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China and the Third Pillar


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As a rising power, China has cautiously undertaken international responsibilities such as regional stability and peace. This has included the dispatching of blue helmet and engineer troops under the UN framework to assume mine-clearing and infrastructure (re)construction in post-conflict regions. Moreover, China has accepted the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) norm, which it endorsed at the World Summit in 2005 and later under UNSCR 1674. China has accepted the RtoP principle despite its traditional doctrine of non-intervention and its “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence”. As put forward by Zhou Enlai when he received an Indian government delegation on 31 December 1953, nonintervention is central to the “Five Principles” as they refer to mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. Fifty years on, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao (2004) called the “Five Principles” “the cornerstone of China’s independent foreign policy”. At the same time, China remains persistently cautious about the non-consensual use of force and is reticent about applying sanctions, particularly when these measures are not fully backed by relevant international and regional organizations. This ambivalent attitude and behavior relates to China’s UN diplomacy, domestic realpolitik and the country’s strategic culture.
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China and the Third Pillar
Peiran Wang
As a rising power, China has cautiously undertaken international
responsibilities such as regional stability and peace. This has included
the dispatching of blue helmet and engineer troops under the UN frame-
work to assume mine-clearing and infrastructure (re)construction in
post-conflict regions. Moreover, China has accepted the Responsibility
to Protect (RtoP) norm, which it endorsed at the World Summit in 2005
and later under UNSCR 1674. China has accepted the RtoP principle
despite its traditional doctrine of non-intervention and its “Five Princi-
ples of Peaceful Coexistence”. As put forward by Zhou Enlai when he
received an Indian government delegation on 31 December 1953, non-
intervention is central to the “Five Principles” as they refer to mutual
respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-
aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and
mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. Fifty years on, Prime Minis-
ter Wen Jiabao (2004) called the “Five Principles” “the cornerstone of
China’s independent foreign policy”. At the same time, China remains
persistently cautious about the non-consensual use of force and is ret-
icent about applying sanctions, particularly when these measures are
not fully backed by relevant international and regional organizations.
This ambivalent attitude and behavior relates to China’s UN diplomacy,
domestic realpolitik and the country’s strategic culture.
The aim of this chapter is to delineate the reasons behind China’s
ambivalence toward the RtoP’s third pillar based on the country’s will-
ingness and capabilities, legal authority and political legitimacy. This
chapter identifies five reasons for China’s ambivalence. Firstly, China
accepts the RtoP because of its diplomatic commitments at the United
Nations, but at the same time it lacks strategic projection capabili-
ties, which, in turn, limits its policy options. Secondly, the principle
Peiran Wang 79
of non-intervention is derived from traditional notions of sovereignty,
which still holds an important position in China’s diplomatic discourse.
This profoundly influences the policymaking community’s thinking
and understanding toward the RtoP. Thirdly, China is concerned that
the RtoP will turn into an excuse that is taken advantage of by domes-
tic separatist movements in Xinjiang or Xizang to gain international
support. Fourthly, China holds a certain ambivalence toward balancing
its domestic economic interests with the proliferation of international
norm values. Finally, China’s traditional strategic culture is character-
ized by prudence in warfare and emphasizes the legitimacy of war. For
China, this hinders the possibility of utilizing coercive means to reach
political aims.
China’s ambivalence toward the RtoP
In 2001 the International Commission on Intervention and State
Sovereignty (ICISS) made an effort to solve the conflict between the
principle of national sovereignty and situations where states might be
justified to intervene in cases of mass atrocity crimes. The Commission
developed the RtoP concept and, for the purposes of this chapter, they
specifically stated that apart from a responsibility to prevent the crimes
from happening in the first place, and a responsibility to rebuild coun-
tries after the crimes have been addressed, “[t]he responsibility to react
[is] to respond to situations of compelling human need with appropri-
ate measures, which may include coercive measures like sanctions and
international prosecution, and in extreme cases military intervention”
(ICISS, 2001: p. xi). In all of the above-mentioned responsibilities, the
most sensitive point is who is eligible to launch military intervention
against a sovereign state, and when. While:
the UN Security Council has the primary role in maintaining inter-
national peace and security, especially the ability to endorse military
interventions and sanctions under the UN Charter, it also “bravely”
permits the possible use of force outside of the authority of the UNSC,
more specifically, by the UN Assembly and regional organizations.
(Tiewa, 2012: p. 154)
The RtoP was adopted at the United Nation’s 2005 World Summit,
in which leaders of state and government unanimously supported the
RtoP in paragraphs 138–139 of the World Summit Outcome document.
UNSCR 1647 (2006) re-affirmed the provisions of paragraphs 138–189,
80 China and the Third Pillar
and UNSCR 1706 (2006) on Darfur was the first to link the RtoP to
a particular conflict. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon referred
to the implementation of the RtoP as one of his priorities and he
released the “Implementing the Responsibility to Protect” report in
July 2009. He detailed a “three pillar” approach to implementing the
RtoP, which was defined as the responsibility of UN member states to
respond in a timely and decisive manner, using Chapters VI (Pacific Set-
tlement of Disputes), VII (Action with Respect to Threat and Peace) and
VIII (Regional Arrangements) of the UN Charter as appropriate, when a
state manifestly fails to provide such protection (United Nations, 2009).
