Adding Certainty to an Uncertain World
H.E. CONG Peiwu, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to Canada
July 24, 2020
Canadians have a special affection for the maple leaf flag as it is a symbol of nationhood and unity. This important national symbol was promoted by the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson, Canada’s 14th prime minister. In addition to this tangible flag, Mr. Pearson has raised an invisible one on the international stage that is equally representative of Canadian values and the Canada’s international image. This ‘invisible flag’ is the banner of United Nations peacekeeping, which is a symbol of multilateralism.
United Nations peacekeeping is a great cause which embodies multilateralism and international solidarity and it is an important safeguard of world peace and stability.
Canada was one of the first countries in the world to participate in UN peacekeeping operations. In the 1990s, Canadian peacekeepers were deployed on almost all UN peacekeeping operations and the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF). In this current era, the Canadian government continues to attach great importance to UN peacekeeping. While contributing troops to UN peacekeeping operations, Canada also actively cooperates in the field of peacekeeper training in conjunction with more than 30 countries, including China.
China, like Canada, has always pursued a policy of multilateralism and actively participated in United Nations peacekeeping operations. This year marks the 93rd anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the 30th anniversary of Chinese military participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations. Chinese soldiers have repeatedly demonstrated to the world with tangible actions that China, as a world power firmly upholds multilateralism and lives up to its stated objective of maintaining peace and security both regionally and globally.
Over the past 30 years, China has participated in 25 United Nations peacekeeping operations, deploying a total of over 40,000 officers and soldiers. To date, 15 Chinese peacekeepers have made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of world peace. Dozens more have been wounded or injured. Today, China has become the largest troop contributor among the five permanent members of the Security Council and the second largest financial contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget. More than 2,500 Chinese peacekeepers are presently serving on seven United Nations missions and at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Moreover, united under the banner of multilateralism, the Chinese military has also provided many other public security services within its capabilities for the international community. Since December 2008, with the authorization of the United Nations, the Chinese naval escort fleet has dispatched more than 100 warships in 34 separate deployments to missions in the Gulf of Aden and Somali coastal waters. In total these Chinese navy ships have to date escorted more than 6,700 Chinese and foreign ships and deterred more than 3,500 suspected pirate ships.
Since the Chinese hospital ship Peace Ark was commissioned in December 2008, it has been operationally deployed on 9 separate occasions. Thus far, Peace Ark has sailed more than 240,000 nautical miles, visited 43 countries and regions and in the course of her duties, provided much needed medical services to more than 230,000 people.
Following the sudden onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, the PLA has provided anti-epidemic supplies to the military forces of more than 20 countries. Chinese military medical experts have also held video conferences to exchange experience in COVID-19 containment with more than 10 foreign militaries, thereby contributing to the international effort in the fight against this deadly pandemic.
The few quick facts mentioned above are only a microcosm of the Chinese military’s efforts to not only safeguard multilateralism but to also maintain world peace. The development of China’s military capabilities contributes to the growth of the world’s peace enforcement forces. Serving multilateralism, maintaining world peace and promoting common development has become the primary objectives of China’s national defence in this new era.
Back in the 1950s, when Prime Minister Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he suggested that “We are now emerging into an age, when different civilizations will have to learn to live side by side in peaceful interchange, learning from each other, studying each other’s history and ideals, art and culture, mutually enriching each other’s lives. The alternative, in this overcrowded little world, is misunderstanding, tension, clash, and catastrophe.”
Such an era has arrived, but unfortunately, misunderstandings and prejudices have also come with it. The rivalry between the major powers has never been more intense; the risk of armed conflict has intensified, nationalism and populism have spread and raged, and protectionism, unilateralism and hegemony have become more rampant, moving against the tide of multilaterism. The sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the rise of these unstable and uncertain factors.
At this time, all countries are living in a world where their interests are closely integrated and their destinies are closely connected. In the face of the complex global challenges, the world seems at a loss as to in which direction it should be heading. China firmly believes in the philosophy of united we stand, divided we fall, and multilateralism not only points the right way forward, it also serves as an aspiration for the international community to collectively embrace.
Adding certainty to an uncertain world is the common responsibility of the international community and more importantly, it’s the duty of the military of a responsible major power. A peaceful, stable and prosperous China is in everyone’s best interest and of benefit to the entire world. Similarly, an efficient and effective Chinese military provides a key pillar in maintaining world peace and stability.
An old Chinese adage states, “It is difficult to lift a heavy object alone; it is easier if you do it with many others.” Standing at a new starting point in history, the Chinese military is ready to join the militaries of other peace-loving countries to continue to uphold multilateralism. We will continuously stay committed to our international responsibilities, and actively contribute to building a community to benefit the shared future of mankind.