis shows that China struggled with defining the boundaries of its adherence to the principle of noninterference, demonstrating a greater flexibility on intervention and reluctance to sanction the use of force for humanitarian purposes in contexts of eroded consent.
Kosovo War was an armed conflict in Kosovo that lasted from 1998 until 1999. It was fought by the forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which controlled Kosovo before the war, and the Kosovo Albanian rebels with air support from NATO, and ground support from the Albanian army.
After attempts of crisis diplomatic resolution failed, NATO intervened, justifying the campaign in Kosovo as a "humanitarian war". This precipitated a mass expulsion of Kosovars by Serbs while Yugoslav forces continued to fight during the aerial bombardment. The war ended with the Treaty, with Yugoslav forces agreeing to withdraw from Kosovo to make way for an international presence. The conflict was depicted in news headlines around the world for months, and gained major coverage from the international media. The NATO bombing campaign has remained controversial, as it did not gain the approval of the UN Security Council.
NATO unilateral military intervention marked the high point of China's opposition to the idea of humanitarian intervention. From China's perspective Serbia was defending its sovereignty against internal challenges and the situation in Kosovo was internal affair of FRY.
China viewed this position with sympathy given its own internal challenges to sovereignty, including in Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan. China stated clearly its position that NATO's threats of military action constituted unlawful interference in the FRY internal affairs and accused NATO for acting without consulting or seeking the authorization of the Security Council and its actions violated the purposes, principles and relevant provisions of the United Nations Charter as well as international law and widely acknowledged norms governing relations between States.
China also criticized NATO's usurpation of the Security Council's exclusive prerogative to identify threats to international peace and security and to authorize corresponding enforcement actions, including the use of force. China also disapproved the “double” standards of Western claims of a right of humanitarian intervention. China designated itself a role of spokesperson of the developing world and was severe upon the international community paying great attention to the humanitarian situation in the former Yugoslavia and forgetting African population in need of international community's special care having in mind the Rwandan Civil War and genocide that lead to the death toll of 800,000 people.
In 1999 Indonesia and Portugal made an agreement to settle the status of East Timor as independency or a relationship of a special autonomy with Indonesia, the Security Council with China's support and Indonesia's consent established the UNAMET in order to assist with a referendum. 80% voters endorsed independence, almost immediately armed militias with Indonesian military began a campaign of violence to reverse the decision.
China took the position that any international intervention would require the consent of the Indonesian government. Indonesian government was convinced to accept an international peacekeeping force deployment in East Timor under significant pressure. China praised Indonesian government's decision as rational, respectable and responsible and voted in favor of Chapter VII measure authorizing establishment of the INTERFET to restore peace and security in East Timor.
China announced its intention to contribute up to two hundred civilian police to a future UN Mission in East Timor, marking China's first participation in a UN peacekeeping operation since 1992 in Cambodian humanitarian crisis resolution.
China's support for the humanitarian intervention in East Timor as well as the subsequent UN Peacekeeping operation offers an interesting counterpoint to its opposition to NATO's intervention in Kosovo. Some commentators suggest that China support for humanitarian intervention in East Timor demonstrated a relaxation of its position on sovereignty and noninterference in other states' internal affairs, ignoring the fact that the intervention received both Indonesia consent and the Security Council's authorization being prerequisites for China's support. The case of East Timor reflects the degree of flexibility in China's previously strict insistence on noninterference. Davis, 2011, p. 227-254
Recent and current deployments under UN
Clashes between Sudanese government and rebel groups took place in Darfur from 2003 to 2007 resulting in violence, human rights abuse, ethnic cleansing and genocide been called one of the worst humanitarian crises in the World. Although the UN adopted a series of resolutions, violence increased, China abstained from all resolutions advocating Sudan's sovereignty and sole responsibility for that.
Facing heavy pressure and extremely bad international media coverage ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics China finally decided to use its leverage with the regime of Khartoum to obtain Sudan's consent to implement a Peacekeeping operation under the UN. China showed an increased flexibility in handling its principles under the special circumstances and approved deployment of UN peacekeeping force in Darfur in 2007.
Mali has been mired in overlapping security, political, and humanitarian crises. Islamist extremist groups expanded their presence in the country's vast, Saharan north following a March 2012 coup d'йtat that overthrew Mali's democratically elected government and led the military chain of command to collapse.
In 2013 France decided to launch a unilateral operation in which French forces successfully fought back the rebels from the major cities and continued to chase them in the mountains. In order to maintain stability in the country and to protect the first presidential elections in Mali, the UN with China's consent established the MINUSMA mission.
China's contribution to it was seen as crucial and it earned praise for it including from the UN representative for Mali. In fact that was the first time when China sent the actual combat force to take part in active peacekeeping while it formerly had deployed only engineering, medical, logistical personnel and military observers or civilian police.