With respect to pillar three, the international community has a range
of options, including preventive diplomacy, fact-finding missions, eco-
nomic sanctions and embargoes, and military operations such as no-fly
zones, monitoring and civilian defense missions (ICRtoP, 2011).
Even though such a wide range of options are offered under the RtoP
however, China has showed its aversion to coercive measures – espe-
cially the use of force – although it is increasingly open to participating
in political dialog and mediation efforts to persuade state leaders to con-
sent to international involvement. In practice, China still insists on the
consistent application of the principle of non-intervention, especially
in light of the crisis in Libya in 2011 and the ongoing crisis in Syria. For
example, despite the fact that China voted in favor of the UNSCR 1970
on Libya, when asked about military intervention and no-fly zones, a
spokeswoman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs later reiterated
the need to respect Libya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity (China
MFA, 2011), and hence China abstained from UNSCR 1973. Suspicion
and anxiety about the abuse of the RtoP is also a popular concern among
Chinese policymakers and academics. For example, when asked about
the fall-out from the “Arab Spring”, Huang Huikang, Director-General of
the Department of Treaty and Law at the Chinese MFA, pointed out that
“if Western countries undertook actions unauthorized by the Security
Council under the banner of R2P or the Security Council, for example,
carrying out regime change or harming more civilians than protecting
them, then these actions violate the law and China is definitely opposed
to them” [author’s translation] (China News Service, 2012).
China, UN peacekeeping operations and strategic
China’s ambivalence toward the RtoP norm, and its deep-seated regard
for the principle of non-intervention, should not suggest that the
Peiran Wang 81
country is unwilling to deploy its troops and experts should a UN man-
date be in place. Indeed, out of the UN Security Council’s Permanent
Five, China has been the largest troop contributor to United Nations
Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKOs) (The Economist,2012).Sincethe
beginning of the 21st century China has become much more involved
in international UNPKOs. As Table 5.1 demonstrates, since 2003 China
has increased its contribution to UNPKOs, thus showing its consistent
support to the United Nations. In October 2002, the Central Military
Commission approved the establishment of Chinese standby elements
for UNPKOs. An engineering battalion of 525 members, a medical ele-
ment of 25 members and two transporting companies of 160 members
are now on standby to join UNPKOs at any time (Ayenagbo, Njobvu,
Sossou and Tozoun, 2012: p. 26).
China has attached importance to the role the United Nations plays
in complicated international situations, especially as an authority in
international security where it involves the use of force (Huang, 2012).
For China, the United Nations is no longer a forum for safeguarding
sovereign interests, but it is a platform to demonstrate its rising power
profile and to exert its international influence. It should be recalled that,
as a rising power, China has not played a pivotal role in any inter-
national organizations, except as a permanent member of the United
Nations Security Council (UNSC) and as a founding member of the
Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Furthermore, since the beginning
Tab le 5. 1 China’s UNPKO contributions (2003–2012)
Year Military
World rank
(total of troop
2003 46 170 32
2004 54 687 17
2005 61 761 18
2006 68 1,210 14
2007 68 1,578 12
2008 62 1,803 13
2009 54 1,893 14
2010 53 1,733 15
2011 50 1,864 14
2012 43 1,794 13
2013 39 1,865 14
Source: United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, 2013.
82 China and the Third Pillar
of the 21st century, the phrase “responsible power” has frequently
emerged in China’s diplomacy discourse, which implies that China
wishes to be regarded as constructive player by the international society.
This wish is beginning to bear fruit in regard to China’s UNPKO
involvement, but the country is also involved in the sale of UNPKO-
relevant armament equipment to third countries. Ghana signed an
RMB 160-million agreement with China in September 2008, which
included help with re-equipping the Ghanaian Armed Forces and
enhancing Ghanaian preparations for multilateral peacekeeping oper-
ations. Zambian troops have been using Chinese-manufactured WZ-551
armored personnel carriers in their peace support operations in Sudan.
In 2008, Argentina ordered WZ-551 armored personnel carriers from
China for its troops under MINUSTAH (Gill and Huang, 2009: p. 29).
In January 2009, China donated landmine detection equipment and
accessories to Egypt. From 2007 to 2009, China trained engineers for
Angola, Mozambique, Chad, Burundi and other African countries and
financed Peru, Ethiopia and Ecuador to disarm mines. Moreover, the
mine detectors manufactured by the Chinese have been used exten-
sively by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) along
the southern border of Lebanon (China Military Online, 2009).
From the perspective of the Western world, China’s UNPKO engage-
ments are derived from the need to break out of its diplomatic isolation
and improve its international image by adopting a relatively construc-
tive approach (Bräuner, 2010: p. 65). Through peacekeeping operations
China gets the opportunity to observe trained counterparts by the West,
with the aim of acknowledging their doctrine, equipment and readi-
ness. China is also increasingly partnering with the European Union on
security operations, such as the Common Security and Defence Policy
(CSDP) mission to the Horn of Africa (EUNAVFOR). Indeed, “engaging
with the CSDP gives China the opportunity to learn European military
best practices” (Fiott, 2013). As China’s Defense Ministry once stated,
the country is “seeking to benefit from the experiences of other coun-
tries and institutions by sending PLA officers abroad for exchanges and
training” (Gill and Huang, 2009: p. 6). By undertaking more numerous
operations in post-conflict regions and military exchanges far away from
the Chinese territory, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) can further
develop its limited strategic power projection capabilities.
