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China’s Growing Role in Peacekeeping: Thoughts and Recommendations

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] I [/yt_dropcap]ts rising economic strength and productive way of governance provide China with a historic opportunity to become one of the main players in modern international relations. As a permanent member of the UNSC and an important player in international relations,

China has the capability and authority to address and solve internationally important problems. In turn, international society is also interested in Beijing continuing its active involvement in the improvements in world security. China’s involvement in UNPKO provides China an opportunity to solidify its reputation in the world as a responsible power and strengthen its position in countries that are at risk. It is notable that China has achieved good relations with several states located in Africa and Middle East compared to Western countries having tense relations. Good relations with so-called rogue states give Beijing opportunities to mediate relations between conflicting parties and help UNSC to get permission from the governments of these countries to allow peacekeepers to their territory. For instance, UN was able to obtain permission from Sudan to send peacekeeping forces into Darfur and end genocidal activities with China’s assistance. The peacekeeping operations map shows that China was mostly involved in operations in Africa. Up to the end of the Cold War, China had not attained an economic and political influence in African and Middle Eastern countries, whereas after the Cold War, the situation changed, as China made huge investments in these areas. China’s economy continues to grow, and this process is made possible with the help of secure and accessible energy resources from reliable partners. China is buying most of its energy resources from the Middle East and Africa, which is the main reason why China participated primarily in ongoing peacekeeping operations in these areas. Indeed, China wants to maintain stability in these areas to obtain energy resources without problems. Moreover, peacekeeping operations and peacebuilding can be helpful for the Chinese “New Silk Road Economic Belt” as this program may be possible in areas that are stable and safe for Chinese investments. If the Chinese “New Silk Road Economic Belt” program is successful, it can make great contributions to the development of the countries located from the Far East to Europe and from the Far East to the Middle East and Africa. New workplaces and economic prosperity would make the world more secure and stable.

It is also worth mentioning that Beijing’s involvement in UN peacekeeping operations enhances China’s reputation as a responsible power. After the 2000s, China can be considered one of the main contributors to the UNPKO and continues to improve the knowledge of its personnel that are recruited for peacekeeping operations. within a short period of time, China succeeded in establishing its schools and structures to prepare well-qualified peacekeepers. China was successful in creating friendly ties with other countries that are involved in peacekeeping operations and in organizing joint landmark conferences, trainings and seminars, in addition to sharing its experiences with them. China’s peacekeeping facilities are open to training peacekeepers from China and other countries.

Conclusion and Recommendations

As an active participant in peacekeeping operations, China plays an important role in maintaining peace worldwide. Peacekeeping operations provide Chinese and foreign troops opportunities to cooperate and share experiences. This cooperation will provide an added impetus to the international community to improve its mechanism for preventing genocide, ethnic cleansing and aggression and will create opportunities for the international community to improve and strengthen its methods of cooperation in joint operations intended to prevent wars and/or natural disasters.

China endorsed the “Brahimi Report” and began to support its implementation. China also voted for several resolutions (1265, 1295, 1674, 1820, 1894) aiming to take more reliable action to protect civilian populations during military conflicts. Beginning in 2008, Beijing was involved in the struggle against piracy. As a responsible power, China’s naval force defended not only its own vessels but also foreign vessels.

In general, China’s peacekeepers were involved in peacekeeping operations in Africa, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, Middle East and North America. As China strengthens its position as a great power and Chinese companies increase their investments in countries that are located in the so-called “Silk Road Economic Belt,” Beijing will increase its role in peacekeeping operations to make this territory safe and stable. The stability of the main communication roads from the Far East to the Middle East, Africa and Europe will give the Chinese government the opportunity to attempt to actualize Xi Jinping’s “Silk Road Economic Belt” project. The main argument of the above-mentioned hypotheses is that China sent its first infantry battalion for UN peacekeeping to the South Sudan for the first time in 2014, which means that China revised its traditional position, choosing to participate in the enforcement of peace. In turn, the international community is also interested in China deepening its role and sending more troops to UN peacekeeping operations because China offers both quality and quantity. UN officials have praised Chinese peacekeepers for their professional work during peacekeeping operations. For instance, on June 19, 2013 In Beijing UNSC Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon made several remarks on China’s involvement on peacekeeping operations, “I have seen the bravery of Chinese blue helmets helping struggling communities around the world. China provides more peacekeepers to the UN than all of the four other permanent members combined. I applaud this solidarity.” The cooperation between China and other countries that are involved in peacekeeping improves the level of the world security. China also opened several training facilities to improve the skills of Chinese peacekeepers. At these centers, China hosts and trains foreign peacekeepers.

