China has recently been ramping up its military engagement overseas, shedding its traditional stance of non-interference. Most of its 3,100 peacekeepers stationed around the world are in Africa, where Chinese investment, trade, and other forms of engagement have also grown. Last year, China pledged to increase its peacekeeping force to 8,000 troops and promised to use funds from its $1 billion peace and development fund for such missions.

But deaths like that of Li and Yang in South Sudan, which follow that of another Chinese peacekeeper in Mali on May 31, complicate that commitment. And China’s various interests in South Sudan, where it first began sending peacekeepers in 2006, also muddy the waters.

The state-owned National Petroleum Corp holds a 40% stake in the joint venture that runs South Sudan’s oil fields, which have become a hub for illegal wildlife trafficking. At the same time, China North Industries Group, a Chinese weapons manufacturer better known as Norinco, has sold at least $38 million in missiles, guns, grenade launchers and more to South Sudan, arms that may have been used against China’s own peacekeepers.

Before Sunday’s attack, 16 Chinese nationals had been killed while on UN peacekeeping missions. As well as the outrage on social media, some Chinese users expressed their respect for the fallen, calling them heroes and posting images candles and hands clasped in prayer.

“Even in times of peace there is sacrifice,” said one Weibo user whose comment was liked over 1,000 times. “We should cheer peace and salute the soldiers.”

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