Chinese Studies
2013. Vol.2, No.1, 43-49
Published Online February 2013 in SciRes
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 43
The Role of the Chinese Media in Establishing Common
Ground between Sino-African Philosophical Traditions:
A Case Study on Peacekeeping Operations
Fanie Herman1, Andrew Szanajda2
1Graduate Institute of International Politics, National ChungHsin University, Taichung, Chinese Taipei
2Overseas Chinese University, Taichung, C h inese Taipei
Email: tokkief@yahoo. com
Received November 15th, 2012; revised December 16th, 2012; accepted December 22nd, 2012
This work examines the role of the Chinese media in African peacekeeping operations (PKOs) in view of
Chinese and African traditions that are combined through the concept of communitarianism. The values
and belief systems of Confucianism and the African philosophy of Ubuntu in the peacekeeping environ-
ment stress the importance of focusing on collective achievements and producing results for the common
good. Meanwhile, positive reporting is used as media approach to harmonize interaction between the
peacekeepers and the parties in a conflict. As a result, as similar communal features are emphasized, value
is added to China’s peacekeeping presence and confidence-building is encouraged. The Chinese media
also has a good resonance on the perspectives of Africans toward China’s PKOs.
Keywords: Peacekeeping Operations (PKOs); Communitarianism; Confucius; Ubuntu; Positive Reporting
In recent years, the Chinese media has become an important
player in African Peacekeeping Operations (PKOs) as it is de-
ployed within the peacekeeping environment to foster the im-
age of China as a peaceful and harmonious society. In conjunc-
tion with the belief and value system of Confucianism and the
African tradition of Ubuntu, whether the media plays any role
in connecting the two traditions into an understanding of com-
munitarianism is to be determined. Positive reporting as media
practice can strengthen basic forms of assistance, help in con-
fidence-building, facilitate power-sharing arrangements, act as
an election support tool, enforce the rule of law, and is a useful
instrument to guide societies in underdeveloped states to paths
of development. In addition, perspectives from citizens of mis-
sion countries place emphasis on cooperative mechanisms that
can positively influence interaction with Chinese peacekeepers.
This work, thus, describes the role and influence of Chinese
media reporting in Africa PKOs, shedding light on a conceptu-
alizing of Confucianism and Ubuntu, examples of theoretical
considerations in practice, perspectives from African citizens
and the collective impact on the community.
Conceptualizing Ubuntu and Confucianism
Communitarianism emphasizes the need to balance individ-
ual rights and interests with that of the community as a whole,
and argues that individual citizens are led by the cultures and
values of their communities (Harwood, 1996: Chp. 3). The core
of Confucianism lies in its emphasis on human capability of
being taught to improve personal and communal behavior. In
communities where these virtues are the standard norms, Chi-
nese peacekeepers have a tendency to judge the correctness of
their behavior according to their own morals and cultural norms.
What discerns their contribution from other contingents is the
manner in which self-cultivation and self-creation are set as
personal goals. Acting properly within the group can enrich
one’s own life and those of others, and thereby uphold cardinal
moral values. This also leads to gaining a personal sense of
fulfillment, righteous behavior and the moral disposition to do
what is right. The instilment of Confucianism in the actions of
Chinese peacekeepers thus plays a central role in their peace-
keeping activities among local populations. David Shinn, a
scholar of Sino-African relations noted: “China emphasizes the
family and society’s collective interests over the interests of the
individual. China is less concerned about individual civil and
political liberties and more concerned with collective human
rights and their impact on the community. China’s stated goal is
a society free from want and one that eventually achieves mod-
erate prosperity. This approach provides China with an alterna-
tive human rights theory to the one encouraged by the West and
is shared by many Africans as morally and socially correct”
(Shinn, 2012). An article in the Christian Science Monitor,
written by renowned Chinese scholar, Lin Yutang (林语堂)
held the same belief as U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull that
moral order was crucial for peace (Fu, 2012).