Yet China’s generosity under UNPKOs is not totally altruistic, as
according to one Chinese military scholar, “the peacekeeping of China
is determined by the goal of diplomacy and defence policy, and
the expansion of national strategic interests, the requirements of the
Peiran Wang 83
establishment and development of state and military, with a special
strategic position and distinct epochal features” [author’s translation]
(Tao, 2012: p. 25). By participating in UNPKOs, China has gained practi-
cal and potential benefits for its diplomacy and its military capabilities.
Since the late 1990s, Chinese peacekeeping contributions have helped
raise the country’s profile in the international community as a con-
structive and responsible power. China’s peacekeeping deployments,
and the associated opportunities to train and operate alongside other
countries’ forces, have provided practical experiences for the PLA. Some
policymakers in Beijing:
see engagement in peacekeeping and in conflict resolution as a way
for China to project a more benign and “harmonious” image beyond
its borders, to reassure neighbours about its peaceful intentions and
to softly balance the United States and other Western powers while
gradually but more firmly establishing China’s status as a great
(Gill, 2007: pp. 200–202)
This line of thinking has certainly made its way into the PLA’s legal
system. Indeed, in 2004 Chinese President Hu Jintao first put forward
the concept of “new historical missions”, which are defined as:
(1) providing an important guarantee of strength for the party to
consolidate its ruling position, (2) providing a strong security guar-
antee to safeguard the period of important strategic opportunity for
national development, (3) providing a powerful strategic support
to safeguard national interests, and (4) playing an important role
in safeguarding world peace and promoting common development
[author’s translation].
(Hu, 2004)
The fourth of these points involves the PLA’s operations abroad, and
based on this Hu Jintao signed an order on 22 March 2012 to issue The
Rules on the Participation of the PLA in UNPKOs. It should be noted that
China’s increased engagement with UNPKOs have mostly been char-
acterized by non-combat personnel such as medical and engineering
troops. However, in early 2012 a combat component aimed at self-
defense was incorporated in the Chinese peacekeeping deployment to
South Sudan. Furthermore, in June 2013 China declared that combat
troops would participate in the UNPKO to Mali.
84 China and the Third Pillar
Despite China’s eagerness to enhance its international reputation
through UNPKOs, however, the PLA still suffers from limitations in its
ability to project strategic power. This fact fundamentally limits China’s
ability to undertake preventive military action. Indeed, China’s ability to
project air and sea power is gradually increasing but limited. For exam-
ple, the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) has about ten IL-76 transporter planes
that can provide strategic airlift (Saunders, undated). Yet the crisis in
Libya demonstrated China’s dilemma: Beijing cannot do much even if
it wanted to. Indeed, “Chinese ships have participated in anti-piracy
patrols off the coast of Somalia, but when it came to evacuating its cit-
izens from Libya in 2011 during fighting there, China was forced to
rely mainly on chartering ferries” (Blanchard, 2013). As far as the per-
formance of the PLAAF’s extraction of citizens from Libya is concerned,
according to an interview with Xiang Xiaoling, Deputy Director at the
Institute for Military Strategy of China’s National Defense University,
the largest transport aircraft equipped in the PLAAF usually loads a max-
imum of 50 tons and so should be enhanced (China Net, 2009). With
the disputes over military transfers among China and Russia, Chinese
endeavors to import more IL-76 transporter aircrafts and IL-78 re-fueling
aircraft have yet to bear substantive fruits. Although there are military
modernization programs underway in the region, the power projection
capabilities of China, Japan and India will remain limited and their poli-
cies restrained (Blair, 2008). These limited military capabilities directly
influence China’s policy options regarding the RtoP’s third pillar. While
China’s international military engagement through the United Nations
may not alter the country’s view toward the RtoP in the short to medium
term, China’s participation in UNPKOs is influencing the thinking of
foreign and military policymaking communities in Beijing, which are
gradually accepting the military dimension to UNPKO deployments.
Chinese strategic culture and the RtoP
Owing to the fact that the RtoP’s third pillar potentially involves the
use of force, this section explores the preferences involved in China’s
thinking about and behavior toward the norm from the perspective of
its strategic culture. For the purposes of this chapter, one understands
“strategy” to refer “to the means deemed appropriate to ensure security”
(Gariup, 2009: p. 41), and “strategic culture” as an integrated:
system of symbols (e.g., argumentation structures, analogies,
metaphors) which acts to establish pervasive and long-lasting
Peiran Wang 85
strategic preferences by formulating concepts of the role and effi-
cacy of military force in interstate political affairs, and by clothing
these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the strategic
preferences seem uniquely realistic and efficacious.
(Johnston, 1995: p. 46)
When reviewing China’s classical strategic studies, most Chinese schol-
ars believe that China’s strategic culture is generally regarded as paci-
fistic, defensive-minded and non-expansionist (Scobell, 2002: p. 4).
There are, however, some elements of China’s strategic culture that are
compatible with the third pillar of the RtoP, especially as the norm
emphasizes that exercising violence should be placed under the con-
trol of the Security Council. Retired Lieutenant General Li Jijun, former
Deputy Director of the Academy of Military Sciences, has said that
“China’s ancient strategic culture is rooted in the philosophical idea
of unity between man and nature, which pursues overall harmony
between man and nature and harmony among men” [author’s trans-
lation] (Li, 1997: p. 9). In this regard, “the political-military pattern of
PLA deployment from 1950 to 1996 shows certain consistent character-
istics such as early warning for deterrence, seizure of the initiative, risk
acceptance and risk management” (Whiting, 2001: p. 124).
