The last 130 members of China’s first infantry battalion of 700 peacekeepers set off for South Sudan on Tuesday in Jinan, Shandong province. Among them are 13 female soldiers who will participate in a peacekeeping mission for the first time. Feng Yongbin / China Daily
About 380 more Chinese soldiers will join United Nations peacekeeping missions, bringing the total to nearly 3,100 by the end of this year, the military official overseeing the deployments said.
Li Xiuhua, deputy director of peacekeeping affairs at the Ministry of National Defense, released the plan on Tuesday in Jinan, Shandong province, during ceremonies seeing off the last 130 members of China’s first Infantry Battalion of 700 peacekeepers on their way to South Sudan.
Most of the peacekeepers were between 20 and 30 years old, and several female soldiers were included in the group.
By 2 pm Beijing time on Wednesday, the battalion will land in South Sudan after a 19-hour flight, according to Li Dongxing, deputy division chief of publicity at the Jinan Military Area Command. Its arrival marks the official start of the mission there for China’s first full battalion of peacekeepers, which were requested by the UN.
The troops, all from a Jinan-based contingent, will take on 12 tasks, including safeguarding of civilians and UN personnel and property, carrying out humanitarian operations, as well as patrols, defenses and other guard duty, according to Ding Feng, director of peacekeeping affairs at the Jinan Military Area Command.
With this expected contribution of troops, China will jump from 11th place to seventh among the 121 UN member countries that have sent people to join peacekeeping missions. Most support personnel, such as doctors and technicians, come from China, Li said, and the country now pays about 7 percent of all the peacekeeping expenses, ranking sixth among all members and above all other developing countries.
This year marks China’s 25th anniversary of participation in UN peacekeeping missions. In 1990, it sent five military observers to the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization in the Middle East.
Currently, a total of 30,178 Chinese military personnel, police and civil affairs officials have taken part in UN missions in nine areas: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Lebanon, South Sudan, Sudan’s Darfur, Mali, the Middle East, Cote d’Ivoire and the Western Sahara, Li said. That makes China the biggest contributor to such missions among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Ten Chinese peacekeepers have died during the missions.
“China provides more peacekeepers to the United Nations than all four other permanent members combined. I applaud this solidarity,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in June 2013 while visiting the peacekeeping center of the Ministry of National Defense in Beijing.
“I have seen the bravery of Chinese blue helmets in helping struggling communities around the world,” Ban said, adding that he counted on the country’s continued contribution to world peace.
Yang Zhao, deputy commander of the peacekeeping battalion and the father of an 8-year-old son, said he considered it an honor to serve.
“I am a soldier but also a normal human. I have emotions and desires, too,” Yang said. “I feel honored to go out for my country. I thank my wife and my parents for letting me do this.”
Wu Shuiqing, 32, from Guangdong province, is the wife of a 34-year-old company commander who was about to leave for South Sudan. They have a 7-year-old son.
“It would be a lie to say that I’m not worried about his safety,” Wu said, “but I trust their capabilities. They have been trained for so long for this mission of glory. I’m confident that they will come back safely.”
Timeline: China’s participation in some UN peacekeeping operations
April 1990: First five military observers sent to the UN Truce Supervision Organization.
April 1992: Company of engineers dispatched to Cambodia.
April 2001: Company of engineers and a medical team join the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Oct 2003: Transportation corps, medical team and engineering corps take part in the UN Mission in Liberia.
April 2004: Members of the police take part in the UN Mission in Kosovo.
May 2004: Riot police take part in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti.
April 2005: Peacekeeping forces take part in the UN Mission in Sudan.
March 2006: Expands peacekeeping to the Middle East by taking part in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon.
Feb 2011: Sends personnel to the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus.
April 2012: Participates in the UN Supervision Mission in Syria.
April 2013: Contributes military personnel to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali.
Source: United Nations Peacekeeping; Ministry of National Defense of PRC