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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.

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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 Memes & Viral

Prohibited to Promote Top Students, Chinese Schools Are Praising their Excellent ‘Fruit’ Instead

Who knew Chinese schools were so good at harvesting fruit?

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It is that time of the year again: China’s gaokao results are in. Chinese schools that are proud of their top-scoring students would like to scream it from the rooftops, but they are banned from doing so. So they are now posting about their very successful fruit production instead.

This week, the scores came out for China’s gaokao (高考), the National Higher Education Entrance Examinations that took place earlier this months.

The exams are a prerequisite for entering China’s higher education institutions and are taken by students in their last year of senior high school. Scoring high grades for this exam can give high school students access to a better college, which enlarges their chances of obtaining a good job after graduation.

Those who succeed in becoming top scorers in their field and area are known as the gāokǎo zhuàngyuán (高考状元, ‘gaokao champions’). Gaokao champions are usually widely praised, not just by families and friends, but also by their hometowns and schools for which the top-scoring students are their pride and unique selling point.

But since 2018, as explained in this article, it is prohibited for Chinese media and schools to give publicity to gaokao top scorers. The Chinese Ministry of Education banned the promotion of top achievers in line with Xi Jinping Thought, emphasizing the value of equality and sociability instead.

This year, local authorities again reiterated the message that in order to set the right example and “establish the correct orientation of education,” the hyping up of school exam results and publishing top score rankings are strictly prohibited.

Because of the Ministry of Education guidelines, schools can not openly flaunt the successes of their top scorers, but some have found creative ways to do so anyway.

“Of a batch of 1320 ripe mango’s, there are over hundred weighing more than 600 grams,” one school in Guangxi’s Nanning wrote. The ‘weight’ refers to the score, with 600 being a very high score (the maximum score is usually 750, depending on the field and area). “”[We] picked a mango weighing as much as 696 grams, the king of Qinzhou fruit. Two fruit dealers in the capital have already heard of it and are eager to take it.”

Besides mango’s, there were also other schools mentioning their successful production of ‘plums or peaches.’

One blog by Jiangchacha (姜茶茶) listed various examples of schools boasting about their ‘fruit harvest’ in social media posts.

The blog explained that some schools in Guangxi used the mango metaphor because Guangxi has some of the country’s largest mango-producing regions. Meanwhile, the word for ‘peaches and plums’ in Chinese (桃李) also refers to one’s pupils or disciples.

Another school’s post said: “It is harvest season (..), and the campus is fragrant with peaches and plums, and fruitful results!”, adding that “a total of 2400 high quality peaches and plums have been harvested, and over 93% are of high quality!”

There was also one school that mentioned other schools were below them in scores, writing that its “excellence rate” was “clearly ahead of the three other big gardens on the east coast.”

“Our king peach weighs no less than 689 grams,” another school announced. There were also schools that did not discuss fruit but were making references to fish, trees, and high-speed trains instead.

The issue of schools reporting their ‘harvest’ became a trending topic on Weibo, where some found it very funny. But others also voiced criticism that schools cannot publish about some of their students being gāokǎo zhuàngyuán, top scorers.

“There is nothing to hide, the exam scores are the result of hard work by both the teachers and students,” one popular comment said, with others replying: “Why wouldn’t you announce the scores? It might inspire other students!”

“This entire guideline is just nonsense,” another typical comment said.

Meanwhile, some netizens suggested that Sichuan schools could use pandas as a metaphor for their top scorers, while Chongqing could use chili peppers next year, with others suggesting other types of fruit that could be used in these ‘covered-up’ gaokao score publications. It’s bound to be another fruitful year in 2023.

Want to read more about gaokao? Check out more related articles here.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

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Photo by Bangyu Wang on Unsplash

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China and Covid19

Confusion over Official Media Report on China’s “Next Five Years” of Zero Covid Policy

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‘The next five years’: four words that flooded Chinese social media today and caused commotion among netizens who interpreted this as written proof that China’s current Covid strategy would continue for at least five more years. But the Beijing Daily editor-in-chief has since responded to the issue, blaming reporters for getting it all mixed up.

On June 27th, after the start of the 13th Beijing Municipal Party Congress, Chinese state media outlet Beijing Daily (北京日报) published an online news article about a report delivered by Beijing’s Party chief Cai Qi (蔡奇).

The article zoomed in on what the report said about Beijing’s ongoing efforts in light of China’s zero-Covid policy, and introduced Beijing’s epidemic prevention strategy as relating to “the coming five years” (“未来五年”).

Those four words then flooded social media and caused commotion among netizens who interpreted this as a sign that China’s current Covid strategy would continue at least five more years. Many people wrote that the idea of living with the current measures for so many years shocked and scared them.

Soon after, the article suddenly changed, and the controversial “coming five years” was left out, which also led to speculation.

Beijing Times editor-in-chief Zhao Jingyun (赵靖云) then clarified the situation in a social media post, claiming that it was basically an error made due to the carelessness of reporters who already filled in information before actually receiving the report:

I can explain this with some authority: the four-word phrase “the next five years” was indeed not included in the report, but was added by our reporter[s] by mistake. Why did they add this by mistake? It’s funny, because in order to win some time, they dismantled the report’s key points and made a template in advance that “in the next five years” such and such will be done, putting it in paragraph by paragraph, and also putting in “insist on normalized epidemic prevention and control” without even thinking about it. This is indeed an operational error at the media level, and if you say that our people lack professionalism, I get it, but I just hope that people will stop magnifying this mistake by passing on the wrong information.”

Global Times commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进), who used to be the editor-in-chief and party secretary of the state media outlet, also weighed in on the incident in a social media post on Monday. He started his post by saying that the reporter who initially made the phrase ‘next five year’ go viral had a “lack of professionalism” which caused the overall misunderstanding.

Hu also added a photo of the relevant page within the original report that was delivered at the Congress, showing that the phrase ‘the coming five years’ was indeed not written before the segment on China’s battle against Covid, which detailed Beijing’s commitment to its strict epidemic prevention and control measures.

But Hu also added some nuance to the confusion and how it came about. The original report indeed generally focuses on Beijing developments of the past five years and the next five years, but adding the “in the next five years” phrase right before the segment was a confusing emphasis only added by the reporter, changing the meaning of the text.

Hu noted that the right way to interpret the report’s segment about China’s Covid battle is that it clarifies that the battle against the virus is not over and that China will continue to fight Covid – but that does not mean that Beijing will stick to its current zero Covid policy for the next five years to come, including its local lockdowns and restrictions on movement.

Hu Xijin wrote:

I really do not believe that the city of Beijing would allow the situation as it has been for the past two months or so go on for another five years. That would be unbearable for the people of Beijing, it would be too much for the city’s economy, and it would have a negative impact on the whole country. So it’s unlikely that Beijing would come up with such a negative plan now, and I’m convinced that those in charge of managing the city will plan and strive to achieve a more morale-boosting five years ahead.”

After the apparent error was set straight, netizens reflected on the online panic and confusion that had erupted over just four words. Some said that the general panic showed how sensitive and nervous people had become in times of Covid. Others were certain that the term “next five years” would be banned from Weibo. Many just said that they still needed time to recover from the shock they felt.

“The peoples’ reactions today really show how fed up everyone is with the ‘disease prevention’ – if you want to know what the people think, this is what they think,” one Weibo user from Beijing wrote.

To read more about Covid-19 in China, check our articles here.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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