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China's Expanding Peacekeeping Role: Its Significance and the Policy Implications

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Publisher: SIPRI
February, 2009
China’s participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations has dramatically expanded. China initially viewed UN operations with scepticism and often questioning their legitimacy. This cautious view changed from the late 1980s. Over the 20 years since the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) made its first peacekeeping contribution in 1989, China has steadily increased its deployments. It is now the fourteenth largest contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, ahead of three other permanent members of the UN Security Council—Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Despite these developments, deeper thinking and analysis about the motivations, limitations and broader implications of China’s engagement in peacekeeping remain at an early stage in the Western debate. This Policy Brief provides an overview of some of the highlights and recent developments in Chinese peacekeeping activities. It also summarizes the key factors behind China’s expanding engagement.

It recommends that the international community engages with China on peacekeeping-related issues in order to strengthen China’s commitment to regional stability, ensure greater convergence between Chinese and other international interests on questions of regional security, and encourage more effective international peacekeeping operations.


Dr Bates Gill was Director of SIPRI between 2007–2012.