In recent years, new and multifaceted challenges threatening regional and global security and thus severely affecting the lives of individuals have emerged. The system of collective security with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) at its core remains a permanent subject of criticism. In addition, on-going violent breaches of regional peace by non-state actors such as the so-called Islamic State (IS) or Boko Haram not only means an immanent threat for the lives of individuals but also fuels the need for clarification by international law mechanisms. In this context, China’s UN efforts and its interactions with the UN system with regard to the protection of individuals in armed conflict represent the main focus of this conference paper. This shall include the official Chinese position on the evolving “responsibility to protect” (R2P) norm and its engagement in UN peacekeeping, both aspects with high relevance for the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Being a Permanent Member of the UNSC and one of the largest contributors to UN peacekeeping missions, China represents a major player in global security. Yet, while its economic outreach is high, China is reluctant in allowing the use of force in armed conflict and rather refers to the pivotal pre-eminence of the principle of state sovereignty. Hence, as China’s rise also influences its UN policies, an in-depth understanding of Chinese positions on the protection of individuals in armed conflict within the UN framework is vital. Facing an increasingly complex international security situation, this conference paper intends to close an academic void by contributing an analysis of Chinese UN initiatives on the protection of individuals in armed conflict and its interactions with the UN system on this matter.
China; responsibility to protect; UN peacekeeping; use of force
In recent years, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has shown signs of an enhanced ability and willingness to engage more actively in security issues on the global stage. The effects of the Chinese military modernisation allows Chinese power projection beyond the Asia-Pacific region (see Blasko 2011). This develop-ment could be observed when the Chinese navy rescued Chinese and foreign citizens out of the war-torn state of Yemen in early 2015 (see BBC 2015). By conducting naval exercises and operations far off Chinese shores, the PRC hereby not only shows commitment to participate actively in the global security architecture but also does not infringe upon the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other nations (see Erickson/Strange 2013: 3).
But which consequences does this enhanced Chinese security engagement have on its role in the United Nations (UN) concerning the protection of individuals in armed conflict? The PRC itself highlights the role of the UN as “the best venue to practice multilateralism, and an effective platform for collective actions to cope with various threats and challenges” (see Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations 2005). Facing current humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, including the refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East as well as regional violence undertaken by non-state terrorist organisations such as Boko Haram or the so-called Islamic State (IS), the task of the international community to safeguard civilians in armed conflict becomes urgent. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated in his latest report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict from June 2015, “shocking levels of brutality and casual disregard for human life and dignity have come to characterize most of today’s armed conflicts”, whereas “[c]ivilians are killed and maimed in targeted or indiscriminate attacks. They are tortured, taken hostage and disappeared, forcibly recruited into armed groups, displaced from their homes, separated from their families and denied access to the most basic necessi-ties” (United Nations Security Council 2015: 1).
By recalling this development, the necessity of united action by the international community becomes evident. Thus, this paper intends to highlight China’s stance as towards the protection of civilians in armed conflict within the framework of the United Nations. In doing so, two specific areas shall be scrutinised: the author will firstly analyse the Chinese position on the evolving “responsibility to protect” (R2P) norm and its application in the recent crises in Libya and Syria. Afterwards, he will shed light on China’s evolving approach towards UN peace-keeping and Chinese peacekeeping efforts in Africa, especially in the case of Darfur.
2. China and R2P
2.1 China’s official position on the R2P norm
Being confronted with a changed nature of intra-state conflict, especially in post-colonial Africa, expressed by higher levels of brutality, led the international community to the conviction that acting with impunity should no longer be possible (see Bain 2010: 26). Sovereignty, albeit important, should stand back behind the need to safeguard basic humanitarian standards and human rights. Or, to put it otherwise, “sove-reignty is justified in terms of effectiveness, understood as the provision of a system of law and order which attends to the provision of basic needs and to the development of human dignity“ (ibid.: 27). At this point, the fundamental difference of China’s understanding of sove-reignty to this depiction should become clearly obvious, as it is the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that continually upholds sovereignty as one of the most important principles in international society.
