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Keeping Peace, Building Power: China & International Peacekeeping (Liveblog)

Recently, the Chinese government has made historical moves involving China’s role in international peacekeeping. Today’s seminar focuses on the China’s role within the international peacekeeping community.

Manya Koetse

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Seminar: China’s Role in International Peacekeeping

Date & Place: Nov. 25, 2014, The Hague Institute for Global Justice

Organized by: Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Blogged by: Manya Koetse 

 

Recently, the Chinese government has made historical moves involving China’s role in international peacekeeping. In early 2014, the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) send a motorized infantry brigade to Mali. In September this year, a 700-strong infantry troop was send to South-Sudan as part of a UN peacekeeping mission – the first Chinese battalion to participate in such a peacekeeping operation (GT 2014; ECNS 2014). The recent behavior of Chinese leaders in issues of international conflict contrasts with Chinese participation in peacekeeping operations in the 1970s and 1980s. Today’s seminar focuses on China’s role within the international peacekeeping society.

 

Introduction (14:00 GMT+1)

Peter Potman, Director Asian and Pacific Affairs Department (Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs) is the first speaker on today’s seminar.

China as an actor in the international political arena is gradually gaining significance, Potman says, as its role in global politics is transforming: China is becoming more assertive. China’s position within international conflict situations is profoundly changing. Its role used to be one of non-interference, but is now changing as the political leadership is getting more involved in issues playing in Sudan or Syria.

Today’s seminar has two keynote speakers: Frans-Paul van der Putten from the Clingendael Institute and Dr. Jing Gu from the Institute of Development Studies. But first Christina Jansen shortly addresses the role of China today in international peacekeeping. Jansen recalls how she first arrived in China in 1978, and remembers how she would involuntarily cause a traffic jam because so many people would stare at this foreigner standing next to the road. “How China has changed!” Jansen says. The central question of today is: does the quick transformation of China as a nation also have implications for the international order in security issues, and if, how?

 

China and International Security (14:20 GMT+1)

Balance is crucial for China as an actor within international security issues, Van der Putten says. He states that China has to find its balance in different areas. First, it has to deal with the growing number of Chinese people and companies outside of China, and has to think about how to protect them without becoming over-involved and making the same ‘mistakes’ as western nations have made in the past. Secondly, it has to find its role in the international system where the national identity of China has to be communicated on an international level in such a way that it preserves the Chinese identity. Lastly, China also has to balance between its role as being one of the global powers and being one of the leaders within the developing world.

How does this translate to security issues? China already is a permanent member of the Security Council but is still looking for ways to strengthen its position. China finding its balance is noticeable in how it acts, Van der Putten states, not only as a member of the International Security Council but also as a leader in regional security organizations, where China increasingly is taking in an assertive position as a regional power.

 

“There’s a big difference between China’s principles and how it acts in reality.” 

 

China and International Security (14:40 GMT+1)

China’s role within international peacekeeping cannot be compared to that of other nations, according to Jing Gu. China’s international peacekeeping framework should be seen within China’s development at large. What one can now discern, says Gu, is the difference between China’s principles and how it acts in reality. According to principles, the Chinese government strictly respects the sovereignty of other countries and has a non-intervention principle. But in reality, their principles turn out to be much more flexible than they are on paper.

Dr. Gu is convinced that one can never leave out the economic perspective when talking about China’s engagement in peacekeeping operations. Business plays a big role in China’s international development cooperation; the business sector is increasingly important for China in, for example, Africa. Western nations have to take this perspective in account when cooperating with China in international security matters.

 

“For China, ‘peacekeeping’ truly is about peace keeping, not about peace building.”

 

There are differences in what Western nations and China consider ‘international peacekeeping’. From the Chinese perspective, it is very much about actual ‘peace keeping’ and not ‘peace building’, Gu says: a major difference with what most western powers consider to be ‘peacekeeping’. Using force is not something Chinese leaders want to do, as non-interference is a high principle for the government. But, Gu stresses again, “principles are just principles; in reality these principles are very flexible, as we’ve seen in Africa.”

What can be done on the long term to involve China in international security collaborations? “It has to be taken case by case,” Gu says. It is not the right time for general talks about future collaborations and shared frameworks- step by step and case by case, China will become more involved in international peacekeeping, Gu predicts, as is happening in Sudan right now.

