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United Nations

Despite the costs, China is right to join UN peacekeeping missions

As Beijing deploys more personnel to trouble spots, there will be casualties. But as a responsible world power, it is a risk worth taking

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 June, 2016, 12:35am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 June, 2016, 12:35am

China’s plan to dramatically boost its involvement in UN peacekeeping missions is backed by good intentions and sound reasoning. Should the extra 8,000 security forces pledged by President Xi Jinping (習近平 ) last year be deployed, the nation would rise from being the ninth-biggest contributor to by far the largest. Such commitment is about being a responsible participant in global affairs, image-building in host countries and gaining military experience and capabilities. But there are also risks, as the death of a Chinese soldier and injury to four others in a terrorist attack last week in northern Mali proves.

An affiliate of the extremist Muslim group al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack, among others in the past month that have killed a dozen peacekeepers from a range of nations in the north African country. So far, 60 troops have lost their lives while on duty since the mission began three years ago, making it the most dangerous-ever UN peace and security operation. The foreign ministry has demanded an investigation, but unfortunately, it is not the first time such a call has been made over the death of Chinese nationals in Mali. Last November, three businessmen were among 27 people shot dead during a hostage-taking by Islamic extremists at a hotel in the capital, Bamako.

The widening reach of Chinese business and investment interests around the world inevitably puts some citizens in vulnerable situations and Beijing has taken great strides to ensure their protection. But contributing to UN peacekeeping operations puts nationals in harm’s way. At the beginning of this year, there were 3,045 Chinese soldiers, police, engineers, transport experts and medical staff deployed on 10 missions, the majority in trouble spots in Africa. The more that are deployed, the greater the likelihood of casualties.

But China, as a responsible world power, has no choice other than to be involved in UN peacekeeping operations. Sadly, at times, lives are lost, but it is a cost that has to be borne for the sake of Chinese interests and ensuring global peace and stability.