Reports from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) state that
an official rehabilitation of Confucius has been undertaken
(Dotson, 2011). One of the stated goals of this measure is to
assert China’s desire for a harmonious society and for peaceful
development at home and abroad (Dotson, 2011). Scholars note
that Confucianism does not represent a key moral value of the
recent modernization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)
and that values change according to information needs from
militaries worldwide, but Dotsan (2011) argues that the revival
of Confucianism in state propaganda as a national icon of
China’s traditional culture, as well as a symbol of the Party’s
concern for public welfare and international image, serves as a
link for peacekeepers to promote a positive image of the coun-
try abroad. The implication of this range of vision for Chinese
peacekeepers is that they can justify their actions on the prem-
ise of humanitarian aid and assistance to mission areas. This is
an imaginative insight for Africans to receive Chinese goodwill
and sincerity, and highlights how contacts between peacekeep-
ers and local populations can be based on philosophical
Moral obligations found in Confucianism are likewise re-
flected in African moral values with regard to the collective
interests of communities that outweigh those of individuals. A
central value of the philosophy of Ubuntu is that “a person is a
person through other persons” (Botman, 2012). This concerns
whether individual rights are primary and cannot be violated for
any reason, or whether individuals should instead pursue values
regarding the common good. The community in Africa has
priority over the individual, and is defined by the community’s
interests, and not by qualities such as rationality, will, or mem-
ory (Gyekye, 1997). Both Africans and Chinese are born into a
community and express their association by sharing obligations,
values, and communal interests. Thus, members of these sepa-
rate communities often invest intellectual, ideological, and
emotional attachment in the community, and engage in recip-
rocal social relations within the family, clan, village, ethnic
group, neighborhood, city, and nation. The idea of community
implies a common good, which is not merely the combination
of individual interests, but shared values, working together to
meet the necessities of life and community values, which
thereby do not refer to all of the values a community shares:
peace, freedom, respect, dignity, security, and satisfaction.
Moderate communitarianism emphasizes social values, such as
peace, harmony, stability, solidarity, mutuality, and reciprocity
(Gyekye, 2004: p. 16). For instance, two of the most influential
West African moral philosophers maintain: “The fundamental
meaning of community is the sharing of an overall way of life,
inspired by the notion of the common good” and “every mem-
ber is expected to consider him/herself an integral part of the
whole and to play an appropriate role towards achieving the
good of all” (Gbadegesin, 1991: p. 65). Confucianism and Ub-
untu thus both provide a conceptual framework for an interrela-
tion of norms and values that promotes the common good; an
increase in the understanding of each other’s environments, and
the role that has to be played in such an environment; an intuit-
tive interplay of the mind without reasoning, with the focus
often being on non-verbal forms of communication that can
lead to subjective thoughts of feeling entity or sharing identical
characteristics. In verbal communication, it is possible that
ideas, opinions and language can be exchanged, but by contex-
tualizing the actions of the peacekeepers in the mission areas,
discourse is centered on learning from observing, and not by
direct conversation. Interaction strengthens interpersonal rela-
tionships, increases mutual respect, and solidifies common
goals and outcomes. Of paramount importance is the extension
of advancing peace, harmony and humanism through positive
reporting as a media approach.
Manner of Investigation
Empirical evidence in the form of interaction in peacekeep-
ing societies may establish whether a relationship exists be-
tween Ubuntu and Confucianism and if communitarianism is
promoted by media reporting. This relationship is tested by
analyzing media reports on Chinese peacekeeping activities and
interviews with citizens of countries where Chinese troops are
involved. The interviews present eye-witness accounts of how
Africans view the presence of Chinese peacekeeping troops,
while positive reporting by the Chinese media portray the
country’s intentions to bring about peace and stability, if the
available data can shed light on coalescing factors between
these two views. The countries under discussion are: the West-
ern Sahara (MINURSO mission), Liberia (UNMIL mission),
the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), Darfur
(UNAMID) and Sudan (UNMISS). The following questions
were asked and the responses integrated into the research de-
sign. The point is to show that local populations have diverse
opinions and feelings on the presence of Chinese peacekeeping
troops, but most of the respondents agreed that communal val-
ues are exemplified though mutual interaction and communica-
1) What are the views of the local populations in the Western
Sahara, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo on
humanist philosophies? While a connection between Confu-
cianism and Ubuntu is explained in this work, a general view
on humanism and the moral practice to be good citizens in the
countries mentioned are also taken as valid opinions. The inter-
viewed subjects all agreed that Ubuntu as a philosophical tradi-
tion is universally understood in the African context.
2) Are humanism and communal values spread and main-
tained in the post-conflict societies? This question was asked to
establish if peace and the moral goods are pursued and as a
stepping stone for further researching the links with Confucian-
3) How do the local populations in the countries under inves-
tigation view the presence of Chinese peacekeeping troops, and
do they possess attributes that are different from other peace-
keeping contingents? A common answer was that the local
populations in these societies welcome the peacekeeping troops
and see them as instruments of change.
