, Volume 90, Number 5

Rosemary Foot

A more powerful China under the seemingly confident leadership of President Xi Jinping has committed to a more activist global policy. In particular, this commitment has influenced Beijing’s policy towards UN peacekeeping operations, with a long-awaited decision to add combat forces to the engineering troops and police and medical units that have been features of its past contribution. In addition, Beijing has doubled the size of its contribution to the UN peace operations budget. This article explains why the UN is a key venue for China to demonstrate its ‘responsible Great Power’ status and expressed willingness to provide global public goods. The main explanatory factors relate to the UN’s institutional design, which accords special status to China even as it represents a global order that promotes the sovereign equality of states. Moreover, there are complementarities between dominant Chinese beliefs and interests, and those contained within the UN system. Especially important in this latter regard are the links that China has tried to establish between peacebuilding and development assistance with the aim of strengthening the capacity of states. China projects development support as a contribution both to humanitarian need and to the harmonization of conflict-ridden societies. The Chinese leadership has also spoken of its willingness to contribute to peacemaking through stepping up its efforts at mediation. However, such a move will require much deeper commitment than China has demonstrated in the past and runs the risk of taking China into controversial areas of policy it has hitherto worked to avoid.

To read this article, you need to be a Chatham House member

Find out more about Chatham House membership