In the beginning, R2P (baohu de zeren in Chinese) was elaborated upon by the Interna-tional Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) that submitted a report labelled “The Responsibility to Protect” in December 2001 (see Cai 2011: 140; Oertel 2014: 169 – 171). It was later endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 2005 and reaffirmed unanimously by the Security Council (by passing resolution 1674; see Bellamy 2008: 615). Furthermore, the Security Council referred to R2P when it set up the UN/African Union hybrid mission in Darfur in 2006 (see ibid.: 615). Yet, whereas these events may reflect the enormous political importance attached to R2P, it lacks an essential feature that would undoubtedly increase its effectiveness: as it is legally non-binding, its enforceability remains rather shallow (compare Brozus/Schaller 2013: 8). At its core, R2P rests on three pillars (see ibid.: 7; compare Cai 2011: 145 – 147): 1) the responsibility of every state to protect its citizens against genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity (“protection responsibilities of the state”); 2) the intention of the society of states to assist its members to implement this responsibility (“inter-national assistance and capacity-building”); 3) the collective readiness to intervene resolutely in a given case if a state is not willing or capable to protect its citizens (“timely and decisive response”).
Hence, after outlining the basic principles of R2P, it is now of further interest how China reacted to this emerging norm and which attitude it is now attaching towards it. In principle, R2P contradicts China’s commitment to non-interference (compare Pang 2009: 239 – 244). In its 2005 position paper on UN reform, the PRC has summarised its convictions on the issue:
“Each state shoulders the primary responsibility to protect its own population. However, internal unrest in a country is often caused by complex factors. Prudence is called for in judging a government’s ability and will to protect its citizens. No reckless intervention should be allowed. When a massive humanitarian crisis occurs, it is the legitimate concern of the international community to ease and defuse the crisis. Any response to such a crisis should strictly conform to the UN Charter and the opinions of the country and the regional organization concerned should be respected. It falls on the Security Council to make the decision in the frame of the UN in light of specific circumstances which should lead to a peaceful solution as fas as possible. Wherever it involves enforcement actions, there should be more prudence in the consideration of each case“ (see Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations 2005).
Behind this formulation, China’s suspicion of R2P rather being a ‘Trojan horse’ for legitimising unilateral intervention becomes evident (compare Bellamy 2008: 617). Notwithstanding these reservations, China was a strong supporter of R2P at the 2005 World Summit and participated actively in the negotiations that led to the Summit’s outcome document (see Duchâtel/Bräuner/Zhou 2014: 10). From the outset of the negotiations, “China pursued a pro-active strategy of norm containment and has since been engaged in deconstructing R2P to make it compatible with the normative core of its foreign policy” (Prantl/Nakano 2011: 214). The outcome document for instance reaffirms the role of the Security Council to exclusively determine whether to use force or not, which eased China’s support of R2P, as it is able to veto any R2P-based resolution in the Council (see Duchâtel/Bräuner/Zhou 2014: 10). This provision can be assessed as a diplomatic success of the PRC in the course of the negotiations, as it contravenes the ICISS report’s initial prescription that bypassing the Security Council to initiate intervention should be possible (compare Liu 2012: 161 – 162).
Furthermore, China has endorsed a relatively narrow interpretation of R2P, according to which states have the primary responsibility to protect its citizens from crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, genocide and war crimes (see Prantl/Nakano 2011: 214). It also stressed that any further normative contributions to R2P shall be subject to further discussion in the General Assembly rather than in the Security Council to “avoid any embarrassment if it were to use its veto in the Security Council” and to “avert international exposure by blocking unwanted Security Council action over R2P” (ibid.: 214). Moreover, as the interpretations over R2P are differing among UN member states, China decided to remain reserved in subsequent General Assembly discussions on the protection of civilians (see Oertel 2014: 179). The R2P debates after 2006 were characterised by their emphasis on the concrete implementation of R2P into political practice, leading the PRC to keep a low profile and cut back its rhetoric support for the norm (see ibid.: 179). Concerning the protection of civilians, the PRC holds the assumption that prevention represents the best way to its guarantee, whereby a concerted approach among all relevant UN agencies is necessary to tackle the causes of conflict which helps promoting development as the foundation of peace (see ibid.: 179).