4) Do interaction between the local populations and the Chi-
nese peacekeeping troops promote the common good? Of vital
concern is looking at distinctive qualities of the two philoso-
phies that are mutually shared.
5) Who benefits the most from the interaction and what do
the different groups learn from each other? The motivation is
that both groups do not only see each other as outsiders, but as
friends and compatriots. A bonding exists that is not always
observable through physical interaction, but by means of caring
about the livelihood of fellow human beings.
In order to examine the practical application for the study
under investigation, it is useful to first look at the role of the
Chinese media in the context of PKOs. Factors that shed light
on media coverage are: 1) the Chinese government’s stance on
positive reporting that finds expression in the grand external
propaganda strategy initiated by president Hu Jintao in 2005; 2)
and the value of interaction between peacekeepers and the local
population that strengthens the connection between Ubuntu and
Confucianism. A detailed account of the answers to the ques-
tions is then given in the section that deals with African views
on Chinese peacekeeping troops.
The Chinese Media in the Context of PKOs
The Chinese Ministry of Defense revealed that news cover-
age of the country’s PKOs strives to be objective and focuses
on positive news, and to present a correct image of China, its
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
culture and its plans on the continent. China’s African PKOs
are characterized by a strong devotion to upholding the princi-
ples of peace and harmony, which improves two-way flow of
communication. China is aware that PKOs occur in a multi-
national operational environment where the world can observe
their peacekeeping actions and where foreign observers take a
less criticizing stance on the country’s international image. The
general consent is that the political elites in post-conflict socie-
ties hesitate to oppose China’s media reporting. Nearly all mis-
sion-area countries agree that the press should focus on collec-
tive achievements, and mobilize public support for the state,
rather than report so-called “negative news”. In the words of a
BBC news reporter: “The Chinese media will leave a footprint
on Africa, just as the BBC has been doing for many years”
(China’s Media Footprint in Africa, 2012). Assuming that the
media is used as a propaganda tool to influence the hearts and
minds of the local populations and expose the parties to the
conflict to the outside world must not be underestimated. The
media is often criticized as not being in touch with the desires,
issues and problems in these societies because of strict gov-
ernment control on what journalists can say and not. On the
contrary, Chinese media reporting in the peacekeeping areas
broadens socio-cultural perspectives, and helps in attaining
sustainable building blocks for the transition to a post-conflict
society. Whether these objectives can be achieved without rig-
orous, aggressive media reporting and use of propaganda tech-
niques is subject to debate. In addition, Chinese media report-
ing on African PKOs complements the soft power initiative
launched by President Hu Jintao in 2005, also called the Grand
External Propaganda Strategy (Pan, 2006). A derivative of this
initiative is the spreading of China’s influence through cultural
and language programs in peacekeeping areas, such as Confu-
cius institutes and cultural exchange programs. Media interven-
tion in peacekeeping areas also gives the Chinese government a
greater voice in the international media, as well as supplanting
what it considers to be biased western media sources on Chi-
nese PKOs. The aim of the project, which are to seize the ini-
tiative, gain the right to speak, maintain an active role, and
grasp the power to raise the appeal of China’s positions in pub-
lic opinion and international broadcasting, are perfectly sound
goals and conform to China’s African strategy (Pan, 2006). A
fair description of seizing the initiative is the intensity with
which Chinese peacekeepers perform their duties in relation to
other peacekeeping contingents working in the same mission
Peacekeeper to civilian relationships can be built on charac-
teristics that are distinct to the environment in which interaction
takes place and not necessarily linked to the motivations of the
politicians or a peacekeeping policy or strategy (Singh, 2009).
Feedback from the conflict areas can further strengthen the
interaction between the peacekeepers and the civilian popula-
tion. By focusing on specific points of discussion, such as the
meaning of interpersonal communication and the value both
groups attach in learning from each other, it is possible to de-
note a common understanding of the environment and the pro-
motion of harmony. Although China and the West differ on the
concept of humanitarian intervention in peacekeeping areas, it
is not to say that Chinese peacekeepers and humanitarians do
not communicate or work together on protection. In contexts
such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Su-
dan, Darfur and Chad, Chinese peacekeepers and individuals in
the humanitarian community do interact around protection is-
sues, but their relationship can often be best described as one of
co-existence rather than a meaningful desire to implement co-
ordination strategies (Lilly, 2010). As indicated by peacekeep-
ing commentators, having reliable and verified information is
the cornerstone of effective protection work. Chinese peace-
keeping missions in this regard have enormous potential to
collect information on protection risks, and peacekeepers on the
ground often see the merit of establishing relations with local
populations (Lilly, 2010). It is in these situations, where issues
that have an impact on the community are addressed and the
moral teachings of Confucius and the humanitarian principles
of Ubuntu become interconnected with the aspirations and
goals of the post-conflict societies. By looking at the essence of
what is presented in the media, it becomes clear that China is
gradually realizing that peacekeeping missions can help bolster
socio-cultural interaction based on similarities in p hil oso ph ies .
