The Roles of Peacekeepers
Through its actions, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) demonstrates its country's commitment to “loving peace and taking on responsibilities.” It ignites the torch of peace in war-ravaged regions and sows hope in poverty-stricken areas.
A peacekeeper once wrote before departing for a peacekeeping mission: “As long as I can make a contribution to the peace of the world, I will not hesitate to sacrifice my life.” With such lofty beliefs, Chinese peacekeepers risk their lives and devote themselves to peacekeeping operations.
In April 1990, news about Chinese soldiers appeared for the first time in the bulletin of the Command Department of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). It said that five military observers from the PLA had arrived in Damascus. This piece of news, with accompanying photos, marked the beginning of the PLA'S participation in the UN'S peacekeeping operations.
The competence and dedication of Chinese military observers on these three peacekeeping missions paved the way for China's participation in more operations.
During the following 27 years, China's peacekeeping forces have grown both in scope and in the type of participating force, which has has expanded from engineering units alone to multiple units including infantry, engineering, transportation, medical, security and army aviation. The outstanding performance of Chinese soldiers has been highly applauded by the UN and by local people. Chinese peacekeepers have become a core force for peacekeeping operations.
1992 was a significant year in the history of the PLA'S participation in peacekeeping operations. In April of that year, at the request of the UN, China dispatched its first engineering brigade to join the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). The 400 soldiers and officers involved in this mission mainly worked on local road and airport construction projects. From then on, China has dispatched not only military observers, but other types of forces as well.
In 2002, China formally became a member of the UN'S Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System, which meant that the personnel and equipment to be dispatched had to be ready within 90 days. With this mechanism, the PLA gradually expanded the scale and types of troops involved in peacekeeping operations.
In April 2003, China dispatched an engineering unit consisting of 175 soldiers and officers and a medical team with 43 members to the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). In December of the same year, China dispatched a 275-member engineering unit, a 240-member transport unit, and a 43-member medical unit to the United Nations Mission in Liberia, expanding its forces to include transportation units.
In November 2007, a multi- purpose engineering unit consisting of 315 members from China was dispatched to the African Union/ United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, Sudan, including a unit for drilling wells.
From the end of June to early July 2009, the PLA held a joint peacekeeping training program with the Mongolian Army called “Peacekeeping Mission 2009,” which was the first joint peacekeeping exercise that China organised and
conducted with a foreign nation.
In January 2011, China dispatched a 155-member engineering unit, a 170-member security unit, and a 70-member medical unit to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. This was the first time that the PLA sent a security unit to join a peacekeeping operation.
In 2015, China dispatched an infantry battalion to join the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. The battalion included 13 women soldiers who constituted China's first female squad to join peacekeeping operations. These women were from Chongqing Municipality and the nine provinces of Shandong, Jiangsu, Henan, Shaanxi, Zhejiang, Hunan, Hebei, Guangxi and Sichuan. They took charge of health care, telecommunications, and publicity. As soon as they heard about this all-female squadron, the women were quick to sign up to be members and had to pass a number of difficult tests.
Their training included using the latest bulletproof vests, helmets, and elbow and knee pads, as well as automatic rifles. These brave women got top marks and had to fulfill exactly the same requirements as the men to qualify for peacekeeping missions. In addition to peacekeeping duties, they were also responsible for protecting and communicating with local women and children.
China's peacekeeping forces are highly disciplined and have completed many missions, setting an example for peacekeeping forces from other countries. In areas where bullets fly, epidemics sweep through, or supplies are severely lacking, they serve unfailingly. A UN officer spoke highly of Chinese peacekeepers at a ceremony to issue medals of honour to Chinese peacekeepers: “You assume great responsibilities. You are the best of the best. We are proud to possess such great forces.” Chinese peacekeeping forces have received numerous honours. With their actions, they have proven that the PLA are guardians of peace and they spread friendship and civility.