The ancient principle of “trying peaceful means before resorting to
force” has been a major influence on present-day China. Johnston has
pointed out that China has three strategic preferences when analyzing
the country’s basic political approach to the use of force: (1) “territory-
oriented”; (2) “policy-oriented”; and “regime-oriented”. These prefer-
ences aim at alternating or defending the territory status quo,alternating
the policies of the given related states, and augmenting the regime of
other states or maintaining the legitimacy or stability of its own state.
Johnston’s conclusion is that from 1949 to 1992 the “territory-oriented”
category accounts for 49% of China’s total use of force, whereas “policy-
oriented” use of force accounts for 42.3% and “regime-oriented” use of
force stands at about 7% (Johnston, 2004: p. 260). That is to say, regime
change has been less of a preference for China’s foreign policy agenda.
From the perspective of the RtoP, which can – as Libya showed – lead
to regime change, China’s strategic orientation appears to move in an
opposite direction.
As far as the preference for the use of force goes, under China’s tra-
ditional strategic culture the legitimacy of warfare derives from the
compatibility of means and ends. As Sun Tzu famously wrote, “the best
thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact”. In other
86 China and the Third Pillar
words, if the full range of variables of warfare cannot be reasonably dis-
cerned before engaging in violence, then such engagement could be
risky and would call into question the need for violence in the first place.
One of the problems of the third pillar is that the use of force gives rise
to a number of unknown dynamics that may make any given situation
worse – for example, intervening militarily to oust a regime may actu-
ally lead to more civilian violence over the longer term. Indeed, for Sun
Tzu the “art of war” is governed by five constant factors that should
be taken into account in one’s deliberations when seeking to determine
the use of force: 1) moral law ( ); 2) heaven ( ); 3) terrain ( ); 4) com-
mander ( ); and 5) doctrine ( ) (Sun Tzu, 1997: p. 10). Within Chinese
philosophy, the meaning of doctrine ( ) embodies good governance,
legitimacy and accountability. Sun Tzu lists “doctrine” as the first factor
that should determine warfare, as without governance, legitimacy and
accountability the use of force is highly contestable.
Another thinker, Sima Rangju, a professional militarist in the latter
part of the “Spring and Autumn period” (BC 770–BC 476), states that
“warfare is necessary to the existence of the state, that it provides the
principle means for punishing evil and rescuing the oppressed, and
that its conscientious exploitation is the foundation for political power”
[author’s translation] (Sima Rangju, 1997: p. 107). To pursue justice and
legitimate goals, he opined, necessary military means – even aggressive
approaches – can be considered and accepted. However, it is extremely
difficult to demonstrate how war can be just or not. It is well known that
judgment of what is considered to be a “just war” depends on different
values and philosophies. This same problem afflicts RtoP’s third pillar.
That is, the rationale for intervention – especially the use of force – will
always meet contestation even if based on the four crimes.
The RtoP’s third pillar also raises questions about who is the legitimate
authority to allow for the use of force. Confucius would have answered
that “when doctrine prevails under Heaven all orders concerning ritual,
music and punitive expeditions are issued by the Son of Heaven himself.
When doctrine does not prevail, such music and punitive expeditions
are issued by the feudal princes”. To decipher this thinking one must
note that the “Son of Heaven” refers to a global authority with moral
legitimacy (for example, the United Nations), whereas “feudal princes”
refers to the actions of individual or groups of states. Accordingly, the
legitimacy of violence relates to different types of authority operat-
ing at different levels of territoriality. Indeed, Confucius admitted the
existence of an authority beyond national and regional territorialities
that can decide on the legitimate use of force (“Heaven and the Son
Peiran Wang 87
of Heaven”). It is only at the level of the global legitimate authority
that the use of force can ever be considered “just”. Accordingly, to some
extent China’s endorsement of the RtoP can be traced to its understand-
ing of the United Nations as the global legitimate authority. It is for
this reason that Huang Huikang insists that any RtoP action should
be based on UN Security Council authorization, and that any action
should be limited in scope (China News Service, 2012). As Thakur has
stated, “RtoP came down firmly on the side of the central role of the
UN as the dispensable font of international authority and an irreplace-
able forum for authorizing international military enforcement” (2006:
p. 259).
The issue of legitimate authority is therefore important to China. This
is crucial from the point of view of the agreement of UNSC Resolu-
tions (UNSCRs). As the Libya crisis highlighted, even though the United
Nations authorized the intervention by “all necessary means”, China
still expressed its reservations about Resolution 1973. The ambiguity
related to the language of UNSC Resolutions is seen by China as a sort
of “Trojan Horse”, whereby the implementation of Resolutions could be
used to change domestic realities. Under the term “all necessary means”
potentially permits an open-ended response to domestic crises once the
Security Council has granted a Resolution. In other words, loose lan-
guage in UNSC Resolutions can be taken as an excuse for international
support for domestic separatist movements. The issue of ambiguous lan-
guage in UNSC Resolutions may cause China to be more cautious in
Security Council deliberations in future.
