Abstract: A fundamental question facing global governance today is whether UN peacekeeping can function with enough skilled troops to execute increasingly demanding and complicated mandates. China is informally identified as a potential lead troop contributing country. China typically dispatches enabler troops – the logisticians, engineers and medical teams that provide the backbone for peacekeeping missions in the field. China recently started to offer combat troops, presenting new challenges for China as it seeks to use peacekeeping to obtain its domestic and foreign policy goals. China supports a traditional approach to peacekeeping, calling for missions to abide by ‘core’ peacekeeping principles of host state consent, impartiality, and the use of force for only self-defence. Combat troops mean new challenges for China: taking casualties; adjudicating the use of force, and managing expectations for China’s performance in the field, while staying within China’s own normative framework. I offer an updated assessment of China as a troop contributor, by focusing on two mini-cases that feature combat troops: the UN Multidimensional Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). I first analyse China’s atypical troop contribution archetype and then explain why China contributes peacekeeping personnel. Next, I focus on the increased risks and costs of deploying combat troops, and China’s path to deploying combat troops. I conclude discussing issues raised from China’s combat troop deployment. I draw insights from interviews with Chinese foreign policy elites and UN officials, participant observation at the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and open primary and secondary sources.
Bio: Courtney J. Fung is Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Department of Politics and Public Administration, The University of Hong Kong and Associate in Research at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University. Previously, she was a post-doctoral fellow with the now Columbia-Harvard China and the World Program and a research fellow with the Program on Peace Operations at the Center on International Cooperation, New York University. Courtney is the author of China and Intervention at the UN Security Council: Reconciling Status (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), and her research is published in The China Quarterly, Cooperation and Conflict, PS: Political Science and Politics, International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, Third World Quarterly and International Peacekeeping. She is currently writing a book on China’s role in shaping an emerging global information order.