In sum, from 2000–2013, China increased its involvement in peacekeeping and served as an active participant in ongoing operations. China’s policy on peacekeeping helped to sustain peace in different countries and maintain world peace and stability. China is an active participant in peacekeeping operations and thus plays an important role in maintaining peace. China’s policy on peacekeeping has helped to sustain peace in different countries and to maintain world peace and stability.

Recommendations to the UN

China’s expanding engagement in UN peacekeeping provides good opportunities for the UN to solve the problem of shortages in the contributions of troops, which appeared when Western countries reduced their involvement in peacekeeping. The relevant UN agencies and officials could consider the following measures:

  1. Encourage China to send more military units.
  2. Encourage those countries with ethnic conflicts to use the Chinese experience to solve problems between different ethnic groups, as 56 nationalities live in harmony in China.
  3. Support China to realize its “New Silk Road Economic Belt” program because it can help countries from the Far East to the Middle East and Europe develop their economies and become more secure. 4. Support Chinese universities in teaching Chinese worldwide, which will prepare Chinese language specialists to serve as a language bridge between Chinese peacekeepers and locals.

Recommendations to China

  1. As Western powers reduce the number of their troops engaged in peacekeeping, China can take the initiative and fill this vacuum with its well-trained forces. This step will help maintain stability in African and Middle Eastern countries in which China has economic interests.
  2. Send more military troops for peacekeeping operations. As a result, Chinese forces will gain experience and maintain tactical efficiency.
  3. Continue to train peacekeepers from third world countries and teach them Chinese. This step will help increase the skills of foreign peacekeepers and provide opportunities to establish cooperation between Chinese and foreign peacekeepers.
  4. Offer creative and practical suggestions to the international community with the aim of beginning peacekeeping operations in Syria and Iraq. Help the above-mentioned countries defeat the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and help them to restore their territorial integrity. The unstable situation in Syria and Iraq is dangerous and can harm the security of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, which are primary energy sources for China.
  5. Actively participate in negotiations on peacebuilding in the South Caucasus because it is located in the center of important communication roads.

Mher D. Sahakyan- Ph.D. (International Relations), School of International Studies, Nanjing University. China, Director of the “‘China-Eurasia’ Council for Political and Strategic Research” Foundation, Armenia and the author of the article China’s Reforms to Improve its Peacekeeping Capabilities: Chinas Growing Role in UNPKO (2000-2013), (Moscow University Bulletin. Series 13. Oriental Studies, No. 1, 2016, pp. 56-67), from which this essay is adapted. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

PhD, Director “China-Eurasia” Council for Political and Strategic Research, Foundation, Armenia follow @mhereast

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East Asia

Taiwan: The First and Oldest ‘Thorn’ between China and the West

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Over three hundred and fifty years ago, when the West lost its first war with China over Taiwan, the technological level between the two sides was fairly even. But the Dutch, then the most dynamic colonial power, paid a heavy price for misbelieving “China might have invented gunpowder but we possess superior guns.” Today, the world is witnessing China’s rapid rise and the US is in decline. The question is, will Taiwan once again bust the Western (aka US) superiority myth?                                                                         

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In 1662, the West fought its first war with China and lost. The Sino-Dutch War, as it is called now, was fought when a Chinese admiral dared the Dutch East India Company to give up its little under half century ‘rule’ over Taiwan. The defeat resulted in the island falling under Chinese rule for the first time in history. It is not so important to know it was China’s first great victory over Europe’s most dynamic colonial power. In the words of the Dutch historian, Tonio Andrade, what is more significant is the first Chinese victory over the West broke the myth of Western superiority as it had been achieved on the basis of “Chinese advantage in strategic and tactical culture.” (Emphasis added) The Chinese victory also broke another myth which the Western historians held on to until as recently as in 1970s, i.e., the Chinese might have invented the gunpowder but didn’t know how to use it as weapon, Andrade, the author  went on to add.

