NOTEWORTHY ARTICLE ON CHINA
China has agreed to send peacekeepers to the hellish warzone of the Eastern Congo where the rebels have added cannibalism to a repetoire that includes rape and mutilation to better terrorize civilians. From the AP via the Washington Post:
BEIJING, Feb. 11 -- China is poised to dispatch a detachment of troops on a U.N. peacekeeping mission for the first time in a decade, a sign of the country's increasing interest in extending its influence overseas.
A company of 175 soldiers from an engineering battalion and 43 soldiers from a medical unit will be sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The deployment will mark the first U.N. mission with Chinese troop participation since 800 engineering soldiers went to Cambodia from 1992 to 1994. On Monday, the People's Liberation Army allowed two busloads of foreign journalists rare access to a military base 60 miles north of the capital, greeting them with a marching band, chanting soldiers and a briefing from smiling officers.
"China has joined the World Trade Organization, we're uniting with all global institutions," said Col. Huang Wenfeng, one of the officers preparing for the mission, "so it's only natural that the People's Liberation Army should also open to the outside world."
The deployment is unusual because it will test the army's logistical capacity. From Beijing, it takes almost two days to reach Bukavu, along the border with Rwanda in eastern Congo, where troops will be based.
The deployment represents a victory of sorts for the Foreign Affairs Ministry and more progressive elements within the army that have been pushing for more peacekeeping operations overseas. Other than the Cambodian deployment, China has restricted its participation in U.N. exercises to dispatching about 650 military intelligence officers to serve as military observers and two groups of police officers to serve in East Timor and Bosnia. China rejected requests to send troops to Afghanistan following the defeat of the Taliban, saying that the operation was not under a U.N. command.
"Deployments such as these will help with the professionalization of the police and the army, so I always support this process," said Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Beijing University. "China's participation in peacekeeping operations will change how China understands international problems."
China is showcasing its desire to play a bigger role in U.N. peacekeeping operations as the United States is perceived to be challenging the United Nations in Iraq. Senior Col. Dai Shaoan, the deputy director of the newly constituted Peacekeeping Department at the National Defense Ministry, said China late last year informed the United Nations that it was placing an engineering battalion, two transport companies and a medical unit on standby for U.N. operations. However, Dai said China is still reticent about sending armed units abroad for peacekeeping.
For the last several years, Britain, Australia, France, Canada and Germany have pressured China to increase its peacekeeping participation. Britain trained some Chinese police for international duty but had to ban them from British roads because their driving was "problematic," one Western diplomat said.
"The more China is involved in the real world and recognizes the complexity of it, the better idea they will have of how the real world works," said one Western military attaché whose government has pressured China to dispatch more troops abroad. "We're almost trying to embarrass them. We say, there are five permanent members of the Security Council. Everyone else deploys lots of peacekeepers, where are you?"
China's attitude toward peacekeeping wasn't always so positive. When China rejoined the Security Council, in the 1970s, it refused to pay peacekeeping dues; it didn't start to pay them until 1989. At the time, China vowed it would never send its troops overseas.
But as Dai explained, "the international situation is changing all the time and each country is changing as well."