In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section China and Peacekeeping

  • Introduction
  • General Overview
  • Transformation of Chinese Policy on Peacekeeping: From Refusal to Active Participation
  • China’s Peacekeeping and Its Link to China’s Foreign Policy: Domestic Perspectives
  • Rational and Ideational Reasons for China’s Peacekeeping
  • Is China a Norm-Maker or Norm-Taker? China’s Approach to R2P
  • Implication for the Principles of Non-Intervention and Non-Interference
  • Peacebuilding and Development
  • China’s Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding in comparison to Other Troop Contributing Countries
  • China’s Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) and Military Diplomacy
  • Case Studies
  • Autobiographies

Chinese Studies China and Peacekeeping
Miwa Hirono
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0168


In the early 1990s the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) began looking beyond traditional war-fighting operations and engaging in so-called military operations other than war (MOOTW), which include United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations. Before the late 1980s, China repeatedly objected to UN peacekeeping activities as violations of, or interference in, the affairs of sovereign states. However, it reversed its policy in November 1988 when it joined the UN Special Peacekeeping Committee. Since its first peacekeeping operation in 1990, China’s involvement in such operations has expanded steadily. Among the United Nations Security Council permanent member states, China has most often contributed the largest number of peacekeeping personnel (monthly contribution being 2,583 persons on average in 2017). As of September 2018 it ranks eleventh among the nations that contribute military and police forces to UN missions and first among the permanent members of the UN Security Council. In 2016, China’s financial contribution to UN peacekeeping operations surpassed that of Japan—formerly the second largest contributor—to now rank as the second largest contributor. At a UN peacekeeping summit in September 2015, Xi Jinping declared that China would further support UN peacekeeping by establishing a permanent peacekeeping police force, creating an eight-thousand-strong standby force and contributing US$1 billion in military assistance to the African Union. China’s peacekeeping contribution has evolved in terms of quality as well. The majority of Chinese peacekeepers dispatched from the People’s Liberation Army are so-called force enablers such as engineers and medical and transportation companies; however, when they go to areas in which force-protection is necessary, and the protection of civilians is included in UN mandates, China dispatches “security units,” “guard detachments,” or infantry forces equipped with light arms and armored vehicles. China’s peacekeeping activity has attracted the attention of not only China scholars but also those who study international peacekeeping: this is because the abovementioned expanding activities specifically, and the rise of China more generally, may have considerable impact on the future of international peacekeeping. The key debate in China’s peacekeeping literature resonates with a wider international relations debate on the implication of China’s rise for the international order—is China a “status quo” power that helps strengthen the existing international peacekeeping order, or a “revisionist” power that challenges it? In other words, to what extent does China’s behavior accord with or begin to shape the evolving international norms of UN peacekeeping, which have been established by dominant Western states over a long period? Relatedly, China’s expanding contribution to UN peacekeeping also raises a question about what approach China might have to one of its diplomatic principles—that of non-intervention/non-interference. Although UN peacekeeping operations can go ahead only when host states give consent to such operations, contemporary peacekeeping takes place where there is no peace to keep. Thus, troop contributing countries will have to take up arms and engage in fighting when necessary. Further, the UN is “assisting,” or sometimes close to creating, the fundamental components of sovereign states—a judiciary system, police and military forces, and sociopolitical institutions, among others. China’s proactive participation in this type of operation may meddle with its principle of non-intervention/non-interference. Many policy-relevant studies, such as those by the International Crisis Group and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), provide policy recommendations to Chinese and Western governments suggesting ways in which China’s peacekeeping contribution can be beneficial to the current peacekeeping order. Given that the study of China’s peacekeeping began, in the main, in the 2000s, the majority of publications can be found in journals, with the exception of a number of autobiographies written by Chinese peacekeepers, which have been published as books in the Chinese language.

General Overview

The majority of research on China’s peacekeeping has been developed since 2004. This is because in March 2004 the number of China’s peacekeeping contributions surpassed that of any of the other P5 members, which led to an increase in attention paid to the issue of China’s peacekeeping both internationally as well as within China. To date, there is no single-authored book in the English language on China’s peacekeeping, but the reports published by Bates and Huang 2009 and the International Crisis Group 2009 respectively offer the most comprehensive and detailed information about how China’s peacekeeping policy and practices have developed over time and some of the key factors shaping China’s evolving approaches to peacekeeping. Bates and Huang 2013 has another piece updating the abovementioned report. Lanteigne and Hirono 2012 offers a collection of papers that link China’s peacekeeping policy and practices to its foreign policy objectives. Zhao, et al. 2011 is one of the more comprehensive books on this topic in the Chinese language.

  • Bates, Gill, and Chin-Hao Huang. China’s Expanding Role in Peacekeeping: Prospects and Policy Implications. Policy Paper No. 25, November 2009. Stockholm: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2009.

    Based on extensive field research in China and in Africa, this report provides a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of key factors that shape China’s evolving approach to peacekeeping and the implications of China’s peacekeeping for a wider range of issues such as military confidence building, and the ongoing legitimacy of international peacekeeping missions. Available online.

  • Bates, Gill, and Chin-Hao Huang. “The People’s Republic of China.” In Providing Peacekeepers: The Politics, Challenges, and Future of United Nations Peacekeeping Contribution. Edited by Alex J. Bellamy and Paul D. Williams, 139–157. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199672820.003.0007

    This chapter mainly updates the 2009 report published by the same authors. The edited volume, in which this chapter is included, provides perspectives of sixteen troop contributing countries and therefore helps researchers put China’s contribution in comparative perspectives.

  • International Crisis Group. China’s Growing Role in UN Peacekeeping. Asia Report no. 166, 17 April 2009.

    Based on research and interviews with policy community in Beijing, this report offers detailed discussion of China’s motivations in contributing to peacekeeping and an analysis of key Chinese agencies contributing to Chinese peacekeeping. Interviews with Chinese policymakers provide rare and valuable insights into the topic. Available online.

  • Lanteigne, Marc, and Miwa Hirono, eds. China’s Evolving Approach to Peacekeeping. London: Routledge, 2012.

    This edited volume—the first on this topic in English—explores whether Chinese peacekeeping demonstrates China’s international status as a great power, a middle power, or a leader of non-Western countries. Eight chapters included in this volume examine this question by bringing in historical and conceptual analyses and case studies. Originally published as a special issue of International Peacekeeping 18.3 (2011).

  • Zhao Lei赵磊, Gao Xinman 高心满, and Niu Zhongjun 牛仲君. Zhongguo canyu lianheguo weichi heping xingdong de qianyan wenti (中国参与联合国维持和平行动的前沿问题). Beijing: Shishi Chubanshe, 2011.

    A comprehensive study of China’s peacekeeping in relation to the contemporary challenges of international conflicts and the UN peacekeeping system. Also covers partnership relations between UN and regional organizations, China’s national interests in participating in UN peacekeeping, and experience of Chinese peacekeeping police forces.

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