Xi Jinping made a series of surprisingly ambitious commitments during his first address to the United Nations as Chinese president.
China, said Xi, will donate $1 billion to a UN “peace and development fund,” and contribute $100 million to the African Union to establish an emergency-response unit. It will also commit 8,000 UN peacekeepers to the “Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System,” a newly formed (pdf) rapid-deployment standby force.
It’s not clear whether the 8,000 will replace or come in addition to the over 3,000 peacekeepers China has already committed to the UN. Either way, it will make China one of the largest contributors of any country.
Atop the list of contributors is poor but exemplary Bangladesh; notably absent are any UN Security Council members but China. France is the next-largest contributing council member on the list with a measly 900 or so peacekeepers. The US, meanwhile, only contributes about 70. This all comes as China accounts for a growing share of the UN’s budget. Of course, all of these countries—China included—have far larger defense budgets than the likes of Bangladesh and Ethiopia, and could be contributing much more.
Xi seemed to be saying two things with his UN address. First, China is a responsible power. Second, it aims to be a voice for developing countries. “China’s vote in the United Nations will always belong to the developing countries,” Xi said. He backed that statement up by pledging $100 million in military aid to the African Union over the next five years.
The announcements can also be interpreted as China more assertively pursuing its goals on the world stage. Its donation to and defense of African countries fits nicely, after all, with its strong economic interests across the continent.