Welcome peace drive

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2002, 12:00am

China's growing desire to be part of the greater global community has welcome implications for the world's trouble spots. Although gradual and cautious, the moves must be applauded and encouraged.

Traditionally, China lagged far behind other Security Council members in assisting with peace-keeping operations. To October 2000, in 28 years of UN involvement, it had deployed just 522 military observers, liaison officers and advisers, 800 engineers to Cambodia and 15 civilian police to East Timor.

China's policy of non-interference in the affairs of other nations excluded it from participating in international peace-keeping operations. But officials also believed that soldiers and police were ill-equipped - spoken English being cited as one deficiency - to take up such responsibilities.

Since joining the World Trade Organisation, however, Beijing has steadily realised that its responsibilities extend beyond its borders. Chief among these has been a commitment to ensuring world peace. The construction of a police peace-keeping training centre in Hebei province is proof of the change. A total of 250 police will be trained at any one time for deployment to international peace-keeping operations.

In many ways, China is well positioned to play an active role in peace-keeping operations. Its policy of non-interference with other nations means it has been able to maintain cordial ties with most countries. In some conflict zones, such as the Balkans and East Timor, Chinese peace-keepers are more likely to be accepted as neutral arbiters than those from other big powers.

Indeed, PLA soldiers have already been involved in training exercises organised by Australia, Britain, Canada and France. These nations, encouraged by the success, are steering China towards greater co-operation in such matters. In February, a senior PLA officer told foreign defence attaches in Beijing that China was prepared to make troops available for peace-keeping operations. At present, 69 police officers are based in East Timor and another 15 are in Bosnia.

The steps are positive. China is gradually being drawn into supporting the idea of multilateral rather than unilateral solutions to global problems. Its soldiers and police are no less capable of being trained to serve in international operations than those of other nations.

With the mainland's rising economic might must come an obligation to participate more openly with the world community. Topping such an agenda must come global peace which should, after all, be the priority of every responsible nation.