Whereas after the US interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq the belief was widely held in international society that the pinnacle for humanitarian intervention seemed to have passed, the supporters of this view, facing inner turmoil in Libya and Syria, had yet to adapt quickly to reality (see Fullilove 2011: 71). Thus, how China reacted to these harsh repercussions to international peace leading to UN action under the pretext of R2P shall be analysed below.
2.2 Libya: abstaining from resolution 1973
In early 2011, as Libya was getting caught up in the maelstrom of the Arab Spring, forces loyal to Muammar Qadhafi threatened the lives of Libyan civilians, whereby Qadhafi himself stirred up further public outrage by stating that “any Libyan who takes up arms against Libya will be executed“ (as cited by Holland 2012: 35). As a reaction to the deteriorating situation in the country, the UN Security Council first passed resolution 1970 on 23rd February 2011 that imposed an arms embargo against Libya and transferred the issue to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and then, on 17th March 2011, also passed resolution 1973 imposing a no-fly zone over Libya (see Duchâtel/Bräuner/Zhou 2014:11). Both resolutions referred to the responsibility to protect civilians and were adopted without the approval of the Libyan government (see ibid.: 11).
China hereby voted in favour of resolution 1970 and abstained from resolution 1973. Yet the specific voting behaviour in both cases were a product of very particular circumstances and should not be interpreted as a fundamental change in the PRC’s openness towards R2P (see ibid.: 11). In the case of resolution 1970, the active support of the African Union and the Arab League as well as of the Russian Federation were crucial for China to support the resolution, so that no opposition could be organised in the Council (see Oertel 2014: 183). As for resolution 1973, Li Baodong, China’s ambassador to the UN, explained why China abstained from the vote by stating that the Security Council should rather “resolve the current crisis in Libya through peaceful means“ and that “China has serious difficulty with parts of the resolution“ (United Nations Security Council 2011: 10). Hence, it seems that China’s support for sanctions and R2P seems to shrivel instantly once the territorial integrity of a state is directly concerned (see Oertel 2013: 55).
Within the PRC, the decision was harshly criticised and labelled a failure or mistake in Chinese foreign policy (see Liu/Zhang 2014: 418). But it was not only the Chinese government that became subject of criticism, as the Western powers were accused of extending the mandate of the intervention to a military campaign in whose course air strikes were targeting facilities on Libyan soil and which was supported by NATO (see Duchâtel/Bräuner/Zhou 2014: 11). Accordingly, Ruan Zongze of the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) accused the West of “trying hard to push the Arab League to the forefront in an attempt to repeat its old tricks on the Libyan issue and even sow discord between China and the Arab countries. This is a game China could not afford to lose“ (Ruan 2012). It was also assessed in this context that the PRC lacked a profound research into concrete issues concerning the application of R2P as well as concerning a deeper understanding of the implications of setting up a ‘no-fly zone’ (see Liu/Zhang 2014: 418).
This feeling of betrayal by the Western nations found strong repercussions in China’s behaviour in the context of the Syrian civil war. In April 2012, Le Yucheng, the PRC’s Deputy Foreign Minister, explained China’s official ‘lesson learned’ from the Libyan case:
“Libya […] has gone too far from the original intention of R2P. We should not forget the lessons we have learned from Libya. On the first ‘protection’ day led by NATO in Libya, there were 64 civilians killed and 150 injured. And the final result of the ‘protection’ is that over 20,000 civilians were killed and 900,000 displaced. It is evident to the international community that Libya continues to be disunited, that violence continues to rage, and that some regions have even declared their autonomy. It has been vividly described as a ‘successful surgery with a dead patient’ and it is patent that this kind of ‘protection’ is a failed and irresponsible one applying ‘protect’ as the cover of the brutal ‘intervention’. The courage to say ‘No’ to it absolutely demonstrates our determination to be responsible. We respect ‘Responsibility to Protect’ and at the same time we value ‘Responsibility to Protect’ even more” (as cited by Liu/Zhang 2014: 419).