Fast forward to the present-day tensions in the Taiwan Strait. As China embarked on the path of Reform and Opening-up, relations between Beijing and Taipei too started improving in the early 1980s. Seen as a remarkable political development on both sides of the Taiwan Strait in 45 years, the KMT government in Taipei declared in 1991 “an end to the war with the People’s Republic of China on the mainland.” However, since the election of Chen Shui-bian as president in 2000, political headwinds in Taiwan have been moving in the opposite direction to Beijing. Alarmed by Chen’s backing of demands for Taiwan’s independence, Beijing was quick to pass anti-secession law a year after Chen was reelected in 2004.

In 2016, following Donald Trump’s victory in US and the victory of Ms. Tsai Ing-wen as Taiwan’s president respectively, Beijing’s fear of Taiwan declaring itself an independent country has reached unprecedented levels. In fact, Beijing is feeling seriously threatened by the US role in creating conditions for Taiwan to declare independence. Immediately upon assuming office, President Trump held telephone conversation with the Taiwan president – something which no other US had done in the preceding forty years. This was the beginning of a new trend in US-China relations and which grossly undermined the “One China” policy.

During the past decade (between 2007 and 2019), the US warships made over one hundred trips through the Taiwan Strait. No wonder Beijing has been describing Taiwan as “the most important sensitive issue in Sino-US relations.” According to New Strait Times, in 2020, the year of Coronavirus pandemic, the cross-strait faced its worst crisis in the past two decades. Without denying that the PLA fighter planes crossed maritime border with Taiwan, China however dismissed Taipei’s claims of “incursions” by the mainland. Beijing even maintained its warplanes, bombers and anti-submarine aircrafts “conducted normal exercises on September 18 and 19 respectively and that the median line never existed.”

However, according to experts, the median line is the unofficial airspace boundary between Taiwan and China, and was demarcated by US Air Force General Benjamin Davis Jr. in 1955, before the US pressured both sides to enter into a tacit agreement not to cross it. Media reports originating from Taipei, Hong Kong and Singapore claimed the forty or more PLA incursions last October, were prompted by two US top officials visiting Taipei during August-September period last year. “U.S. Under Secretary of State Keith Krach arrived in Taiwan on Thursday for the second visit by a high-level American official in two months. The first visit was by the US Health Secretary Alex Azar in August 2020.” The visits by Krach and Azar respectively were first highest-level US Cabinet visits to Taiwan – in gross violation of the US commitments to China – since the US switched formal relations from Taiwan to Beijing in 1979.

This year, especially within hours following President entered the White House, the new US administration lost no time in announcing “our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid.” Two days earlier, the State Department invited and officially received Taiwan’s unofficial ambassador in Washington to Biden’s inauguration – the first envoy from the island present at a presidential swearing-in since 1979. Both the statement of commitment to Taiwan and the presence of Taiwanese envoy at the presidential inauguration respectively were interpreted by strategic affairs experts in Washington and Beijing as moves to provoke China towards making a strategic mistake leading to military conflict.

Further, Taiwan has returned as “thorniest” issue in US-China relations under President Biden – since perhaps it is easier to violate “One China” policy than to either rally European allies against China or to announce a decisive Washington position toward Beijing. As President Biden gears up to embark on his maiden in-person visit to shake hands or bump elbows with his European allies, the US administration has further escalated tensions over Taiwan. Last Sunday, a bipartisan contingent of three US Senators – Tammy Duckworth and Christopher Coons, both Democrats, and Dan Sullivan, a Republican – briefly visited Taiwan on a US military aircraft.  According to media reports, the Chinese Defense Ministry described the visit as “extremely vile provocation.” Reuters citing Chinese sources said China believes that “Biden administration is challenging one-China principle and trying to achieve the so-called goal of ‘using Taiwan to control’ China.” 

Experts in Beijing point out, Biden is accelerating the pitch of what started under Obama and was intensified by Trump, i.e., to use “the US economic and military might to pressure Beijing and force it to accept US hegemony in the region.” Elsewhere, first the joint statement following Biden-Suga summit in April and then in late May the statement released after the summit meeting between European leaders and Japan’s Prime Minister Suga, are being interpreted as “belligerent stances towards Beijing initiated and encouraged by President Biden.” The EU-Japan post-summit statement called for “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” Similar to several moves initiated by Trump and Biden challenging one-China policy, the EU-Suga joint statement too is the first time that Taiwan has been included in such a statement. 

