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From small step to giant leap, China makes tangible contributions to UN peace operations

International Cooperation

A "small step" 30 years ago taken by China, one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, has evolved into a "giant leap," given not only the big number of Chinese peacekeepers serving under the UN flag, but also the country's generous and selfless financial support to UN peace operations.

XinhuaUpdated: June 28, 2020

Some 40,000 Chinese "blue helmets" have already been dispatched to conflict-affected countries and areas in 25 UN peace operations over the past 30 years, making China one of the most important countries firmly and unhesitatingly upholding world peace and security.

A formation of Chinese peacekeepers take part in a grand military parade celebrating the 70th founding anniversary of the People's Republic of China in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 1, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

Dating back to April 1990, it was the first time that China had ever joined a UN peace operation by dispatching five observers to the UN Truce Supervision Organization in the Middle East. As three decades have passed, the number of "five" has become a history.

A "small step" 30 years ago taken by China, one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, has evolved into a "giant leap," given not only the big number of Chinese peacekeepers serving under the UN flag, but also the country's generous and selfless financial support to UN peace operations.

What Chinese peacekeepers have contributed to peace and security of this planet has won acclamation from the global community.

Topnotch report card

Thirty years of dedication and sacrifice by the Chinese peacekeepers has added one after another significant scores to the "report card."

They have newly built and repaired nearly 15,000 km of roads and more than 300 bridges, and cleared more than 10,000 landmines and unexploded ordnance. More than 1.3 million tons of various materials and equipment have been transported by them, covering a total distance of more than 13 million km.

They have also treated more than 200,000 patients and completed numerous long and short distance patrols and armed escorts.

Heroes who sacrificed their young lives have made the "report card" even more special. So far, 15 Chinese peacekeepers have laid down their lives for the cause of world peace.

On June 2, 2016, the UN told a story on its website about Shen Liangliang, a 29-year-old First Sergeant, who was killed in a terrorist attack on May 31, 2016, in Mali's northern town of Gao, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated at a UN camp.

During an unexpected attack, Shen saved a fellow soldier at the cost of his own life. Shen was later honored as a martyr and awarded the first-class merit citation.

Facing the massive challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese peacekeepers, while ensuring "zero infection" of themselves, have been actively introducing China's successful experience in epidemic prevention to peacekeeping forces from other countries, the Peacekeeping Affairs Center of China's Ministry of National Defense has said.

"They have honored their promise of 'bearing moral obligation with an iron shoulder and upholding peace with arms in hands' and demonstrated China's responsibility as a major power in safeguarding world peace," it said.

Chinese peacekeepers wearing the United Nations Peace Medal of Honor are seen at the awarding ceremony at the camp of the Chinese peacekeeping multi-functional engineer detachment to Lebanon in Hanniyah village in southern Lebanon, on April 6, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

Showered with praise

Thanks to their strict self-discipline, high-quality and hard work, and the record of "zero violation of discipline and zero repatriation," all Chinese peacekeepers have been awarded UN peacekeeping medals.

The Dag Hammarskjold Medal, the highest-ranking medal for UN peacekeepers, has been awarded posthumously to all Chinese peacekeepers whose life was cut short in dangerous operations. Additionally, some peacekeeping missions have awarded the Chinese peacekeepers with other awards for quality engineering and other outstanding performances.

When the Ebola virus swept across Africa in 2014-2015, soldiers of the engineering detachment of Chinese peacekeeping troops to Liberia carried out continuous construction for 28 days despite the risk of infection and built the Ebola diagnosis and treatment center, an aid program by China to Liberia, more than 30 days ahead of schedule.

In March 2017, intense armed conflicts broke out in Yei, a border town in South Sudan, and seven UN civilian staff were trapped in the dangerous conflict area. Knowing about this, the Chinese peacekeeping infantry battalion assigned 12 soldiers to rescue them.

When she first participated in a peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Hou Dan, head nurse of the Chinese medical detachment, was shocked by the situation in the war-devastated state.

Hou recalled that medics from the Chinese peacekeeping force in the DRC once treated a 19-year-old girl bitten by a hippo, with her legs festering when she sought their medical assistance. They tried their best to save the girl who has fortunately pulled through.

Seeing the poverty, hunger, disease and turmoil of war with her own eyes, Hou said she wants to "bring hope of peace to people there with her love."

From Mali, South Sudan, to the DRC and Liberia, stories like these have happened now and again wherever Chinese peacekeepers are stationed.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Atul Khare said that China is not only a permanent member of the Security Council, but also a major troop contributing country and the second largest financial contributor to peacekeeping budget, adding that only China has these three glorious responsibilities at the same time.

In December 2018, China's share of the UN peacekeeping budget for 2019-2021 was raised from 10.24 percent to 15.22 percent, making it the second largest contributor only after the United States.

March further forward

Over the past 30 years, the Chinese peacekeepers have left a string of solid footprints on their journey of safeguarding world peace and security.

In September 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged at the UN Peacekeeping Summit that China would take the lead in setting up a permanent peacekeeping police squad, build a peacekeeping standby force of 8,000 troops, and provide free military aid of 100 million U.S. dollars to the African Union, as Africa has the biggest peacekeeping needs.

"Chinese peacekeepers -- civilian, military and police -- have played a valuable role in several UN operations over the past 30 years and I commend them for their service under the blue flag," UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix told Xinhua, one day prior to the International Day of UN Peacekeepers that falls on May 29.

"I extend my gratitude to all the Chinese peacekeepers past and present," said Lacroix.

UN peacekeeping operations are important measures to safeguard international peace and security. They arise from and adapt to the evolving times, said Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the United Nations.

As this year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, the "Action for Peacekeeping" initiative put forward by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has entered a crucial stage of implementation, and peacekeeping operations are at a new starting point, he said.

At present, more than 2,500 Chinese peacekeepers are carrying out peacekeeping missions in nine mission areas, with more Chinese young men and women expected to join them.