Livelihood Projects Construction
Chinese peacekeepers not only stop conflicts and maintain order, but also improve the livelihood of local people. In January 2017, China's 15th group of peacekeeping forces to South Sudan completed repairs on a 125 kilometre-long section of road from Rumbek to Mvolo. It was the first road repair task undertaken by China's engineering unit in Rumbek, and it was the unit's first project that spanned different war zones since they arrived at the mission area.
Another section of road repair from Rumbek to Juba was undertaken by peacekeeping forces from Bangladesh; the two sections were a total of 400 kilometres long. These roads were the main passages for the UN to conduct humanitarian rescue in South Sudan and were known as a “lifeline for material transport” and an “artery for communications between south and north.” Chinese soldiers' active undertaking of the task enhanced the image of Chinese peacekeepers in the international community.
The area where China's engineering unit was located was in South Sudan's western war zone, but a 30-kilometre-long section of the road from Rumbek to Mvolo was in the southern war zone. This was the first time that Chinese troops had carried out such urgent and dangerous road repairs, providing them with valuable experience for conducting similar projects in the future. Opening up this roadway facilitated the UN'S work in this region by allowing trucks to deliver supplies, reducing pressure on air traffic and lowering transportation costs. Jia Lihui, the deputy battalion chief of China's peacekeeping forces, said, “The engineering unit was pressed to complete such a large project in a short time, which was challenging. It was the unit's largest project here and the risk of danger was quite high, with many obstacles to overcome. After the repairs were completed, locals showed their gratitude and said they were very moved by the hard work, quality and speed of the Chinese unit.”
For many years, engineering, medical and transport teams constituted the majority of China's peacekeeping forces, demonstrating the ideal of China's peaceful development.
Improving Peacekeeping Mechanism
The reason Chinese peacekeepers have received international recognition is because of its improved peacekeeping mechanisms. In December 2001, the Peacekeeping Office of the Ministry of National Defense of the PRC was founded, an institution responsible for the coordination and management of the PLA'S participation in peacekeeping operations. Since then, the PLA has drawn up relevant rules and regulations concerning peacekeeping personnel, which serve as a basis to strengthen management, improve treatment, and ensure their rights and interests.
Regulations have also been formulated for training peacekeeping personnel before they depart on missions.
In June 2009, the Peacekeeping Centre of China's Ministry of National Defense was founded in Huairou District, Beijing. It serves as a training venue for Chinese and foreign peacekeeping personnel and as a platform for international exchanges. It symbolises that China's peacekeeping training and exchanges are connected with the world. Since then, peacekeeping exchanges have been an important part of China's military diplomacy and have been frequently reported.
From the end of March to early April 2011, a joint training course was held at the centre organised by the UN'S Department of Peacekeeping Operations and China's Ministry of National Defense. This was the first such course, after which training courses for senior commanders and military observers were frequently held at the centre. It was designated as a core peacekeeping training base by the UN.
Based upon years of practical experience, in 2012 Regulations on the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Participation in UN Peacekeeping Operations (trial) was issued, which clarifies the missions, organisation, dispatch, withdrawal, education, training, and management of the PLA'S peacekeeping forces, and provides legal standards for their work.
In October 2014, the Peacekeeping Office of the Ministry of National Defense of the PRC, the China Institute for International Strategic Studies, and the Folke Bernadotte Academy in Sweden hosted an annual international peacekeeping conference in Beijing entitled the “Peace Action Challenge Forum.” Chinese officers have also participated in international peacekeeping seminars and trainings held all around the world, and experienced military officers have given lectures at trainings organised by the UN to share and discuss ideas with people from other countries. A number of military officers assigned by China to UN peacekeeping mission areas have assumed important posts. These officers enrich
China's participation in peacekeeping operations and promote the development of the UN'S peacekeeping work.