 

Discussion (15:20 GMT+1)

“Over the past 500 years there have been many power shifts that have not led to war,” panelist Tim Sweijs of The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies says. However, every transformation in global power systems do have major consequences. States in the international system start harboring different expectations as power relations shift. This is what is also happening as China starts behaving differently within the international arena and takes on a different role in security issues. Different political actors seem worried that China is concerned about protecting its own national interests. These “worries” are “suspicious,” Sweijs says, because: “are western powers not concerned about own national interests?”

In the conclusion of the seminar, Peter Potman stresses that nations in peace operations need to be fully aware of their differences before they can work on collaboration. There are often mutual and shared benefits to participate in a peacekeeping mission. While those shared interests are often clear, it is crucial to also elucidate the different interests in these operations. Who is participating for what reasons? Understanding these underlying motives helps in unraveling the web of international cooperation in global security issues – finally building on peacekeeping missions where all participating nations, including China, are looking in the same direction.

 

(This liveblog is now closed.)

 

References

 

ECNS. 2014. “Peacekeeping forum opens in Beijing.” ECNS, 15 Oct.  http://www.ecns.cn/2014/10-15/138449.shtml (Accessed November 25, 2014).

Global Times (GT). 2014. “Peacekeeping can help China stand tall.” Global Times, 19 Nov. http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/892646.shtml (Accessed November 25, 2014).

Images

http://www.uscnpm.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/un.jpeg

Liu Rui/Global Times

 

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

The ‘Blank White Paper Protest’ in Beijing and Online Discussions on “Outside Forces”

As people in Beijing, Shanghai, and other places take to the streets holding up white papers, some have dubbed this the “A4 Revolution.”

Manya Koetse

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A majority of social media commenters support those who have recently taken to the streets, using blank sheets as a sign of protest against censorship and stringent Covid measures. But there are also online voices warning Chinese young people not to be influenced by ‘external forces.’

Over the past few days, there have been scenes of unrest and protest movements in various places across China.

While there were protests in Shanghai for the second night in a row, Beijing also saw crowds gathering around the Liangmahe area in the city’s Chaoyang District on Sunday night.

Some videos showed crowds softly singing the song “Farewell” (送别) in commemoration of those who lost their lives during the deadly inferno in Urumqi.

Later, people protested against stringent Covid measures.

“The crowds at Liangmahe are amazing,” some people on Weibo commented.

Photos and videos coming from the area showed how people were holding up blank sheets of white paper.

Earlier this weekend, students in Nanjing and Xi’an also held up blank paper sheets in protest of censorship and as the only ‘safe’ way to say what could otherwise not be said. This form of protest also popped up during the Hong Kong protests, as also described in the recent book by Louisa Lim (Indelible City: Dispossession and Defiance in Hong Kong).

The recurring use of blank paper sheets led to some dubbing the protests an “A4 Revolution.”

“When can we have freedom of speech? Maybe it can start at Beijng’s Liangmahe,” one person on Weibo wrote on Sunday night.

Another Beijing-based netizen wrote: “Before going to sleep I saw what was happening in Liangmahe on my WeChat Moments and then I looked at Weibo and saw that the Xicheng area had added 279 new Covid cases. I started thinking about my own everyday life and the things I am doing. I can’t help but feel a sense of isolation, because I can’t fight and do not dare to raise my voice.”

“I didn’t dare to believe this is happening in 2022. I didn’t dare to believe this is happening in Beijing. I do not dare to believe that again it will all have been useless tomorrow morning,” one Weibo user commented.

During the night, various people at the scene shouted out things such as “we want to go out and work,” and other hopes they have. One person yelled: “I want to go out and see a movie!”

“I want to go and see a movie.”

The phrase “I wanna go watch a movie” (“我要看电影”) was also picked up on social media, with some people commenting : “I am not interested in political regimes, I just want to be able to freely see a movie.” “I want to see a movie! I want to sit in a cinema and watch a movie! I want to watch a movie that is uncensored!”

Despite social media users showing a lot of support for students and locals standing up and making their voices heard, not everyone was supportive of this gathering in Beijing. Some suggested that since Liangmahe is near Beijing’s foreign embassy district, there must be some evil “foreign forces” meddling and creating unrest.

Others expressed that people were starting to demand too many different things instead of solely focusing on China’s zero Covid policies, losing the momentum of the original intention of the protest.

Political commentator Hu Xijin (胡锡进) also posted about the recent unrest on his Weibo account on Sunday night:

The people have the right to express their opinions, and you may have good and honest aspirations and have the intention to express legitimate demands. But I want to remind you that many things have their own rules, and when everyone participates in the movement, its direction might become very difficult for ordinary participants to continue to control, and it can easily to be used or even hijacked by separate forces, which may eventually turn into a flood that destroys all of our lives.”