In accordance to these deliberations, Chinese media emphasised upon the notion that R2P must be protected against its abuse by Western nations (see Oertel 2013: 55). In 2012, the PRC consequently followed this order in addressing the Syrian crisis at the United Nations.
2.3 Syria: vetoes and a tit-for-tat response to the West
In opposition to the Libyan case, China made use of its veto in the Security Council in addressing Syria before the Council. Out of its six overall vetoes China casted between 2002 and mid-2015, four were opposing Syria-specific draft resolutions. As for the 2012 draft resolution on Syria that aimed at preventing Bashar al-Assad from tantalising the Syrian people, China and the Russian Federation vetoed the respective draft resolution (see United Nations News Centre 2012). Following the experience that China had made from the Libyan case, “the Chinese leadership sensed that the notion of regime change formed part of the resolution regarding Syria, consequently the Chinese leadership was unable to approve the position presented to the Security Council” (Oertel 2014: 184). Ruan Zongze takes the same line when he declares that “[n]oises advocating applying the ‘Libya model’ in Syria, enforcing military intervention against Syria, and facilitating ‘regime change’ have never been subsiding in the West” (Ruan 2012). Furthermore, Chinese ambassador Chen Shiqiu stated the following on China’s motives to deny support on actions against the Syrian regime in the Council:
“The United Nations Security Council could not reach consent on Syria in that the great powers, with the different interests [they] pursued, collided with each other and thus made it hard to invoke R2P. In addition, if the Syrian tragedy was taken as a humanitarian disaster, how should we understand the fact that the opposing faction was provided with weapons? Therefore, it seems that it was not meant to terminate the conflict, but to topple the Bashar al-Assad administration and turn Syria into a second Libya” (as cited by Liu/Zhang 2014: 419).
Leaving aside China’s perception that it has “gained nothing while losing everything in Libya” (Sun 2012), several other reasons influenced its decision to veto the draft resolution on Syria before the Council (see Holland 2012: 39 – 40). It not only felt that it saw no benefits for itself by supporting the resolution but also wished to protect Chinese interests. To serve this purpose, the PRC has elaborated a “far more sophisticated hedging strategy” (Sun 2012) which is expressed by addressing the Syrian government under Bashar al-Assad as well as the opposition (compare Haenle 2014a). On the one hand, China held a protective hand over al-Assad by preventing a military intervention in Syria; on the other hand, it reached out to the democratic Syrian opposition (see Sun 2012). Just hours after the veto in the Security Council, a delegation from the Syrian National Committee for Democratic Change, representing one of the key Syrian opposition groups, travelled to Beijing at the invitation of the Chinese foreign ministry to meet with Zhai Jun, Vice Foreign Minister on Africa and West Asia (see ibid.).
Furthermore, China’s abstention may also have strived for gaining domestic support by demonstrating that the Chinese government is willing and ready to take a firm stance against the West (see Holland 2012: 40). Yet, among all these reasons, the feeling it was betrayed after its vote on Libya is reverberating with the strongest degree. When it was confirmed in 2013 that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against its own people and US air strikes on Syria were considered, China took a relatively low profile (see Liu/Zhang 2014: 419). Beside mere symbolic calls to all parties to exercise restraint, China was more eager to evacuate its people and businesses from Syria and to caution Chinese citizens not to enter Syrian territory (see ibid.: 419 – 420).
Notwithstanding this relative passivity, the PRC also showed signs of commitment to fulfil its self-perceived status as a ‘responsible great power’ (fuzeren daguo) by participating in the escort and surveillance of chemical weapons from Syria under a deal the UN negotiated with the Russian Federation (see Haenle 2014a). On 22nd February 2014, China further supported resolution 2139 that stipulated an increased access to humanitarian aid in Syria (see ibid.). Although these actions may be signs for greater contributions of a ‘responsible’ China, it must nonetheless be concluded that its stance towards R2P has changed in a sense that “the Chinese government places more restrictive conditions upon, and undergoing deeper consideration of the future application of this concept” (Liu/Zhang 2014: 420).
