Peacekeeping: China Steps Up


October 27, 2011: The Chinese military is becoming more international. In the last year, there have been 44 joint training operations with foreign troops. There are nearly 20,000 Chinese troops involved in overseas peacekeeping missions for the UN. A Chinese Navy hospital ship is making a world tour of places that are in need of modern medical care. China is increasingly one of the first nations to fly in emergency aid, often using military transport, to help with natural disasters throughout Asia. China noted how the United States gained much good will by using the military resources to deliver emergency aid, and is following suit. Moreover, all this gives Chinese troops experience in operating overseas.

The UN's peacekeeping army of 109,000 troops and police has long been dominated by troops from nations that were formerly part of the British Empire (mostly from what used to be British India; India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal.) About a third of UN peacekeepers are from these nations. While proud of their record of service, the "Imperial Peacekeepers" are glad to see the Chinese volunteering, because the UN is always asking for more troops, and regular contributors were not eager to send more.

Corruption, casualties and lack of success were discouraging countries from contributing their troops for peacekeeping. The corruption angle is interesting, as it pertains both to the corruption within the UN bureaucracy, and the corrupt atmosphere the peacekeepers operate in and often succumb to. Casualties are expected, but the contributing countries feel a lot of their troop losses are the result of restrictive UN rules that limit what peacekeepers can do. This, in turn, is believed most responsible for a lack of success for the peacekeeping missions.

India, Bangladesh and Pakistan (who contribute nearly a quarter of the UN force) were not happy with the lack of volunteers from other major nations. The chief reasons for that are the same ones annoying the current peacekeepers (corruption and restrictive rules of engagement). In addition, the major military powers (with the exception of China and Russia) feel they already contribute quite a lot in the form of money to pay the peacekeepers. And the contributors are also upset at the lack of results.

The UN will spend about $7 billion on fourteen peacekeeping operations this year. It's actually a pretty cheap way of keeping some conflicts under control. The causes of the unrest may not be resolved by peacekeepers, but at least the problem is contained and doesn't bother the rest of the world too much. This is an increasingly unpopular approach to peacekeeping, except in the UN bureaucracy. Many UN members would rather send peacekeepers to where they are not wanted (by the government, usually a bad one that is often the cause of the trouble in the first place.)

Most of the money is going to a few large peacekeeping operations. Three of the largest (Congo, Darfur and south Sudan) get over half the cash. Africa has the largest number of "failed states" on the planet and, as such, is most in need of outside security assistance. The Middle East is also a source of much unrest. But there the problem isn't a lack of government, just bad government. Most Middle Eastern nations are run by tyrants, who have created police states that at least keep anarchy at bay.





Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close