- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 30, 2004

Later this month, China will send a peacekeeping force to Haiti as part of the U.N. stabilization mission there. When the force takes shape in a few weeks, it will consist of 125 riot police—a small fraction of the authorized multinational force of 6,700 U.N. soldiers, but still the largest Chinese peacekeeping force ever assembled. It is the first such projection of force by China in the Western Hemisphere.

As it happens, Haiti is one of a handful of countries left that recognizes Taiwan as the legitimate government of China. Haiti does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with Beijing, something the Communist regime has long sought to change. Is Beijing hoping to influence Haiti by establishing military ties through peacekeeping — perhaps gaining favor at the expense of the Taiwanese?

Judging from Beijing’s official statements, it wants the world to think otherwise. “It is inevitable that China is going to play a bigger role in peacekeeping efforts,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters earlier this week. He and his colleagues point to smaller Chinese efforts in Liberia, Kosovo and elsewhere, arguing that Beijing’s committment to peacekeeping is real, and signals a new era of responsible activism in world affairs.

But there are too many firsts associated with this action to think that Mr. Liu is sincere. It is China’s first major peacekeeping effort; its first foray into the United States’ backyard; its first military mission in a country that recognizes Taiwan and not the Communist mainland regime. That’s a lot of firsts for a governing oligarchy that is famously sclerotic in foreign affairs. Beijing has expended too much energy over the years convincing Third World governments to turn against Taiwan for us to think its reigning diplomatic calculus vanished for no apparent reason in the last few years.

The reality is that Beijing still judges interactions with foreign nations by their implications for the conflict with Taiwan and its suppression of Tibet and Xinjiang. The Communist regime still considers those to be internal matters, and it still wants to avoid appearing to meddle in other countries’ internal affairs. No, Beijing’s turn toward peacekeeping is not sincere. We would of course welcome a decision by China to begin fulfilling its international responsibilities as a member of the U.N. Security Council. But there is no shortage of trouble spots around the world where Taiwan is not an issue, and where Beijing’s efforts would be more welcome.

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