3. UN peacekeeping
3.1 China’s evolving approach towards UN peacekeeping
Following that “United Nations peacekeeping operations must implement their mandate without favour or prejudice to any party“ (United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations 2008: 31), China, which is further upholding the principle of impartiality in the realm of the UN human rights regime, raises pivotal objections against these violence-related features of UN peacekeeping. Yet, since the early 2000s, China’s attitude towards UN peacekeeping has changed profoundly, leading to higher contributions to the UN peacekeeping force, thus making it by far the largest troop contributor to UN peacekeeping missions among the P5 member states. Why China undertook this policy change and which consequences it entails shall be outlined below.
The issue if China’s shifting attitude towards UN peacekeeping has attracted scientific research both within China and beyond. After taking the Chinese seat in the UN, the PRC stood in opposition to the creation and continuation of all peacekeeping operations which found its expression by its non-participation in Security Council votes on UN peacekeeping-related resolutions, by its refusal to pay its annual financial peacekeeping contributions and by not sending troops to on-going peacekeeping operations (see Fravel 1996: 1003 – 1004). In the 1980s, China’s reform and opening-up policy could then also be felt in the realm of Chinese foreign policy, as the PRC was not only for the first time supporting a peacekeeping-related resolution in 1981 (S/RES/495 which extended the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP)) but it also started submitting its financial payments and dispatched a fact-finding mission to the Middle East in order to study peacekeeping operations (see International Crisis Group 2009: 5; Zhou 2010: 36).
A first major shift happened in 1988 when the PRC became a member of the General Assembly’s Special Committee for Peacekeeping Operations (see Hu 2014: 38; International Crisis Group 2009: 5). One year later, China for the first time deployed a team of twenty civilian observers to affiliate with the UN Namibia Transitional Period Aid Group to monitor a general election in the country (see International Crisis Group 2009: 5; compare Gill/Huang 2009: 2). The Iraqi occupation of Kuwait in August 1990 leading to the First Gulf War marks a watershed for the PRC “to participate in peacekeeping from low profile to a rising profile” (Hu 2014: 39). Although China abstained from voting on resolution 678 authorising the use of “all necessary means” under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, it nevertheless backed and took part in the following UN Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (see Hu 2014: 39; Wang 2012: 65).
After the end of the Cold War, China had become anxious over an emerging unipolar world dominated by the US, with China as the only remaining ‘socialist country’ in the new global order (see Pang 2005: 90). As a consequence, it “feared Western-led international intervention under the UN banner and decided to actively engage in peacekeeping operations to influence the course of action” (Choedon 2013: 210). Hence, the PRC’s proactive approach found its first clear expression by China playing a key role in financial and political terms in the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) in 1992 and 1993 (see International Crisis Group 2009: 5).
A second major shift in China’s attitude towards UN peacekeeping that reverberates until today followed after inner turmoil and mass killings took place in East Timor in 1999 (see Hu 2014: 40). On 22nd October 1999, the PRC voted in favour of Security Council resolution 1272 that set up the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) under whose mandate Chinese police officers were allowed to carry light weapons for the first time in a foreign country (see ibid.: 40). Hu Jiaxiang therefore argues that “China’s support and participation in this mission demonstrated a significant softening of its attitude toward the stiffened principle of sovereignty and non-intervention” (ibid.: 40).
In late 2014, the PRC was engaged in nine UN peacekeeping missions worldwide, seven of which were located in Africa, including a personnel of 2,181 serving in these missions. The country is also one of the larger financial contributors to the UN peacekeeping budget, thereby accounting for 7% for the 2014/2015 budget (see United Nations General Assembly 2012). Yet, while China is the largest contributor of UN peacekeeping personnel among the P5 member states, its figures are relatively low in comparison to developing countries such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Furthermore, in contrast to other contributing countries, China is dispatching highly qualified personnel (for instance sapper units or medical officers) that not only enables other units to conduct their respective mission more successfully but it is also well-reputed and has not yet shown any sign of misbehaviour (see Oertel 2013: 54; compare Shambaugh 2011: 100). In addition, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) already had officers commanding two peacekeeping operations: the UN Mission for the Referendum in the Western Sahara and the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (see Kamphausen 2013).