China's largest contribution to any UN peacekeeping operation can be seen in South Sudan (3rd largest in the world after Congo and Darfur). The mission was established in 2011 and expanded in 2014 due to increased violence.
In mid-September 2014, China announced that it is going to send an additional 700 troops to South Sudan. China's engagement in South Sudan has evoked accusations in willing to contribute only in regions where it wants to protect national interests (the oil supplies from South Sudan or the oil sources).
Change in China's attitude towards peacekeeping
China's attitude towards humanitarian intervention has changed slightly from position of complete refusal and disapproval to greater flexibility and limited support during the first decade after the cold war.
Since the 2000's China was increasingly perceived as abandoning its previously conservative stance on peacekeeping and its strict non-interference policy. While after 9/11 China supported the US war with terrorism, she condemned the 2003 the US led operation “Iraqi freedom” as a unilateral intervention, adhering to the principles of multilateralism, seeking for US Security council responsibility and the host country consent with the intervention.
In the following years China displayed more wiliness to support and participate in the humanitarian intervention and peacekeeping and has become more enthusiastic towards UN Peacekeeping operations. That can be seen from the numbers as shown by deployment of 22,000 military personnel to 24 UN peacekeeping missions (being more personnel than the other four Security Council members combined could provide). Currently more than 2000 military personnel are deployed by China (for comparison as of mid-2013 US deployed 117 troops and Russia only 91). While formerly refusing to finance the peacekeeping operations China will be soon one of the 6 largest contributors to the UN Peacekeeping budget.
China Government official stance about peacekeeping can be seen for example in the Military doctrine as illuminated in Hu Jintao's New historic missions for People's Liberation army of 2004 (Strategic Defense policy paper): PLA is provided with the conceptional framework and other broad requirements about peacekeeping operations.
The emphasis on diverse military tasks indicates an abandoning of China's previous concentration on Taiwan and US. Strategic views of China can be seen in the Defense White papers as released annually by its Ministry of National Defense, for example in the last Defense White paper as of 2013 Peacekeeping is defined as an important task for the PLA.
During the last couple of years several conferences provided the theoretical foundation and background for Chinese peacekeeping role For example, 2009 International Conference on Peacekeeping in Beijing organized by the Ministry of National Defense, 2010 Conference on China peacekeeping support operations, organized by International Peace research Institute (Norwegian institute for Defense Studies, providing outside view on the role of China), Hirono, Miwa/Lanteigne, Marc: “Introduction: China and UN Peacekeeping, International Peacekeeping”, 18:3, 243-256 (2011);. Those discussions between academics and militaries helped to create an epistemic community Epistemic community, in international relations, a network of professionals with recognized expertise and authoritative claims to policy-relevant knowledge in a particular issue area. Such professionals may have different backgrounds and may be located in different countries, but they share a set of norms that motivate their common action, a set of beliefs about central problems in their area of expertise, shared criteria for evaluating knowledge, and a common policy enterprise. The concept of epistemic community was first introduced by John Ruggie and then refined by Peter M. Haas. These scholars focused on the role played by networks of actors and the consensus they hold about causes and effects on state policy and interstate cooperation. Available HTTP: <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1920802/epistemic-community > (accessed February 12, 2015) around China's peacekeeping.
In the early 2000's many scholars around the world started to discuss the concept “Responsibility to protect” Davis, 2011, p. 254-264 by which it was attempted to give legitimacy to unilateral humanitarian intervention such as the NATO Kosovo campaign, which in strict interpretation of the international law was illegal and China intensively took part in this discussion. Although the Chinese participants rejected the existence of any right of unilateral intervention, but they eventually admitted that there was binary responsibility for a state to protect its own population being an indication of softening of China's position on non-interference.
In 2000's there have been established 2 training facilities in China that focus exclusively on peacekeeping: a China Peacekeeping Civility Police training Center in Nanfang opened in 2000 and Ministry of National Defense's peacekeeping Center in Beijing opened in 2009. Both facilities have been visited and used by overseas military personnel.
In the 2000's along with UN authorized missions there are a few Chinese modern UN operations that may help us to irradiate China's increasingly active role in the international and global spheres. China supports counter-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden and since 2008 it has deployed more than 60 escort vessel formations.
The Chinese naval troops are operating in the multinational environment, having joint operations to implement together with the US navy, for example. In February 2011 one of the US navy frigates was dispatched into the Mediterranean Sea in order to facilitate and protect the evacuation of all 35000 Chinese citizens who were in Libya at that time under the threat of civil war.
In 2013 another frigate used in counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden was sent into the Mediterranean Sea to support the escort of ship transporting removed chemical weapons from Syria. Later that year China sends its navy ship to Philippines for disaster relief support after the Typhoon Haiyan. These cases demonstrate that China is increasingly willing to be able to use its growing military power projection capability to engage in a broad range of missions around the globe.
