Full Text: China's Armed Forces: 30 Years of UN Peacekeeping Operations

White Paper
China's State Council Information Office on Sept. 18 released a white paper titled "China's Armed Forces: 30 Years of UN Peacekeeping Operations."

XinhuaUpdated: September 18, 2020

II. A Key Force in UNPKOs

Over the past 30 years, China's armed forces have contributed a growing number of peacekeepers across an expanding range of deployments. From a few military observers at the outset of its involvement, China's armed forces are now sending both formed units and military professionals. Chinese military peacekeepers serve on the UN missions in engineer, medical, transport, helicopter, force protection and infantry units, and as staff officers, military observers and seconded officers. Chinese military peacekeepers have left their footprints in over 20 countries and regions including Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Liberia, Sudan, Lebanon, Cyprus, South Sudan, Mali and the Central African Republic. They have made a tremendous contribution to facilitating the peaceful settlement of disputes, safeguarding regional security and stability, and promoting economic and social development in host nations.

1. Ceasefire Supervision

Ceasefires are supervised to ensure that conflicting parties abide by their agreements. It was the earliest function of UN peacekeeping, and the first task undertaken by Chinese military peacekeepers. Since 1990, in addition to military observers, more military professionals have been involved in UN peacekeeping as staff officers and seconded officers. In the past three decades, China's armed forces have sent 2,064 military professionals to 25 missions and UN headquarters (UNHQ). Thirteen of them have been appointed to key positions as force commander, deputy force commander, sector commander, and deputy sector commander. In August 2020, 84 military professionals were working on missions and at UNHQ on patrols, observation, ceasefire supervision, liaison, negotiation, command and control, and operations planning.

Military observers are deployed in conflicts to gather information for decision making. Their lives are often threatened by armed conflicts. On July 25, 2006, during the Israel-Lebanon conflict, Du Zhaoyu, a young Chinese military observer deployed in south Lebanon, bravely remained at his post, fulfilled his duty, and made the ultimate sacrifice for peace. He was posthumously awarded First Class Merit by the Chinese military and the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal by the UN.

2. Stabilizing the Situation

Promptly stabilizing the situation paves the way for the peace process. This is a main task of UN peacekeeping missions, and an important area to which Chinese peacekeeping troops have expanded their functions in recent years. The security situation in some mission areas is challenging, marred by frequent conflicts, terrorist attacks and violent riots. Among all peacekeeping units, it is the infantry battalions that are mainly tasked with armed patrol, separating conflicting parties, riot control, cordoning, and search. They are the backbone for UN peacekeeping and the stabilizers of security.

In January 2015, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) dispatched an infantry battalion of 700 troops to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the first organic unit of its kind to operate overseas in a peacekeeping mission. Over the past five years, six rotations have been committed to UNMISS. The Chinese infantrymen worked day and night amid the rattle of gunfire and the rumble of explosions in the mission area. As of August 2020, these battalions had completed 51 long-range and 93 short-distance patrols, 314 armed escorts, and over 30,000 hours of patrols in weapons-free zones, making a significant contribution to stabilizing the local situation. In August 2018, when a large riot erupted in Juba, capital of South Sudan, the Chinese infantry battalion acted immediately on orders and quelled the violence decisively and promptly.

3. Protecting Civilians

The Protection of Civilians (POC) is an important part of the UNPKOs. It is a duty that Chinese military peacekeepers resolutely undertake. The Chinese people suffered immensely from the scourge of war in modern times, and Chinese service members know only too well the value of peace and life. In war-torn mission areas, Chinese military peacekeepers maintain peace with their sweat, youth and lives.

In July 2016, an armed conflict broke out in Juba between government and opposition forces. Heavy weapons including tanks, large-caliber artillery, and armed helicopters were employed by both sides in fierce exchange of fire, putting a large number of civilians in severe danger. The Chinese infantry battalion, together with peacekeepers from other countries, was responsible for protecting civilians in downtown Juba and over a hundred surrounding villages. Facing a raging storm of gunfire and artillery bombardment, the Chinese infantrymen risked their lives to build a defense for life and prevented the militants from approaching the POC camp, and ensured the safety of over 9,000 civilians. Corporal Li Lei and Sergeant Yang Shupeng sacrificed their lives in the action. They lived up to the solemn pledge and sacred obligation of protecting lives and safeguarding peace with bravery and sacrifice. They were posthumously conferred First Class Merit by the Chinese military and the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal by the UN.

4. Providing Force Protection

Force protection is vital to securing the personnel and assets of UN peacekeeping missions. As an important contributor to the UNPKOs, China's armed forces have been active in sending in troops to the UN missions to provide reliable force protection.

In December 2013, China's armed forces dispatched a force protection unit of 170 troops to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) to conduct guard duties and VIP protection at the Sector East Headquarters. This was the first time that China's armed forces had dispatched troops to carry out force protection duties for the UNPKOs. Mali is among the most dangerous mission areas, afflicted by frequent suicide attacks, roadside bombs and other terrorist assaults. Over the past seven years, China's armed forces have sent 1,440 troops for force protection in eight rotations to MINUSMA. The units have fulfilled their tasks effectively in the hazardous southern edge of the Sahara Desert, including over 3,900 armed patrols and armed escorts. They have earned themselves the reputation of "des troupes d'élite" of Sector East. On May 31, 2016, First Sergeant Shen Liangliang was killed trying to prevent a terrorist vehicle laden with explosives from crashing into the UN camp. He was posthumously conferred First Class Merit by the Chinese military and the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal by the UN. On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, First Sergeant Shen Liangliang was conferred the national honorary title of People's Hero.

