How China Can Improve UN Peacekeeping

The Right Way for Beijing to Step Up

Chinese Peacekeepers in the United Nations Mission to South Sudan in Juba, South Sudan, May 2017.  Samir Bol / REUTERS

The world’s need for peacekeeping has never been higher. Conflicts have displaced more than 65 million people and are affecting the lives of a record number of others. Yet today, the United Nations’ peacekeeping programs are shrinking, rather than expanding: its peacekeeping mission in Cote d’Ivoire ended in June, its mission in Liberia will end next year, and its 14 other peacekeeping programs are under review by the UN Security Council.

China can help. It is the biggest contributor of peacekeeping troops among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the second-biggest financial contributor to the UN’s peacekeeping programs. Since September 2015, when Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to increase China’s peacekeeping efforts in a speech at the UN, it has stepped up further. Some 1,100 foreign peacekeepers have already been trained in Beijing, and China plans to train 900 more by 2020. This August, the first contingent of Chinese helicopters arrived in Darfur, a war-torn region in western Sudan. And in September, China registered a peacekeeping standby force of 8,000 troops that the UN can draw on in times of need. Eight hundred fifty of those soldiers will join the UN’s so-called Vanguard Brigade—a rapid-response group that will quickly deploy to conflict zones during crises. (In my role in China’s Ministry of National Defense, I manage the PLA’s multilateral cooperation programs, including those related to peacekeeping.)

By providing the UN with high-quality equipment and manpower, working to make peacekeepers’ mandates more achievable, and helping to train the forces and maintain some of the Chinese-made equipment of troop-contributing countries, China could do more to improve UN peacekeeping. Cooperating with the United States to develop the peacekeeping capacities of some African states, meanwhile, would help improve the Chinese-U.S. relationship and contribute to Africa’s stability.


China has good reason to beef up its peacekeeping commitments. Supporting global governance provides what the country needs most: an image as a responsible nation on a

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