A scholar in Tianjin, who writes a column for ftchinese.com, the daily online Mandarin version of the Financial Times, thinks Biden has intensified the so-called Thucydides trap. In a recent article, he has actually put forward a solution for Beijing to not only avoid falling into the trap, but also steer clear of having to choose between using force to reunify with Taiwan and being forced into military conflict with the US by striking first. To sum up Li Yongning’s rather long thesis, he prescribes that China fight out Thucydides trap with economic growth and people’s prosperity. To prove his point, Li flashes the example of de-escalation of hostility between China and Japan. Remember until a few years ago, heightened tensions between the two over Diaoyu or Senkaku Islands. Of late, especially since the middle of Xi Jinping’s first five year tenure, belligerent provocations between Beijing and Tokyo have almost ceased.

How did China under Xi achieve this? According to Li, Xi’s strategy to strike peace and tranquility with Japan was simple and practical. “China’s GDP exceeded Japan’s in 2010 and by 2019 it became 2.8 times more than Japan’s, which put an end to Sino-Japan competitiveness. Likewise, once China achieves one and a half times or twice bigger GDP of the USA, the China-US competitiveness will be rendered as joke,” Li contended. In 2017, in PPP terms China had already exceeded the US economy. Li cited a Brookings Institution report which predicted China’s GDP will cross America’s in 2028. “Once China reaches there, higher GDP will act as shock absorber for all Sino-US conflicts,” Li wrote.

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China’s know-how on becoming the oldest society in the world

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china bicycle

For decades, China had a “one-child policy” that permitted families to have only one child. A few years ago, this restriction was changed to a “two-child policy”, and now the Chinese government has allowed the Chinese people to give birth to three children.

The main reason for this is the concerningly low birth rate and the impending demographic crisis. China is still the country with the largest population (1.41 billion), but UN forecasts indicate that India will soon surpass it, since India has a much higher birth rate.

Statistics show that last year approximately 12 million babies were born in China, which is the lowest birth rate China has had in many years. For instance, in 2016 when the “two-child policy” was implemented, the number of newborns reached 18 million.

Chinese demographers argue that it will be difficult for China to boost birth rate in the near future because the number of women in the reproductive age is decreasing. This was caused by China’s “one-child policy” that was in force from 1979 to 2015.

Chinese families could give birth only to one child, and many families chose to “spend” this quota on a boy, since in China boys have traditionally been valued more than girls. If a family were told they were expecting a girl, the mother would often decide to have an abortion.

This caused an unexpected outcome – the number of men exceeded the number of women. Although it was not allowed to find out the sex of the baby during pregnancy, there were several ways to do so which lead to numerous late abortions. That is why currently there is a disproportion between the number of men and women in the Chinese society.

As a result, modern China is overproducing men and is in a grave lack of women. Statistics indicate that there are 35 million more men than women – leaving many men with no chances of finding a spouse.

Moreover, the beliefs and values of the Chinese people have also changed over the years, i.e. many women wish to pursue a career first and only then to establish a family. The recent years have seen a rapid decline in marriages in China.

These trends are particularly prevalent in Chinese cities, leading demographers to predict that the gap between the situation in cities and the situation in the countryside will only widen in the future – people in the countryside still prefer larger families, while city dwellers have a hard time giving birth to a single child.

“Now, we are allowed to have three children. The problem, however, is that I don’t even want one child,” a user of the Chinese social media network Weibo wrote in his account.

Many are asking the question – will the “three-child policy” change anything if the “two-child policy” wasn’t able to do so? That’s why people are happy about the government’s decision to provide other incentives and motivations in this regard.

For example, education costs – which were twice as high in two-children families – will be cut, people will see additional support on tax and housing issues and working women will be granted more rights. In addition, the government also has plans to educate young Chinese people on the issues of marriage and love – now, state propaganda will not only deal with shaming the West, but also teach people how to love correctly and “make children”.

This leads to believe that the Chinese government has taken quite a peculiar approach to identifying mistakes in their previous policies, but it isn’t truly admitting these mistakes – as is the case in all authoritarian regimes. If the previous plan fails, simply improve it a bit and relaunch it anew.

The “one-child policy” has led to one-and-a-half generation where there are six people from the non-working population for each person in the working population, i.e. the person’s parents and two sets of grandparents. This is the Chinese Communist Party’s know-how.