China’s concerns about the third pillar
In the mid-19th century William A.P. Martin introduced the concept of
sovereignty into China’s intellectual community by translating Henry
Wheaton’s Elements of International Law into Chinese. Through Elements
of International Law,theChineselearnedthattheconceptofsovereignty
has two dimensions: external and internal dimensions. Sovereignty
is central to China’s ambivalence toward the RtoP. This is especially
true given that the ICISS proposed a “necessary re-characterization”
of sovereignty from “sovereignty as control to sovereignty as protec-
tion” (2001: p. 13). Based on the historical experience of state-building,
Hobbes’ understanding was that state sovereignty is “the solution to
the problem of individual security”. The “ ‘contract’ between the indi-
vidual and the state is one where the individual grants the state the
right to protect – and define – individual security in exchange for an
88 China and the Third Pillar
acknowledgement of its sovereign authority” (Buzan and Hansen, 2009:
pp. 24–25).
From the perspective of the “social contract” tradition of political
philosophy, the concept of sovereignty is constructed on the basis of
the recognition of both internal functions and external duties. For the
former, citizens trade in their individual security for the benefit of com-
munal protection. For the latter, nation-states mutually recognize each
others’ sovereignty. Significantly, a central component in the transfor-
mation from the medieval to the modern state system was the formation
of the sovereign territorial state, where the interlocking levels of local,
regional and imperial authorities gave way to one sovereign center
and the territorial boundary became the significant dividing line. This
transformation was one where political authorities gained ground com-
pared to religious ones. It meant that the state became more secular
and that this secularity was played out in interstate relations as well as
The external dimension centers on the recognition of a state by other
actors in the international system (Lansford, 2000). Sovereignty can be
defined as “the recognition by both internal and external actors that
the state has the exclusive authority to intervene coercively in activi-
ties within its territory” (Thomson, 1995: p. 219). States are recognized
as sovereign when they present a fact of sovereignty; that is, states
recognize one another’s sovereignty when the latter has achieved the
capability to defend its authority against domestic and international
challengers (Pan, 2010). One will note that this view of sovereignty
slightly augments the Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of
States, which outlines how a state has four vital components of internal
and external sovereignty: firstly, it needs to have a permanent popula-
tion; secondly, it needs to have a defined territory; thirdly, it needs to
have a government; and lastly, it needs to have the capacity to enter
into relations with other states (1933: Article 1). China has all of these
sovereign abilities and so is quite attached to the notion of sovereign
Under the internal dimension, as Pan Zhongqi points out, “sover-
eignty means supreme authority over jurisdiction: in any single territo-
rial entity there is only one final and unlimited decision-making center
that is unquestioned within state borders. Internal sovereignty signi-
fies the right of a nation state to determine its own political system
and authority structure” (Barnuz, 2009: p. 31). For the Chinese Com-
munist Party, the maintenance of sovereignty and territory has been
regarded as its ruling ethos and source of legitimacy, as well as how it
Peiran Wang 89
relates to vitally important interests. In this regard, China is ambivalent
toward the third pillar because it may serve as an excuse to intervene
in the internal business of China. The country has historical experience
of ethnic separatist movements, and the RtoP could be used by such
movements to trigger international intervention under the third pillar.
For example, presently China faces challenges related to ethnic sep-
aratist movements in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Xizang
Tibetan Autonomous Region. From 1990 to 2001, more than 200 ter-
rorist attacks were reported in Xinjiang, with 162 dead and 440 or
more casualties (Zhang, 2013). According to China Daily, “Xinjiang
government’s spending on public security will reach 2.89 billion Yuan
($423 million) this year, up 87.9 per cent over last year’s 1.54 billion
Yuan, according to the budget proposal handed over to deputies of
the Xinjiang People’s Congress in 2010” (Cui, 2010). Besides economic
investments, Beijing has to bear criticism of its human rights record
from the international community. The United States Commission on
International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has always listed China under
its Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs) because of its treatment of
Muslims in Xinjiang and human rights in Xizang. Human rights pro-
tection and freedom have been central to political discourse over local
ethnic separatism. In this sense, RtoP could help local groups reach out
to the international community; indeed, the “RtoP is more of a link-
ing concept that bridges the divide between international community
and sovereignty” (Thakur, 2006: p. 251). Hence, China’s concern is that
the attention of the international community toward the examples of
Xinjiang and Xizang can be taken advantage of by ethnic separatist
movements, potentially endangering China’s territorial and sovereign
Why is territorial and sovereign integrity important to China? Under
the historical background of the weakened Qing Empire, the Chinese
elite easily accepted the principle of non-interference based on the
concept of sovereignty. At the same time, Chinese intellectuals and gov-
ernment policymakers reached a consensus that sees sovereignty as the
right to autonomously handle domestic issues free from external inter-
ference. As far as its juridical independent territory is concerned, China
has experienced a history of more than 2,000 years not based on the
intellectual heritage of the “social contract” between government and
citizens. This means that the country experiences an imbalance in rela-
tions between state/government and individuals. Hence, the protection
of the individual from the state has been secondary to the survival and
power of the state. The overriding concern with the state can be seen
90 China and the Third Pillar
since the foundation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), through
the Cold War and also in more recent times with territorial disputes.
Since the foundation of the PRC, the principle of respecting
sovereignty and non-interference has been centralized in the PRC’s
diplomatic discourse. In light of the constructivist school of Interna-
tional Relations, “agents act within their social reality based on rules
and their knowledge of it” (Barnuz, 2009: p. 31). Knowledge and rules
are taken for granted as the objective truth of the world (Giddens, 1984:
p. 37). The understanding of an actor’s social reality accordingly enables
certain policy options, whereas other realities are either understood as
being inappropriate or just not possible (Diez, 1999). Official dialogs on
sovereignty between Chinese and Western counterparts are impacted
by these differences in social realities. The discourse and behavior of an
actor constitute a constructive relationship. When an actor puts forward
a particular discourse, its behavior will be restricted by this discourse.
