Will China fill the US’s void?

If Trump’s Amer­ica shrinks hu­man­i­tar­ian sup­port, China might seek a big­ger role in world af­fairs

African Independent - - EDUCATION - JARED FERRIE

CHINA’S lat­est “white pa­per” is an­other sign of the coun­try’s de­ci­sion to play a larger role in global af­fairs. It comes af­ter state­ments from US pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump that sug­gest he will lead his coun­try in re­treat from in­ter­na­tion­al­ism. Can China fill a po­ten­tial void in hu­man­i­tar­i­an­ism?

Some think China’s in­ter­nal dy­nam­ics limit its abil­ity to be­come a hu­man­i­tar­ian leader but there are in­di­ca­tions it might raise its pro­file in cer­tain fields, such as peace­keep­ing and cli­mate change.

“The white pa­per fo­cuses on de­vel­op­ment but it does not prom­ise any­thing about democ­racy, per­sonal free­dom and hu­man rights,” said Xu Guoki, a his­tory pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Hong Kong. China’s un­will­ing­ness to pro­mote those ideals at home un­der­mined its abil­ity to take a lead role in global af­fairs.

“How can the Chi­nese govern­ment step up its role in in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­i­an­ism, when it does not dare to de­nounce non-demo­cratic regimes which are largely re­spon­si­ble for global crises in hu­man­i­tar­i­an­ism?” he asked.

Kerry Brown, di­rec­tor of the Lau China In­sti­tute at King’s Col­lege in Lon­don, said: “For sure, China wants a stronger and more dom­i­nant re­gional role. But it does not want to have huge re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in the wider world foisted on it.”

How­ever, he noted, much de­pends on what the new US ad­min­is­tra­tion does.

“The Trump pres­i­dency (po­si­tion) on cli­mate change and a num­ber of other ar­eas does push China to­wards hav­ing no choice but to take a more ac­tive role in in­ter­na­tional is­sues, be­cause of the space left by a more in­ward look­ing, iso­la­tion­ist US,” said Brown.

Many ques­tions re­main about what Trump’s for­eign pol­icy will look like, although his for­ays into in­ter­na­tional af­fairs so far have not been re­as­sur­ing to many. Also wor­ry­ing are Trump’s state­ments on cli­mate change. He re­ferred to global warm­ing in a 2012 tweet as a con­cept “created by and for the Chi­nese in order to make US man­u­fac­tur­ing non-com­pet­i­tive”.

Trump has sug­gested he would with­draw the US from the Paris Agree­ment on cli­mate change.

In its white pa­per, China said it had made “sig­nif­i­cant ef­forts in mov­ing the Paris Agree­ment on green­house gas emis­sion mit­i­ga­tion to­ward adop­tion and tak­ing ef­fect,” ac­cord­ing to govern­ment news agency Xinhua.

The white pa­per in­cluded a sec­tion on peace­keep­ing, which is China’s most high-pro­file hu­man­i­tar­ian con­tri­bu­tion. China pledged to con­tinue scal­ing up its com­mit­ment of troops and fund­ing.

“In the com­ing five years, China will train 2 000 peace­keep­ing per­son­nel for other coun­tries, launch 10 mine sweep­ing aid pro­grammes, pro­vide 100 mil­lion US dol­lars of non-re­im­bursable mil­i­tary aid to the African Union, and al­lo­cate part of the China-UN Peace and De­vel­op­ment Fund to sup­port UN peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions,” re­ported Xinhua.

Peace­keep­ing serves mul­ti­ple pur­poses for China, said Brown.

“Tak­ing part in peace­keep­ing mis­sions does help to at least give China some chance to en­sure it is do­ing as much as it can to pacify and sta­bilise re­gions, many of which fig­ure as trade or re­source sup­pli­ers. This is also a rel­a­tively good, and in­ex­pen­sive, way of China demon­strat­ing global cit­i­zen­ship and im­prov­ing its in­ter­na­tional im­age.”

Yun Sun, a China ex­pert at Wash­ing­ton’s Stim­son Cen­tre, said China con­trib­uted to peace­keep­ing to in­sert it­self into the global bal­ance of power.

“Since the UN is a mul­ti­lat­eral plat­form, China sees it as the most le­git­i­mate, and an ef­fec­tive, way of con­trol over Western uni­lat­er­al­ism or mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion,” she said.

Peace­keep­ing aside, China has not so far been a ma­jor aid donor. If the next US ad­min­is­tra­tion does pull back sig­nif­i­cantly from pro­vid­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian sup­port, it could open the door for China to play a big­ger role – but only if Bei­jing saw ben­e­fits.

“China is not a purely al­tru­is­tic player. It is a self-in­ter­ested one,” said Brown. – Irin


CON­TRI­BU­TION: Peace­keep­ing troops from China, de­ployed by the UN Mis­sion in South Su­dan, pa­trol in Juba.

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