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Global Health & Health Silk Road: The Other Side Of Picture

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The new world order is a twisted maze of political, economic and cultural ambitions. China’s obscure political economy presents an unparalleled challenge to those unfamiliar with the cultural and historical undercurrents driving Beijing’s global movements. Following the onset of the CoVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the global society observed one of the hasty economic convulsion since World War II. Nearly all nation states sealed their borders and placed global supply chain and trade in limbo as the spread of the virus continued unabated. As Beijing’s flagship investment project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was similarly disrupted. The BRI initiative has formed the cornerstone of President Xi’s approach to strategic diplomacy and challenged the traditional concept of development. Key rhetoric underlying the initiative, such as “the community of common destiny for mankind”.

Nevertheless, there is a “Digital Silk Road”, and “Space Silk Road”, so it should come as no bombshell that China is also building a “Health Silk Road”. China’s HSR first appeared in a speech given by President Xi in 2016. At the first BRI Forum 2017, a Beijing Communique of Belt and Road Health Cooperation and Health Silk Road was signed by China, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS, OECD, GAVI and other participating countries. Since then, China made a significant move towards the consolidation of its role as a major player in global health. Similarly, it is no secret that China is making a boost for global health leadership during CoVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic spread across the world, China sought to provide aid packages and medical assistance to partner states within the BRI under the name of “Health Silk Road”. The ongoing CoVID-19 pandemic is not only going to fundamentally transform the global politics, but also the foreign policy priorities of many countries. Since the outbreak, the CoVID-19 pandemic has exposed the significant weakness of public health infrastructure of developed and developing countries alike.

There is widespread understanding among scientists, heritage and history writers that one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, black death, originated in China and spread along the old silk road to central Asia, northern India and Europe. It exhibited a blueprint that is as old as human history, – when people and goods travel, so do viruses and bacteria. Today, there is some speculation about whether CoVID-19 circulated along the “new silk road”, and it has been criticized that the BRI contributed to the spread of the virus. These kinds of debates are pointless because, even without modern means of transport like trains, cargo-ships, and planes, the plague can reach the most remote places in the world and kill a large portion of the global population. Highly criticized for covering up and not preventing the virus from turning into a global pandemic, China is making an efforts to reinstate its persona as a symbol of support, strength and leadership. Opponents have also alleged that Beijing rationalized itself as a global health champion at a time when Washington had abdicated its responsibilities.

Regardless of misgivings, China has been promoting the institutionalization of health cooperation within HSR framework by organizing and sponsoring a number of health-themed forums. For example, the Silk Road Health Forum, China-Central and Eastern European Countries Health Ministers Forum, China-ASEAN Health Forum, and the China-Arab States Health Forum. Beijing also initiated a series of supportive programs on disease control and prevention in alliance with its neighbors in Central Asia. All these efforts were made as part of China’s broader global health diplomacy and leadership before the CoVID-19 pandemic hit the world. With the spread of  CoVID-19 across the world, the Chinese government extended support to countries from East Asia to Europe. It has given 20 million dollars to the World Health Organization (WHO) for assisting developing countries in coping with the pandemic, build up their epidemic-prevention abilities, and building a stronger public health system. China also handed out concessionary loans and played a coordinating role in multilaterals like G-20, ASEAN, the SCO and the African Union, established itself in a leadership position by promptly responding to the crises and catering to the needs of the countries all over.

In contrast with the advance economics, what China has contributed to the global pandemic combat becomes even more admirable. Statistics show that China has provided considerable amount of medical assistance to the rest of world, including approximately 70.6 billion face masks, 225 million test kits, 115 million pairs of goggles, 340 million protective suits, 96,700 ventilators, and 40.29 million infrared thermometers to 200 countries and regions in 2020. China’s medical professionals have also played a vital role in the global pandemic battle by contributing their knowledge and experience on the frontlines in many virus-impacted countries. China has shared medical best practices with a multitude of international organizations, including the ASEAN, EU, African Union, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Caribbean, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, as well as some of the hardest-hit countries such as South Korea, Japan, Russia, the United States, and Germany.

Concisely, with all these notable endeavors and substantial contributions, is it still premature to presume that China has taken over the leadership role in terms of global health? China’s engagement in global health, especially during CoVID-19, has positioned itself as a johnny on the spot in global health leadership. The HSR undoubtedly will allow China to re-establish its national repute on the international stage, in particular by contrasting it with the inelegant responses of the United States and other European nations. China’s global aspirations, efforts to present itself as a global health leader should not be considered as surprise. It is still too early to tell the magnitude to which China’s global health sprint will transform its international profile, but there is no reason to be cynical that it will be revolutionary. As an old Chinese saying goes, it takes a good blacksmith to make good steel.

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