Reasons for the change in China's attitude towards peacekeeping
For China an important role is plaid by the concern towards the US unilateralism in international relations after the Cold War. Since the Cold War Western powers were increasingly willing to conduct unilateral interventions into the other states internal affairs in order to prevent or stop the human rights violations.
Shortly after the cold war the US lead a coalition campaign at operation “Desert Storm” in Iraq, being the shock for China not only because it demonstrated unexpected military technical superiority but also showed that such claims for a right of a unilateral intervention might in reality lead to interference in country's internal affairs as can be illustrated by the NATO's 1999 bombing of Serbia without UN approval especially after the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was hit by a NATO missile.
Different events in the 21st century such as Afghanistan and Iraq wars and 2011 Western intervention to Libya equally evocated Chinese criticism for sacrificing broad peace and principle of the state's sovereignty for political interests of a few countries.
One possible reason in China's embracing UN Peacekeeping missions could be China's intent to make a contribution to the UN Security Council's legitimacy and to manifest its responsibility trough contribution to its actions. The second reason might be China's evolving self-perception, while continuing to describe itself as the leader of the developing world in recent years China more and more tended to see itself as a great power and it also incented or even compelled to shoulder the responsibilities of a great power.
Among these responsibilities the contribution to UN peacekeeping in financing and personnel is not the most important. The similar role is plaid by China's concern about its image or soft power in third world countries, in connection to unfavorable media coverage and the consciousness of being generally perceived as interested mostly or solely in resources and profit and not in the other people's welfare.
China is very likely to get seen UN Peacekeeping as an appropriate tool in improving its own image. This image should again be that of a responsible great power as well as that of a helpful elder brother among the developing countries. This image construction is promoted mostly by the Chinese foreign policy and foreign affairs establishments helping to achieve better diplomatic stance and eventually creating internal disputes with Chinese Ministry of National Defense focusing on other goals.
Although world peace and security seems to serve as a particular Chinese reason for participating in peacekeeping, is also plays an increasing role for CCP as economic stability and growth is one of the most important issues since the reform period and this economic growth heavily depends on the peaceful and secure international environment.
China obtains the high percentage of its energy and other resources' supplies from the third world countries that are also susceptible to humanitarian crises and general instability. China is certainly eager to contribute to peacekeeping and civilization missions in that kind of regions where the economic interests are under the threat (counter-piracy efforts, Sudan mission). China generally seems to protect its economic relations and investments in third world countries from being affected by violence and other destabilizing influences.
Last reason that also should not be neglected is in the primary military benefits that China may gain by its participation in UN Peacekeeping missions. China has not fought in a war since the clash with Vietnam in 1970s and it certainly needs practical experience especially when compared to its biggest rival the US.
From that point of view UN Peacekeeping missions provide China with an opportunity to gain operational experience for its troops in a multinational environment and under very diverse conditions without violating its principles of non-interference, non-aggression and its image of Peaceful Rise. Furthermore peacekeeping operations also create opportunities for intelligence gathering and help to improve military ties that could prove helpful in building Chinese military basis worldwide.
China is still adhering to its principles towards military intervention deriving from the "Five principles of Peaceful Coexistence": respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity, nonaggression and noninterference in other states' internal affairs. But in the last 3 decades China has demonstrated greater flexibility in its interpretation of these principles, when needed and plays now a more active role in UN peacekeeping which can be seen from the South Sudan case, for example.
In the future China may prove more willing to use its economic and diplomatic leverage to secure host state consent to intervention, blurring its position on noninterference. China's two baselines for humanitarian intervention place it in direct opposition to those who claim a right of unilateral humanitarian intervention. China has opposed the emergence of a right to unilateral humanitarian intervention and instead sought to channel any intervention through the Security Council after obtaining the target state's consent and to retain influence over when, where and how such interventions take place.
As long as China shall remain non-democratic it will continue to stop the development of a norm of humanitarian intervention and will resist any erosion of the principles of nonintervention and noninterference. Chinese communist party's focus on economic development and growth may influence China's position on humanitarian intervention that could destabilize target countries or regions and jeopardize Chinese investments and its economic growth.
1. Davis, Jonathan E.: “From Ideology to Pragmatism: China's Position on Humanitarian Intervention in the Post-Cold War Era,” in: Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 44:217 (2011), p. 217-283.
2. Hirono, Miwa/Lanteigne, Marc: “Introduction: China and UN Peacekeeping, International Peacekeeping”, 18:3, 243-256 (2011).
3. Richardson, Courtney J. A: “Responsible Power? China and the UN Peacekeeping Regime,” in International Peacekeeping, 18:3, 286-297 (2011).
4. Singh, Prashant Kumar “China's `Military Diplomacy': Investigating PLA's Participation in UN Peacekeeping Operations,” in Strategic Analysis, 35:5, 793-818 (2011).
5. Taylor, Ian, “The Future of China's Overseas Peacekeeping Operations,” in China Brief Volume: 8 Issue: 6, (2008).
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