China Expands U.N. Peacekeeping Operations in Africa

Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Zhai Jun’s recent visit to the Rwandan-DR Congo border region removed any lingering doubt, if there was any, that Beijing’s interests in the region extend far beyond natural resource extraction.   Zhai made chinese un2it very clear that as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, China will deepen its involvement in peacekeeping operations in the troubled Eastern Congo and Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa.  It’s perfectly understandable that Beijing would want to complement its deepening commercial and diplomatic relations with the region by leveraging its emerging international power, particularly at the United Nations.

This raises a few key questions:

  • Will Beijing use its influence at the United Nations to shield known human rights violators from international prosecution if those individuals offer direct benefit to Chinese interests in Africa?
  • How will China use its influence at the U.N. and other international institutions to change the patterns of African development assistance that many regard as a failure in the post-colonial era?
  • What impact will the presence of Chinese military peacekeepers have on Beijing’s image in East Africa Towhere locals wonder if China is in fact imposing itself in an imperial manner consistent European and Western colonizers of the past?

Al Jazeera English produced an excellent report in December 2009 that highlights China’s blue helmeted peacekeepers.  To date, as AJE’s Melissa Chan reports, China’s peacekeepers are largely comprised of infrastructure engineers and mine-removal experts, however that may soon change.

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