UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The dragon with the blue beret : China's contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations Griffith, Daniel Hayes


Recently, academics and policy analysts alike have taken note of the People’s Republic of China’s increasing participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations (UNPKO). Since 2003, the overall number of Chinese personnel in UNPKO has climbed dramatically: from 120 in early 2003 to over 2,000 at present. However, while it is relatively easy to determine how many Chinese personnel serve in UNPKO, it is much more difficult to accurately determine China’s motives for participation in the UN peacekeeping regime and its mission selection criteria. At present, there are three main schools of thought on this subject. Chinese officials and academics tend to argue that the PRC contributes to UNPKO because it is genuinely concerned about promoting international peace and security and alleviating human suffering. Other authors, primarily from the United States, argue that the PRC’s motives are purely instrumental in nature. China, they contend, sends personnel to missions when doing so can increase the PRC’s access to natural resources and markets or augment its overall diplomatic and military power. Finally, some authors vaguely contend that China’s concerns over its international legitimacy play a role in its peacekeeping strategy. This thesis advances a new version of the international legitimacy explanation of Chinese peacekeeping participation. Specifically, it uses case studies from China’s past and current participation in UNPKO to demonstrate how reputational concerns have and continue to be the primary determinants of China’s peacekeeping policy. It argues that China participates in UNPKO to improve its international image in two important ways. First, China wants to show other great powers that it supports the status quo international system, thereby undermining claims that it is a dangerous “revisionist power.” Second, the PRC wants to ameliorate concerns among the international community that it is behaving in an exploitative way toward the developing world.

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