In the post-Cold War period, the principle of non-interference not only
restricts China’s diplomatic options, but it also affects its national pro-
file. Chinese diplomacy has been in a dilemma about how to keep the
balance between its tradition of non-intervention and its responsibilities
as a rising great power.
Sovereignty and territorial integrity are still the most practical and
ultimate concern to Beijing. It is well known that the traditional view
of state sovereignty and non-interference will continue to be the most
important concern for Chinese policymakers (Kamphausen, Lai and
Scobell, 2009: p. 115). Compared with humanitarian intervention such
as that witnessed during the Kosovo Crisis in 1999, coercive measures
are authorized solely by the UN Security Council and are to be employed
when peaceful measures have proved inadequate. “Humanitarian inter-
vention – characterized as unauthorized coercive action (unilateral or
multilateral) – has not been endorsed as a norm by UN Member States,
and is not permitted under the third pillar of RtoP” (ICRtoP, 2011). Since
the United Nations is the only legitimate authority, any implementation
of the RtoP’s third pillar has to take into account that any argument in
support of intervention is a question of who has the legal authority to
decide the protection beyond its community. It is “the question of who
has the worldly responsibility to recognize the legitimacy of rulers [ ...]
who decides what protection means in a particular time and place, and
whether achieving it is more important that anything else?” (Orford,
2011: p. 38). It is important to note that China remains persistently
averse to non-consensual use of force and is reticent toward applying
sanctions, particularly when these measures are not fully backed by the
Peiran Wang 91
authority of relevant regional organizations or the United Nations (Teitt,
2008). The temptation by certain states to apply a broad threshold for
intervention is a concern for China. As Etzioni remarks:
[i]f the threshold is set too low, the concept could be interpreted too
widely and military action by outside powers could be taken even
when a state’s “irresponsible” acts are quite limited. Conversely, if
the threshold is set too high, so many requirements will be placed
on intervening parties that they will be reluctant to act, not sure that
the situation meets the test. And of course, if there is inconsistency
in application, the concept will lose its legitimacy.
(2006: p. 79)
The prospect of China’s engagement in the RtoP
As an ever-more important player in UN peacekeeping, China’s attitudes
and behavior are certainly essential to RtoP decision-making and imple-
mentation through the United Nations. Whether during the Libya or
Syria crises, China has been labeled as “irresponsible” for its reservations
about the intervention. Former US Secretary of State Hilary Rodham
Clinton accused China and Russia for their stance toward the Syria cri-
sis, stating that both countries were “holding up progress, blockading it”
(CBS News, 2012). Such criticism is not the appropriate way to promote
China’s engagement with the RtoP. As Major General Yao Yunzhu, senior
researcher at the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, has stressed, “we
are criticized if we do more and criticized if we do less. The West should
decide what it wants. The international military order is either US-led
through NATO or through bilateral deals – there is nothing like the
World Trade Organization (WTO) for China to get into” (The Economist,
2012). Not only does Major General Yao’s quotation highlight the deep
sense of mistrust between China and the West on controversial issues
such as the RtoP’s third pillar, but it also suggests that China’s elite is
not wholly against the country’s participation in international affairs,
so long as it is based on the capabilities China has at its disposal.
Based on the above, the author concludes that China’s ambivalence
toward the RtoP is due to capability shortfalls and its strategic think-
ing. Based on the country’s economic success, policymaker communities
in Beijing have been investing in capability development in order to
strengthen its strategic power projection – prominently an aircraft car-
rier has entered into service and a Y-20 heavy equipment transporter is
being tested. These examples mean that China’s capability limitations
92 China and the Third Pillar
will be decreased in the future. The strengthened capabilities do not,
however, mean China will automatically put these assets in the service
of third pillar tasks, not unless China is really regarded as a construc-
tive member of the international community by the West. China’s
defense modernization and transformation – especially to its navy and
air force – are seen, to a large extent, as uncertain and even provocative.
To avoid the growth of suspicion toward its military modernization,
Beijing limits its expeditionary out-of-area missions, operations that
could be misunderstood as “sabre rattling”. Such negative perceptions
hinder China from making a more positive contribution of its military
assets to international missions dominated by the West.
To promote China’s acceptance of mi litar y measures under the third
pillar of RtoP, the West should consider how to establish cooperative
defense mechanisms with China. To date, the arms embargo imposed on
China by the United States and the European Union and their criticism
of China’s human rights record directly increases China’s perception
that it is an isolated, discriminated against member of the international
community. On human rights, China has been listed as a CPC by the
US Commission of International Religious Freedom, which is subordi-
nated to the Department of State. Over the past decade, public violence
and riots stimulated by separatist movements in Xinjiang and Xizang,
and the Government’s response to these movements, have resulted
in targeted criticism against Beijing’s human rights record. China is
concerned that should such riots escalate and increase in scale, and fol-
lowing Government response, this may lead to an international military
intervention under the RtoP. This is a point that concerns Beijing.