By recalling this development leading from reluctance towards active participation, Ithe author will now address the specific motivations and contextual factors that underlie this changed attitude of the PRC towards UN peacekeeping. First and foremost, China has strongly gained national strength in the last decades, which is reflected by the country being the second-largest economy in terms of GDP (compare Hu 2014: 46). As a consequence of its enhanced national strength, the PRC wishes to be perceived as a ‘responsible great power’ (fuzenren daguo) by the international community, whereby “[p]eace-keeping is a relatively low-cost way of demonstrating that China is committed to upholding international peace and security, and showing that recent growth in its military power is not inherently threatening” (International Crisis Group 2009: 12 – 13; compare Richardson 2012). Furthermore, in order to allay fears of China seeking to challenge international order through more coercive diplomacy, the PRC introduced a new strategic concept in China’s National Defence White Paper in 2008 which also made mention of the PRC’s stationing of civilian personnel in UN missions in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia (see Hirono/Lanteigne 2012: 7 – 8). Thus, this concept was officially coined ‘military operations other than war” (MOOTW, fei zhanzheng junshi xingdong) which is found in the PLA’s so-called ‘new historic missions’ (xin de lishi shiming), a notion established by former Chinese president Hu Jintao in 2004 (see ibid.: 7; compare Gill/Huang 2009: 4; Kamphausen 2013). According to Hu, the PLA is occupied with multiple military tasks, whereby expanding the PLA’s capabilities by taking part in MOOTW, including UN peacekeeping, represents one of these tasks (see Hirono/Lanteigne 2012: 7). It is thus not exaggerated to say that UN peacekeeping has been a major “public relations success” both within and beyond the PRC (International Crisis Group 2009: 13; compare Hu 2014: 48).
Moreover, the international environment also developed favourable for China’s increased contributions to UN peacekeeping (see Hu 2014: 46 – 47). Hu Jiaxiang argues that “since Beijing realized that its national security interests increasingly overlap with those of the internatio-nal community, multilateral security cooperation has become one of the important considerations in its decision-making” (ibid.: 46 – 47). After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the US, preoccupied with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the with the nuclear issues in Iran and North Korea, sought to cooperate with rather than suppress China, which safeguarded and widened the PRC’s strategic opportunities, including an active participation in UN peacekeeping (see ibid.: 47). This multilateral approach, pursued by China since the early 2000s, may be the most profound expression of the ‘harmonious world’ (hexie shijie) concept of former Chinese president Hu Jintao. UN peacekeeping hereby serves China’s multilateral interests well: being involved in the decision-making process for peacekeeping operations implies that it can use its influence to better secure its national interests (see International Crisis Group 2009: 11). In this context, the PRC not only perceives the Security Council as a means to counterbalance unilateral UN actions but also uses its increased personnel contributions to UN peacekeeping to gain more influence over the UN (see ibid.: 11 – 12).
More practically, UN peacekeeping enhances the PLA’s capabilities by providing China’s armed forces with the chance to become acquainted with technical skills and know-how indispensable for military modernisation (see ibid.: 14). For this purpose, China has built a Civilian Peacekeeping Police Centre in Langfang (Hebei province) in 2000 as well as a peacekeeping training centre in Huairou north of Beijing in 2009 (see Gill/Huang 2009: 3 and Hu 2009). In addition to the on-the-ground experience Chinese peacekeeping forces gain in the line of duty, the PRC has invited foreign peacekeeping experts and trainees to take part in training programs and has hosted several international peacekeeping seminars (see Hu 2014: 47).
