China's US$1.1b peacekeeping play for global prestige
Pledges designed to present China as a responsible world partner, analysts say
China has pledged a series of support measures for global peacekeeping missions, in the latest sign that Beijing is extending its military diplomacy.
President Xi Jinping told the UN General Assembly on Monday that Beijing would contribute 8,000 troops to a UN peacekeeping standby force, as well as US$1.1 billion to a China-UN peace fund and military assistance for African Union peacekeeping missions.
Xi's pledges come as China tries to cultivate its image as a responsible international player amid concern over its continuing military build-up and territorial disputes with its Asian neighbours. Beijing has been accused of being a selfish "free rider" in global affairs and practising "new colonialism" in Africa by exploiting the region for its natural resources.
"China's growing activities in Africa are interpreted by some [as] China expanding its sphere of influence in those regions," said Li Mingjiang, of Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. "Xi wanted to address those concerns."
Beijing-based military expert Li Jie said China's peacekeeping pledge showed its willingness to share responsibility as a world power.
"The 8,000 peacekeeping standby troops will also push the People's Liberation Army to speed up its modernisation and reform as the upcoming missions need them to take part in real combat exercises - a practical way for the Chinese military to be trained to achieve an international standard," Li said.
Shanghai-based naval expert Ni Lexiong said Beijing was trying to use its financial support in peacekeeping missions to balance the United States' global military domination.
"China will continue providing economic support in the international community because economic means are the most practical and fundamental way to dissolve military superiority and solve some knotty problems," Ni said.
In his speech, Xi repeated that China would never "pursue hegemony, expansion or sphere of influence".
David Shinn, former US ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, said China's setting up of a standby peacekeeping force was a significant increase from its present 3,000 troops, police and technical experts in UN peacekeeping operations.
"I don't believe China's actions will change the strategies of other countries in Africa," Shinn said.
"For its part, China gains international prestige by supporting African Union and UN peacekeeping operations. It is able to test its troops, police and equipment in different environments."
Additional reporting by Andrea Chen