Even though China engages in UNPKOs, concerns about international
intervention in the domestic affairs of China under the RtoP hinder
the country’s participation in third pillar missions. At the same time,
without aircraft carriers and long-range transport aircrafts, China’s mil-
itary power projection is weak. This is not a new phenomenon given
that most international interventions take place in multinational frame-
works – apart from the US few states have the military capabilities to
go it alone for interventions. For example, could one feasibly imagine
China’s potential involvement in a third pillar response scenario in sub-
Saharan Africa at the present time? China currently does not have the
national capabilities to fully plug in to multinational missions. Except
for the SCO, China is not a member of any security organization. Con-
versely, the Europeans and Americans share their defense and security
capabilities under the NATO or CSDP frameworks. For NATO and the EU,
Peiran Wang 93
coercive missions under the third pillar would be completed in a rela-
tively cooperative and coordinated way. There are, however, no official
joint China-NATO-EU mechanisms on security affairs that would ease
China’s participation in RtoP-style operations.
In this regard China has two options. Firstly, it can carry out third pil-
lar operations by building up independent capabilities over the longer
term. Secondly, it can act as an onlooker with only a vote in the UN
Security Council. The first option will cast further doubt over the future
and nature of China’s military build-up. Chinese nationalists and con-
servatives will understand the second option to mean that China will be
a secondary player, which will result in pressure on China’s foreign pol-
icy. Perhaps NATO should seek constructive and cooperative relations
and to build mutual trust with China rather than to rest on mistrust.
In responding to China’s ambivalence toward the RtoP, communi-
cation is more effective than criticism. If only criticism against China
pervades, the country will be more reluctant to play a role. More
reluctance results in more criticism and so the spiral continues. Then,
mistrust similar to the security dilemma witnessed during the Cold War
could promote rising conservative nationalism in China, which will be
Chinese and Western values should be stressed. Consensus is the social
and intellectual basis of international cooperation between China and
Western stakeholders. To promote China’s engagement in the RtoP, a
multi-track dialog mechanism should be established at the official, aca-
demic and civilian levels between China and the West. One pertinent
example in this regard is the international non-proliferation regime,
where, although Western dominated, China has been able to play a pos-
itive role. Through academic exchange, the Chinese intelligentsia can
become acquainted with and understand Western perceptions and val-
ues, which will exert its influence on policymakers. Last but not least,
the international community should bear in mind China’s dilemmas
such as domestic regime-change-oriented preferences and diplomacy
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This chapter examines the expanding role of China in peacekeeping in Africa with specific reference to Mali where its first military trained peacekeeping troops operated. The author reviews the challenges arising from the weakening of the Malian state, the role of terrorism and the Libyan crisis, all part of the volatile context in which China’s deepest engagement in UN peacekeeping is taking place. Trends and experiences of the Chinese peacekeepers in Mali are suggestive of the future of Chinese peace support operations in coming years.
Technical Report
Full-text available
This report is a baseline assessment of the implementation of R2P as it currently stands in 21 states in the Asia Pacific region. The assessment is based on the UN Secretary-General's Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes. Consequently, future reports from the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect will build on the data contained in these assessments to measure the implementation of the R2P principle within each country over time. Thus, the long term objective of the Baseline Assessments are to identify, evaluate and develop policies, initiatives and practices that can positively contribute to the implementation of R2P throughout the region into the future. The associated technical annex for each country described in this report can be accessed at: The Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (APR2P) is based at the School of Political Science and International Studies, The University of Queensland
Ending humanitarian atrocities has become as important for the United Nations as preventing interstate war. This book examines the transformation of UN operations, analysing its changing role and structure. Ramesh Thakur asks why, when and how force may be used, and argues that the growing gulf between legality and legitimacy is evidence of an eroded sense of international community. He considers the tension between the United States, with its capacity to use force and project power, and the United Nations, as the centre of the international law enforcement system. He asserts the central importance of the rule of law and a rules-based order focused on the United Nations as the foundation of a civilised system of international relations. This book will be of interest to students of the United Nations and international organisations in politics, law and international relations departments, as well as policymakers in governmental and non-governmental international organisations.
Grounded on tenets of cultural realism and social constructivism, Monica Gariup develops a theoretical framework to enhance our understanding of security culture at the European Union level. She employs tools from political theory, linguistic analysis and international relations theory to examine the implications of discourse and practice in European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). Innovative in scope, the volume analyzes whether elaborating a structurationist solution and proposing a discursive syntax of security makes it possible to identify and compare different types of security actors. Providing a comprehensive and objective analysis on the links and implications between the discourse and actual policy of the ESDP, this is essential reading for scholars and researchers in European politics, international relations, security and cultural studies.
The idea that states and the international community have a responsibility to protect populations at risk has framed internationalist debates about conflict prevention, humanitarian aid, peacekeeping and territorial administration since 2001. Anne Orford situates the ‘responsibility to protect' concept in a wider historical and jurisprudential context, demonstrating that the appeal to protection as the basis for de facto authority has emerged at times of civil war or revolution – the protestant revolutions of early modern Europe, the bourgeois and communist revolutions of the following centuries and the revolution that is decolonisation. This history, from Hobbes to the UN, of the resulting attempts to ground authority on the capacity to guarantee security and protection is essential reading for all those seeking to understand, engage with, limit or critique the expansive forms of international rule authorised by the responsibility to protect concept.