Hu also called on people to keep striving to solve existing problems, but to stay clear-headed, suggesting that it is important for the people and the government to maintain unity in this challenging time.

The term “outside forces” or “external forces” (外部势力) increasingly popped up in social media discussions on late Sunday night.

“I worry a lot of meddling by external forces. Let’s be vigilant of a color revolution. I just hope things will get better,” one netizen from Hubei wrote.

“Young people should not be incited by a few phrases and blindly follow. Everyone will approve of people rationally defending their rights, but stay far away from color revolutions.”

The idea that foreign forces meddle in Chinese affairs for their own agenda has come up various times over the past years, during the Hong Kong protests but also during small-scale protests, such as a local student protest in Chengdu in 2021.

The term “color revolution” is recurring in these kind of discussions, with some netizens suggesting that foreign forces, such as the CIA, are trying to get local people to cause unrest through riots or demonstrations to undermine the stability of the government.

“It’s not always external forces, it can also just be opposition,” one person on Weibo replied: “In every country you’ll have different opinions.”

“What outside forces?” another commenter said: “I’m not an external force! I am just completely fed up with the Covid measures!”

Read more about the “11.24” unrest in China here.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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China and Covid19

Part of the Problem: Anger in Lanzhou over Covid-Positive Nucleic Acid Testing Staff

Anger, distrust in Lanzhou after community staff discovered that those coming to test residents had not had a recent Covid test themselves.

Manya Koetse

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When the people who are testing the community for Covid are actually bringing the virus into the area.

There has been unrest in various places across China over the past few days, from students making their voices heard in Nanjing and Xi’an to people locally protesting against stringent Covid measures in Urumqi, Guangzhou, and beyond.

Sunday, November 27, saw the second night of protests in Shanghai. On Saturday, crowds gathered at the city’s Wulumqi Road (read here).

Meanwhile, Lanzhou city, Gansu Province, is trending on Chinese social media.

On November 26, people at a residential area (Biguiyuan Community 碧桂园小区) in Lanzhou’s Chengguan District found out that the local nucleic acid testing staff did not have a 24-hour period negative nucleic acid test result. The staff had come to run another round of door-to-door tests after the community had been in (semi-) lockdown for eight days.

After demanding that the nucleic acid staff members would get tested themselves, it was found that one of them tested positive for Covid.

One hashtag related to the case received over 400 million Weibo views on Sunday (#兰州通报核酸采样人员阳性#).

A video that went viral on social media showed community management staff talking to a local government official, saying:

You represent the government, let me tell you something. We have discovered a problem today. The medical staff that has come to do our nucleic acid tests, not a single one of them had a 24-hour nucleic acid certificate. I demand that qualified medical staff comes to test them, and that you come up with his work permit before testing us.”

The person testing positive is a 21-year-old staff member working at the Third People’s Hospital (第三人民医院) of Chengguan District.

District authorities issued a statement on Sunday saying that they would further investigate how a Covid-positive staff member could be sent into a community without recent test certificates.

But the statement did not help prevent online anger.

The incident is emblematic of China’s current Covid troubles, that have led to dissatisfaction, confusion, and frustrations in various places across China when it comes to Covid measures.

A stream of videos on Chinese social media show clashes between local anti-epidemic workers and residents in various places.

In Wuhan, a woman called out a worker who placed fences in front of the residential building. “Where are your credentials?!” she angrily asked.

Another person shouted at a local staff member at a locked down community who was just sitting and playing games on his phone. “Explain us what’s going on,” the resident said, and the worker replied: “My job is just to sit here.”

The lack of clarity on local Covid situations and guidelines mixed with a distrust in those who are managing the current epidemic is a toxic situation that is essentially at the root of the current outbreaks of unrest and protests in various places in China.

Many people commenting on the Lanzhou issue wonder what would have happened if the Biguiyuan Community manager had not detected that the nucleic acid test results of the anti-epidemic workers had not been updated. They might have spread Covid to many other communities.

One commenter from Guangdong wrote: “I don’t really get it: I just received a text message from my town asking me to do a nucleic acid, saying that I would be held legally responsible if I would spread [the virus], but I don’t even go out. So if I adhere to your request and go do the nucleic acid test and get infected because of it, will you bear the legal responsibility? Will I be compensated for the damage?”

Read more about the “11.24” unrest in China here.

By Manya Koetse 

If you appreciate what we do, please subscribe here or support us by donating.

Featured image by @导筒directube

 

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