Another motivation concerns the protection of Chinese national interests overseas. With special regard to Africa, China has dispatched peacekeepers to countries where the PRC has had economic interests, for instance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Liberia and Sudan (compare International Crisis Group 2009: 15; see below). Yet, while the Chinese government does not represent a monolithic actor, fragmented policymaking is thus creating conflicting interests which make it sometimes hard to make a clear distinction between economic interests and international obligations in the form of UN peacekeeping (see ibid.: 16). As it was the case in the DRC and in Sudan, failed economic endeavours led to the instalment of peacekeeping operations to regain order (see ibid.: 16).
Furthermore, China has put many efforts into promoting its ‘One-China policy’ in the realm of UN peacekeeping. In this context, the PRC has only vetoed resolutions in the Security Council when they were concerned with the establishment or the extension of peacekeeping missions in countries that held diplomatic relations with Taiwan (see ibid.: 17; compare Huang 2012: 23 – 24). China for instance threatened Liberia to block a 250 million USD budget for the peacekeeping forces in the country in order to put pressure on the West African nation to change its diplomatic recognition toward the PRC (see International Crisis Group 2009: 18). After doing so in 2003, China provided an aid package for the country and dispatched more than 500 peacekeeping troops (see ibid.: 18).
3.2 Chinese peacekeeping in Africa: Sudan and the Darfur crisis
Although China has deployed peacekeeping personnel to African countries where only a few or no natural resources exist (for instance to the Western Sahara in the context of the MINURSO mission), Sudan and the Darfur crisis offer an insightful example of national interests interfering with Chinese peacekeeping ambitions, especially when considering the fact that a rising China is highly dependent on energy imports and eager to to diversify its import routes (compare International Crisis Group 2009: 15). Further-more, as seven of nine missions to which the PRC is contributing personnel are located in Africa, Chinese involvement in Sudan shall clarify its approach towards UN peacekeeping there (compare Girouard 2008; Rogers 2007: 74 – 75 and 79 – 81).
Since the mid-1990s, China was re-emerging in Africa, thereby mainly acting as a seller of “Made in China” products or as a tradesman in raw materials (see Holslag 2008: 328; compare Mensah 2010). Yet, humanitarian crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia or in the Darfur region in Sudan raised international awareness of China’s ambiguous engagement in those conflict-ridden countries (see Holslag 2008: 328; Bobin 2008; compare He 2010: 79). While clashes erupted in the Darfur region in March 2003 between government forces and different rebel factions, China nonetheless intensified its presence in the country, which led the Chinese state-owned company CNPC to become the dominant actor of the oil industry in Sudan (compare Large 2008: 96 – 97). Human Rights Watch referred to CNPC’s activities in Sudan in a detailed report in 2003 and accused the company of transporting Chinese prisoners to Darfur to operate as oil workers (see Human Rights Watch 2003: 457 – 461). Moreover, subsequent UN reports have also indicated that Chinese bullets have been used in Darfur, thereby referring to the fact that China is Sudan’s largest arm supplier (see Ford 2010 and Tiezzi 2015). Concurrently, the situation in Darfur evolved into “one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world”, as UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland remarked (as cited by Holslag 2008: 329; compare United Nations New Centre 2003).
When the Security Council adopted resolution 1706 on 31st August 2006 authorising the deployment of 17,300 troops and 3,300 police forces to Darfur as a means of support of the Darfur Peace Agreement realised on 5th May 2006 between the Sudanese government and the Sudan Liberation Movement, the PRC, conjointly with Qatar and the Russian Federation, abstained from the vote (see Wuthnow 2010: 70). Accor-ding to China’s official position on the Darfur issue, Sudan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must not be violated under any circumstances, instead a political solution based on negotiations should be pursued (see Large 2008: 101 – 102). Yet, contrary to 2004, when China threatened to use its veto against a draft resolution elaborated upon by the US to impose sanctions on Sudan, it now presented itself rather flexible in regard to its stance towards non-interference (see Wuthnow 2010: 71). Hence, the peace agreement was of decisive importance for the PRC’s flexibility, as it made on-going opposition to a UN deployment difficult to uphold (see ibid.: 71). Joel Wuthnow concludes that “abstention was interpreted as a way for China to balance its ideological principles with the desire to avoid conflict with the Western powers, and to minimize damage to its reputation as a ‘responsible’ power in Africa that may have resulted from continued intransigence” (ibid.: 71).