International Security Studies (ISS) has changed and diversified in many ways since 1945. This book provides the first intellectual history of the development of the subject in that period. It explains how ISS evolved from an initial concern with the strategic consequences of superpower rivalry and nuclear weapons, to its current diversity in which environmental, economic, human and other securities sit alongside military security, and in which approaches ranging from traditional Realist analysis to Feminism and Post-colonialism are in play. It sets out the driving forces that shaped debates in ISS, shows what makes ISS a single conversation across its diversity, and gives an authoritative account of debates on all the main topics within ISS. This is an unparalleled survey of the literature and institutions of ISS that will be an invaluable guide for all students and scholars of ISS, whether traditionalist, 'new agenda' or critical.
This article explores many of the key theoretical and analytical issues attending empirical research on state sovereignty. It reviews recent research on sovereignty, the state, and state-building in an attempt to summarize what we now know or think we know about state sovereignty. Bringing the fruits of that research to bear on the concepts that define state sovereignty, I offer some criteria from which analysts might derive empirically testable propositions about sovereignty's historical status and future prospects. In conclusion, I argue that research on these issues should be (re-) directed to the bedrock of sovereignty: rule making and enforcement authority, or what I call policing.
Alastair Iain Johnston is Assistant Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he is a faculty associate of the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies and the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research. His book, Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Ming China, will be published in 1995 by Princeton University Press. The author wishes to thank the following people for input into various stages of this research: Robert Axelrod, Tom Christensen, Dale Copeland, Peter Katzenstein, Jeff Legro, Kenneth Lieberthal, John Mearsheimer, Michel Oksenberg, Stephen Rosen, and Jack Snyder. This does not mean that they agree with him. Thanks as well to the SSRC/MacArthur Fellowship in Peace and Security and the Institute for the Study of World Politics for financial assistance. 1. Colin Gray, "National Styles in Strategy: The American Example," International Security, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Fall 1981); Colin Gray, Nuclear Strategy and National Style (Lanham, Md.: Hamilton Press, 1986); Carnes Lord, "American Strategic Culture," Comparative Strategy, Vol. 5, No. 3 (1985); Richard Pipes, "Why the Soviet Union Thinks It Could Fight and Win a Nuclear War," Commentary, Vol. 64, No. 1 (July 1977), pp. 21-34. During the early years of the Reagan administration, Gray served as an adviser to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, while Pipes was in the National Security Council. Pipes was also a member of Team B, the hawkish group of outside advisers to then-CIA director George Bush, which along with the Committee on the Present Danger (of which Pipes and Gray were both members) comprised influential proponents of war-fighting-war-winning nuclear capabilities to counter the alleged Soviet preference for war-fighting nuclear doctrines. Their views were the basis of strategic culture-like arguments made by the Reagan administration about the nature of the Soviet threat. See "Soviet Strategic Objectives: An Alternative View, Report of Team 'B'" (December 1976), in Donald P. Steury, compiler, Estimates on Soviet Military Power 1954-1984 (Washington, D.C.: Central Intelligence Agency, 1994), pp. 329-335. 2. It is under-determined because strategic culture alone is held to have a strongly deterministic effect on behavior, and over-determined because the concept of strategic culture is viewed as an amalgam of a wide range of (potentially competing) variables or inputs. 3. Joseph S. Nye, Jr., and Sean M. Lynn-Jones, "International Security Studies: A Report on a Conference on the State of the Field," International Security, Vol. 12, No. 4 (Spring 1988), pp. 14-15. See also Ken Booth, Strategy and Ethnocentrism (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1979). 4. See Jonathan Adelman and Chih-yu Shih, Symbolic War: The Chinese Use of Force 1840-1980 (Taipei: Institute of International Relations, 1993); and David T. Twining, "Soviet Strategic Culture—The Missing Dimension," Intelligence and National Security, Vol. 4, No. 1 (1989), pp. 169-187. 5. All terms are taken from James March, "Bounded Rationality, Ambiguity and Engineering of Choice," The Bell Journal of Economics, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Autumn 1978), pp. 590-592. 6. Thomas C. Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980). A burgeoning literature, however, points out that in multiple equilibria games (e.g., coordination games, iterated prisoners' dilemma games, etc.), ideational variables may explain why players' expectations converge on certain equilibria, and how initial preferences and perceived payoffs are defined. See James D. Johnson, Symbol and Strategy: On the Cultural Analysis of Politics (University of Chicago, Ph.D. dissertation, 1991). 7. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, The War Trap (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1981), pp. 29-30 and 64; John A. Vasquez, "Capability, Types of War, Peace," Western Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 39, No. 2 (June 1986), p. 321; John A. Vasquez, "Foreign Policy Learning and War," in Charles Hermann, et al., eds., New Directions in the Study of Foreign Policy (Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1987), pp. 367-368. This quick summary admittedly imputes to realist theory far more consistency about state preferences than really exists in the theory. The assumption that states prefer to maximize power, not simply seek mere survival, is controversial, but without it realist models of strategic choice become indeterminate, just as economic expected utility approaches become harder to model without...
This article tries to analyze Chinese policy stance on the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) concept from two levels: its basic attitude towards the core principles of this concept and its specific attitudes towards the execution of this concept, that is, the international intervention actions. Starting from the clarification of the RtoP concept, the article analyzes the maintenance and change of China's stance on state sovereign and non-interference principle. In the third part, four features of Chinese specific attitudes on intervention actions are abstracted, including cautiousness, aversion of military means, emphasis of UN authority and local support. Then the article further examines China's policy during the Libyan war, and finds that it basically follows the above framework.