The PLA soldiers come for peace, but maintaining peace is difficult and involves sacrifice.since its participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations in 1990, the Chinese government has dispatched more than 30,000 soldiers on 24 peacekeeping operations. Of these soldiers, 19 peacekeepers sacrificed their lives. They were: Lei Runmin, Liu Mingfang, Chen Zhiguo, Yu Shili, Yu Jianxing, Fu Qingli, Zhang Ming, Du Zhaoyu, Zhu Xiaoping, Li Qin, Guo Baoshan, Wang Shulin, Zhong Jianqin, He Zhihong (female), Li Xiaoming, Zhao Huayu.
In response to terrorist attacks, the Ministry of National Defense of the PRC stated that China will continue to firmly support UN peacekeeping operations, fight against terrorism in all its forms, and defend world peace. This determination from the government serves as a great support for the Un-led peacekeeping operations and reassures people and countries who need help from peacekeeping forces. The PLA'S actions in the world are concrete examples of their slogan to “faithfully carry out missions and safeguard world peace.”
Nothing can stop human beings' pursuit of peace. Participating in peacekeeping operations and contributing to world peace is the responsibility of a great country. China has always been a peace- loving country, and modern wartimes have particularly strengthened the PLA'S determination to maintain world peace. Chinese soldiers have fulfilled their solemn commitment to promote and maintain world peace.
On May 24, 2017, several days before the International Day of UN Peacekeepers (May 29), the UN Headquarters held a solemn ceremony to issue a posthumous award known as the “Dag Hammarskjöld Medal” to peacekeepers who lost their lives during operations in the previous year, and issued an “In Service of Peace Commemorative Medal” to peacekeepers who performed well in missions. Liu Jieyi, ambassador of the Permanent Mission of the People's Republic of China to UN, and Huang Xueping, head of the Military Staff Committee of the Permanent Mission of the PRC to UN, received the medals on behalf of Chinese martyrs Shen Liangliang, Li Lei and Yang Shupeng.
Chinese peacekeepers practice the traditional During peacekeeping operations, Chinese peacekeepers
further strengthened the PLA'S image as a “mighty and civilised force” and both the speed and quality of their work have set an example and become the standard for peacekeeping forces from other countries. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute issued a report in November 2009 that stated, “China's peacekeeping forces are the most professional, efficient, well-trained and disciplined of all the UN'S troops” and “their good image improves the efficiency and strengthens the legitimacy of the Un-led peacekeeping operations.” Ban Kimoon, former secretary general of the UN, said, “I am very proud of the work that Chinese peacekeepers have done. They make our world peaceful, safe, and free.”
Since the PLA joined the first peacekeeping operation in 1990, they have become a core force in maintaining international peace. Looking into the future, the UN and other international organisations must still play their role in maintaining world peace and security in war-stricken regions. The PLA will expand the scope and scale of its peacekeeping operations and will continue to play a positive role in maintaining world peace and stability.
In an era of peace, development, and cooperation, peaceful military operations have become an important military way and the PLA has turned to fighting against terrorism, providing emergency relief, and in international peacekeeping. It has played an important role in disaster relief at home and in international humanitarian assistance, with some remarkable results. To make its assistance more effective, the Chinese government and its military departments have set up an inter-ministerial work method for emergency material assistance for foreign countries.
In a related area, one thing people may not be aware of is the amount of unexploded ordnance still lying on the earth in areas where humans live: about 100 million mines. To try to minimise the damage caused by these deadly devices and to help clear them out can be seen in some international conventions, but this was also the responsibility of Chinese soldiers. The Chinese PLA has lived up to its obligations in the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and Landmine Protocol by taking part in mine clearance activities. It has assigned dozens of specialists and engineer units to war-torn regions to take charge of mine removal.
This mine clearance and getting rid of unexploded ordnance can be a dance with death, and the mere act of stepping onto the minefield could be considered suicide. This is what the Chinese troops who were sent to Lebanon to remove mines planted on mountain slopes and narrow paths faced, and under extreme weather condition. It was an arduous task and a very dangerous one. In Lebanon, the foreign army engineers and demining companies suffered casualties. Nonetheless, the Chinese managed to cover 1.5 million square metres and identified more than 7,000 unexploded bombs, with zero
casualties, setting a record for their work.