Whereas China’s political and diplomatic efforts had been crucially judged by the international community, its UN peacekeeping efforts in Darfur set a rather positive example of Chinese foreign policy. Initially, China was fundamentally opposed to engaging the UN in Sudan, highlighting that the conflict in Darfur is a domestic issue and upholding its traditional stance towards sovereignty and non-intervention (see Oertel 2014: 153). As a reaction to international criticism on its close bilateral ties with Sudan, the PRC thus started to rearrange its policy towards the country in 2006 and exerted pressure on Sudan to permit UN and African Union peacekeepers in Darfur (see Huang 2012: 24). Furthermore, the efforts undertaken by Wang Guangya, the PRC’s ambassador to the UN, to convince the Sudanese government to allow a UN/AU hybrid peacekeeping force of 20,000 troops was widely recognised with appreciation (see ibid.: 24). Moreover, the PRC was also the first P5 member state that dispatched troops (315) to Darfur (see ibid.: 24). In order to underline the importance the Chinese government attached to the Darfur crisis, Liu Guijin, the former Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe and South Africa, was appointed a special envoy for African affairs who would also be responsible for Darfur (see Ahmed 2010: 9).
Against this background, Gerald Chan entitles the Darfur case “a watershed in China’s approach to intervention” (Chan 2013: 107). Following its more active engagement in this matter, it further adopted new practices and policies, including the prerequisite of the participation of regional organisations in the course of conflict resolution (see ibid.: 107). Following its more active approach in the Darfur crisis, the PRC could uphold its self-perception as a responsible stakeholder not only in the international society but also, more concretely, on the African continent (compare Rogers 2007: 88). Its diverse peacekeeping contributions in Africa, in the Western Sahara, in Côte d’Ivoire or in Darfur, further reflect China’s changed attitude towards UN peacekeeping in general. Philippe Rogers remarks in this context that, “[w]hereas China once might have seen UN intervention as a potential threat to its own internal affairs, it now sees the intrinsic value of UN efforts in peacekeeping, peacemaking and peace building and perhaps appreciates more than it once did how interventions can promote regional stability and security” (ibid.: 90).
In the realm of R2P, China has been very engaged to shape this evolving international norm. As it has the potential to violate state sovereignty for the purpose of a higher good, the protection of citizens, the PRC put many efforts in shaping it for its own benefit. Hence, it not only participated actively in the R2P negotiations leading to the 2005 World Summit but also promoted the norm enthusiastically at this occasion. Furthermore, by abstaining on resolution 1973 on Libya, it enabled the international community to act against the Libyan regime. Yet, the further course of history has led China to accuse the Western powers of having unjustifiably extended the resolution’s mandate. Its feeling of betrayal by the West had an enormous influence on its voting behaviour on Syria. Facing the still on-going inner turmoil and political fragmentation date, the PRC returned to its protective stance and vetoed any draft resolutions on Syria aiming at the implementation of enforcement measures, even if they referred to the R2P norm. Chinese official statements indicate that the PRC will act more cautiously in the future whenever states will try to initiate international action against a state in the pursuit of the R2P norm.
In the area of UN peacekeeping, China is willing to participate more actively. It has become the largest troop contributor among the P5 member states, while its troops and civilian observers are acknowledged for their professio-nalism and their skills. It has established concrete preconditions, such as the involvement of regional organisations or the consent of the host government, under which its approval for the establishment of peacekeeping operations can be considered to be given and under which its normative convictions like non-interference, sovereignty and territorial integrity are not threatened to be violated. Yet, the Darfur crisis has unfolded a potential obstacle in China’s UN peacekeeping engagement, as economic interests in Sudan have put the PRC into an uncomfortable position which led to increased international scrutiny and criticism, undermining its efforts to be seen as responsible great power.
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