Briefly, China is actively expanding into the world and has been for several years. Here’s a quick look at a few examples of China reaching out to improve their image and gain expeditionary experience.
[In October 2008], the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) accepted its first purpose-built floating hospital, the 10,000-ton "Ship 866." While seemingly innocuous on the surface, ships like this are windows into an evolving military strategy for an emerging world power. Hospital ships can be used for a wide range of missions, from supporting full-scale amphibious assaults against heavily defended targets, to humanitarian "soft-power" expeditions winning hearts and minds.
And Ship 866 returns to the news this week in The Washington Times, China tries ‘soft power’ with aid ship:
Ship 866 makes "the country one of the few in the world that has medical care and emergency rescue capabilities on the high seas while also raising the capability of the Chinese navy to accomplish diversified military missions," the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily said recently.
Last week, China organized a “fifth peacekeeping team for Sudan”:
The team comprises 375 officers and soldiers who come from engineering and transportation corps of the Jinan Military Command Area. Of the team, 72 people will be on their second mission to the African country and 90 percent have participated in fighting against freak winter weather and the Wenchuan earthquake.
In 2005, China was the 15th largest contributor of forces, moving earlier this year to 12th, helped no doubt by increasing its contribution to 1,000 in Lebanon in 2006 to raise its profile in both the Middle East and Europe. In all likelihood, China moved up in 2008, but I haven’t looked. See also Who are the UN Peacekeepers?
And then in January 2006, China announced a public diplomacy strategy for Africa:
China, the largest developing country in the world, follows the path of peaceful development and pursues an independent foreign policy of peace. China stands ready to develop friendly relations and cooperation with all countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence so as to contribute to peace, stability and common prosperity around the world.
- Bonny Ling’s China’s Peacekeeping Diplomacy (2007)