On March 12, 2017, an intense conflict broke out in Yei, a border town in South Sudan. Seven UN civilian staff were caught in the crossfire and they were at severe risk of losing their lives. The Chinese infantry battalion immediately sent in 12 officers and soldiers to the rescue. Despite threats and dangers in their way, they outmaneuvered the militants, defeated three interception attempts, and successfully evacuated the trapped personnel. This timely and efficient operation was hailed and publicized as an exemplary model of rescue operations by UNMISS.

5. Deploying Enabling Capabilities

Force enablers such as engineer, transport, medical, and helicopter units play an irreplaceable role in the UNPKOs. Currently, the majority of Chinese peacekeeping troops perform such enabling tasks. On UN peacekeeping missions, Chinese military peacekeepers in the logistic support units have become the embodiment of China's quality, speed and standards through their skills, professionalism and dedication.

In January 2020, some terrorists attacked the Tessalit Camp in the Sector North of MINUSMA and wounded more than 20 people. The Chinese medical unit in Sector East was rushed in by air and evacuated seven injured Chad peacekeepers to the Chinese medical camp. All the wounded were saved by prompt emergency treatment. In May 2020, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and a tense security situation, the Chinese engineer unit built a bridge over the Sopo River in South Sudan to the highest quality standards. This bridge created a transport route between Wau and Raga, which was highly commended by the local government and residents.

In the past 30 years, China's armed forces have contributed 111 engineer units totaling 25,768 troops to eight UN peacekeeping missions in Cambodia, the DRC, Liberia, Sudan, Lebanon, Sudan's Darfur, South Sudan, and Mali. These units have built and rehabilitated more than 17,000 kilometers of roads and 300 bridges, disposed of 14,000 landmines and unexploded ordnance, and performed a large number of engineering tasks including leveling ground, renovating airports, assembling prefabricated houses, and building defense works. Twenty-seven transport units totaling 5,164 troops were dispatched to the UN peacekeeping missions in Liberia and Sudan. They transported over 1.2 million tons of materials and equipment over a total distance of more than 13 million kilometers. Eighty-five medical units of 4,259 troops were sent to six UN peacekeeping missions in the DRC, Liberia, Sudan, Lebanon, South Sudan, and Mali. They have provided medical services to over 246,000 sick and wounded people. Three helicopter units totaling 420 troops were sent to Sudan's Darfur. They completed 1,951 flight hours, transported 10,410 passengers and over 480 tons of cargo in 1,602 sorties.

6. Sowing the Seeds of Hope

It is the common aspiration of all peoples throughout the world to live a better life. Far from home, Chinese military peacekeepers have made concrete efforts to bring peace and hope to war-afflicted peoples.

To actively facilitate humanitarian assistance. Over the past 30 years, China's peacekeeping troops worked extensively and effectively with international humanitarian agencies, and have played an active role in resettling refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), distributing food, building refugee and IDP camps, and carrying out disaster relief tasks. In April 2020, Uvira in eastern DRC was struck by a rare flood, which posed a severe threat to the lives and property of the locals. The Chinese engineer unit was assigned to disaster relief work at the most critical moment and rushed to help reinforce levees and restore damaged bridges. They have given the locals access to help and protection, and effectively ensured the safety and security of the affected population.

To participate extensively in post-conflict reconstruction. In a post-war country or region, when a peace agreement is reached, it is essential to restore livelihoods and social order in order to prevent the recurrence of conflict and achieve lasting peace and stability. Chinese peacekeeping troops have played an active role in post-conflict reconstruction of host nations. They built important infrastructure, monitored elections, trained local doctors and nurses, and promoted environmental protection. Their efforts have been acclaimed by the governments and peoples of host nations. Darfur lies on the edge of a desert with complex geology. It is one of the regions afflicted by the world's most severe water shortages. From 2007 to 2013, Chinese military engineers drilled 14 wells in the most difficult circumstances, and effectively alleviated the problem of water scarcity for the locals.

To pass on love and care. Chinese military peacekeepers are not only guardians of peace but also messengers of friendship. The Chinese medical units in the DRC ran a twinning project in SOS Children's Village Bukavu to offer help. Touched by the love and care from the units, children in the village called the female members their Chinese mothers. The consistent efforts of the Chinese units over the past 17 years have won widespread praise from the locals. In UNMISS, Chinese military peacekeepers provided agricultural techniques, farming tools and vegetable seeds to local people. They were invited by local middle schools to teach lessons on Chinese culture and language, which were very popular with the students.

Over the past 30 years, China's armed forces have contributed more than 40,000 service members to 25 UN peacekeeping missions. Sixteen Chinese military peacekeepers have sacrificed their lives for the noble cause of peace. As of August 2020, 2,521 Chinese military peacekeepers were serving on eight UN peacekeeping missions and at UNHQ. Chinese service women are playing an increasingly important role in peacekeeping. More than 1,000 female peacekeepers have worked in medical support, liaison, coordination, demining, explosive ordnance disposal, patrol, observation, gender equality promotion, protecting women and children, and other fields. They demonstrated the talent and professionalism of Chinese women on their UN missions. Chinese peacekeeping troops have been commended by the UN and the international community for their contribution. They have won honor for their country and military. On October 1st, 2019, Chinese military peacekeepers were reviewed for the first time by the country and the people in the parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the PRC.

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