On March 25, 2002, in response to a UN resolution, China dispatched two air force aircrafts to transport urgentlyneeded medicines and medical equipment to Afghanistan. This was actually the beginning of the PLA'S international humanitarian aid missions and, now, 15 years later, it has sent out medical corps personnel, epidemic specialists, and helicopter troops to help with international disaster relief. This has shown China's humanitarian spirit and has won its acclaim from the international community.
By 2010, the PLA had handled 23 international aid missions, providing supplies worth of US$80 million, including tents, blankets, medicines, medical equipment, and generators, to 19 disasterstricken countries. It also provided military aircraft and special trains to transport relief supplies to the regions.
The PLA also dispatched forces to take part in large emergency rescue efforts. In 2001, it sent a team of soldiers and officers from the Corp of Engineers of the 38th Group, Army of Beijing Military Region, medical personnel from the General Hospital of the Chinese People's Armed Police Forces, and specialists from the China Earthquake Administration. The team was known as the China International Search & Rescue Team during its assistance efforts on behalf of the government. Since 2001, the team has gone to disaster-stricken countries six times and received “international heavy rescue team” certification in 2009, making it the world's 12th team of this kind and Asia's second. The PLA also sent a medical team to Haiti to carry out emergency ambulance response, epidemic prevention, hygiene, and disease control work in January 2010. The team did diagnoses on 4,000 people, and handed out 150 types of drugs and was praised by the local people and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti.
The China International Search & Rescue Team has increased its abilities, with all members receiving standardised international rescue training, and the team leader receiving professional disaster relief training overseas. They have also built up a powerful resume of practical rescue experience, having taken an active part in 14 operations both in China and abroad. On April 25, 2015, an 8.1-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, followed by a 7-magnitude aftershock, resulted in serious casualties and property loss. The PLA swung into action with the relief efforts in the mountainous country. This was the largest international humanitarian assistance operation the PLA had ever conducted since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 and the team arrived in Nepal soon after the earthquake reports came in. The military put together relief supplies and dispatched air force Il-76 transports to get the supplies there. Another team, composed of members of the Corp of Engineer of the PLA'S 14th Group Army, and a medical team consisting of personnel from the General Hospital of the Chengdu Military Region and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention—totaling 170 people in all— headed for Nepal to carry out the rescue mission and epidemic prevention efforts. There were 222 army troops and armed police from China in all, 10 IL-76 transport planes, and 18 helicopters joining in the disaster relief, up to the morning of April 30. They moved 289 tons of supplies, carried out search and rescue work, finding two people, provided medical treatment for 391 people, and air-lifted 260 casualties and people trapped under the debris.
The international rescue teams joining the Nepalese effort, the Chinese were the first to arrive and start carrying out rescue work and the first to find some survivors. This demonstrated Chinese soldiers' sincerity in their peace efforts and it was the 10th time for the China International Search & Rescue Team to assist overseas. Previously, it had completed missions in Algeria, Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan, Haiti, New Zealand and Japan.
Chinese peacekeepers took an oath at a temporary campsite in Juba, South Sudan on October 1, 2015.
The first 135-member Chinese peacekeeping force departing for Mali took an oath at Harbin Taiping International Airport on December 3, 2013.
Chinese medical personnel joined the peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo in April 2003.
Chinese doctors examined the body of a disaster victim at a temporary hospital set up by the Chinese International Search and Rescue Team in Thatta City, Pakistan in August 2010.
Two Chinese doctors inspected a child's leg in Makokou, the capital of Ogooué-ivindo, Gabon in June 2009.
Chinese engineer soldiers departing for the Democratic Republic of Congo on a peacekeeping mission to undergo training at a campsite.