Relative power and China’s policy on United Nations peacekeeping operations
Date of Issue2016
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
This work seeks to understand the factors that have shaped China’s disposition to UN peacekeeping in the era of economic reform since 1979. The growth of national power enables states to achieve new objectives in foreign policy (Lampton, 2008:11). From this perspective, China’s growing power is supposed to automatically translate into more active and positive foreign policies. However, the case of UN peacekeeping operations (UNPKOs) shows that unit-level factors play a greater role in shaping the nuanced causal relation between China’s relative power and its foreign policy. Complementing the existing literature that mostly focuses on unit-level dynamics, this thesis uses a two-level framework to explain the drivers of the shift in China’s peacekeeping policy. The growth in China’s economic strength, political influence and military might prompt the reassessment of its relative power vis-à-vis the international system as well as the expansion of its national interest. While China’s rising power status broadens the parameter of its foreign policy, the increase of its support for UNPKOs is substantially influenced by three unit-level factors, the vulnerability of China’s economy to foreign risks, domestic perception of China’s international role and its concern for sovereignty and territory. The selection of the three unit-level factors is aimed to contribute to the understanding of why states participate in peacekeeping. The existing research argues that the propensity to contribute is closely linked with certain social traits of troop contributing countries, like regime type, political stability, the size of ground trip and geographic location. However, China does not fit the general profile of major contributors. The aforementioned three unit-level factors seek to fill in the gap in explaining why big states with emerging economies and non-liberal democratic political system contribute to UNPKOs. It is argued here that the growth of China’s relative power influences its peacekeeping policy by inducing changes in the three unit-level factors. This study presents three hypotheses regarding how the three unit-level factors have shaped China’s position. First, China grows more active in contributing to UNPKOs as its economic interests become more vulnerable to foreign risks. China’s ‘Going Global’ strategy has broadened its economic presence abroad. This has increased the relevance of other countries’ security situation to Chinese economic interests. Second, China is more positively disposed to UN peacekeeping when it becomes more influential on global agenda. The difference between China and the western liberal countries regarding certain political values was once a major cause behind China’s reservation over peacekeeping. The expansion of its presence in multilateral institutions provides China with opportunities to engage with the evolution of international norms and values, some of which are directly relevant to peacekeeping. Third, China’s peacekeeping contribution is positively correlated with its reading of the security situation in the region. The growth of defence capabilities substantively improve China’s territorial security and thus ease the concern over infringement on its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The conclusion is that the translation of China’s growing power into more proactive peacekeeping policy is a result of the combined effect of the three factors. When all three domestic factors are present and strong, China’s contribution is substantive. However, China’s contribution is minimal when some factors are absent or weak.
DRNTU::Social sciences::Political science