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China keeps up UN peacekeeper role

By ZHANG ZHIHAO | China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-17 07:00
Chinese peacekeepers are tested in destroying explosives on a training range in southern Lebanon in March 2017. [Photo/Xinhua]

China will continue to offer consistent and comprehensive support to United Nations peacekeeping missions in an effort to save lives and promote world peace, senior Chinese peacekeeping officers said recently before the upcoming International Day of UN Peacekeepers on May 29.

Being an instrument to help conflict-torn nations transition to lasting peace, more than 1 million men and women have served under the UN flag in more than 70 UN peacekeeping operations since the first mission in the Middle East in May 1948.

"Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with conflict by peaceful means," as former US president Ronald Reagan once said, a statement that is relevant this year as the UN celebrates its 70th anniversary of peacekeeping.

Today, according to the UN, more than 100,000 military, police and civilian personnel from 125 countries are serving in 14 peacekeeping operations worldwide, from militia infested deserts in South Sudan to fields of land mines near Lebanon.

"The UN peacekeeping operation is an effective measure in promoting multilateralism and collective security, and has played a major role in easing regional tensions and conflicts," said Major General Yang Chaoying, the acting force commander at the UN mission in South Sudan, where more than 1,000 Chinese blue helmets are serving.

South Sudan has more Chinese peacekeepers than any other mission area, Yang said. But the harsh and dangerous environment has helped shape Chinese peacekeepers' skills, characters and "impeccable discipline", he said.

"Those who have participated in the peacekeeping missions are more patriotic and cherish China's hard-earned peace and prosperity even more," Yang said. "Chinese blue helmets also get to learn and interact with peacekeepers from other countries, thus allowing us to expand our horizons, build friendships and showcase Chinese peacekeepers' images."

China will continue to shoulder its duty as a responsible major nation and it has carried out "sacred missions" given by the UN to protect civilians, supervise human rights, provide humanitarian aid and create favorable conditions for lasting peace, Yang said.

Since 1990, China has sent more than 35,000 troops, experts and police to 24 missions. As of April, China has 2,500 peacekeepers in operations, providing more personnel than the four other permanent members of the UN Security Council combined.

China's financial support to the UN peacekeeping budget also jumped, from 3 percent of total contributions in 2013 to about 10.2 percent, making China the second-largest funder of peacekeeping operations behind the United States.

In 2015, President Xi Jinping pledged to establish a 10-year, $1 billion peace and development fund to support the UN's work and said China would set up a permanent peacekeeping police squad and a peacekeeping standby force of 8,000 troops.

The standby force has finished its registration process with the UN and will be deployed after training, the Defense Ministry said in September. The force will include members from 28 divisions and 10 fields, ranging from infantry battalions and quick-response forces to helicopter and drone crews.

In April, the 16th group of Chinese peacekeepers to Lebanon were awarded the UN Peace Medal of Honor for their contributions. Two months earlier, the fifth contingent of Chinese peacekeepers to Mali received the same award.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that China has become an "honest broker" and "bridge-builder" in international conflicts thanks to its consistent support to peacekeeping operations. China's strong commitment is becoming more appreciated as other nations, such as the US, are scaling back their financial and personnel support.

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