Chinese media reporting in PKOs highlight some of the suc-
cess stories based on positive reporting. These success stories
are categorized in four themes and presented in the next section.
They are: negotiation skills and peace support; contributions
made in the field of disease control and medical assistance;
accomplishments in building or repairing infrastructure; suc-
cesses in cultural exchanges that have promoted friendly rela-
tions between the Chinese peaceke epe rs a nd l oc al popula tio ns .
Examples of Theoretical Considerations
in Practice
The contributions that have been made by Chinese peace-
keepers reflect Confucian values in practice, and have likewise
been recognized by African host countries. The negotiation and
conflict resolution skills of Chinese peacekeepers are not only
recognized by the UN, but also by individual governments. As
the following example indicates, the Sudanese government
significantly praised the actions of the Chinese peacekeepers.
The relations between China and Sudan had withstood the test
of time since the establishment of the bilateral diplomatic rela-
tions. The two sides trust, support and assist each other, form-
ing a friendship and all around cooperation. Sudanese govern-
ment officials have expressed their gratitude to the Chinese
government for dispatching peacekeeping troops to Sudan, and
have maintained that China was helping Sudan to realize peace.
The governor of the South Darfur State even expressed that he
would make all-out efforts to ensure the safety of the Chinese
peacekeeping troops, and offer various forms of assistance and
support if necessary (Yang, 2012). The conflict resolution skills
of Chinese peacekeeping officials were promptly illustrated
with the role that Major-General, Zhao Jingmin the military
head in MINURSO played. The PLA Daily reported: “Zhao
Jingmin was praised for his tireless efforts in improving the
stability of military departments, and also emphasized his ef-
fective negotiation skills that contributed to useful interactions
between conflict parties” (Lin, 2011: p. 3).
Another concrete contribution that Chinese peacekeepers
make is in the field of disease control and medical assistance.
Alain Le Roy, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping
Operations remarked: “In a country with a high occurrence rate
of malaria, the Chinese class II hospital has done a very impor-
tant job for the health of the peacekeepers from all participating
countries, and the Chinese military doctors make malaria not
fearful any longer” (Wu, 2009, p. 3). The Chinese medical de-
tachment to the UNMIL has made use of their expertise to treat
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 45
members of other peacekeeping forces and locals for a number
of illnesses. The nurses of the medical detachment have rapidly
become known as the “angels in white” by the local population
for their dedication to render assistance to the ill and disabled.
In addition, Chinese doctors distributed nearly 1000 boxes of
anti-malaria drugs to local people, winning wide praise from
the local government and people (Dong, 2009: p. 5). “The Chi-
nese people are always our most sincere friends!” said Grace-
Mahlongo, president of the Wau Charity Hospital of Sudan,
expressing her gratitude to Zhang Zuojian, the commander of
the Chinese peacekeeping medical detachment to Sudan (Chi-
nese Peacekeeping Nurses in Liberia, 2009: p. 5). Madam
Marata from the Congo who is in charge of the SOS children
village in the Bukavu mission area has said: “I feel very happy
because during the past seven years since the PLA started to
send peacekeeping medical attachments to the Congo (K), the
Chinese peacekeeping medical attachment has offered medical
service, food, clothes and other support. We are grateful for the
help from the Chinese second-class hospital” (Zhang, 2012).
Medical assistance thus builds person-to-person relations be-
tween Chinese and Africans, is beneficial to both sides, and is
seen as a tangible action for serving the public good.
There have also been successes in building infrastructure. In
recognition of the conspicuous contributions made by Chinese
troops in pushing the peace process in the Congo, the highest
executive official of the eastern zone of MONUC at a medal-
conferring ceremony has said: “The Chinese peacekeeping
troops improved the road infrastructure and medical condition
in south Kivu area with their practical actions” (Xu & Wu,
2009: p. 4). The Chinese engineering detachment to UNMIL
repaired a major transportation road in one of the mission’s
sections after heavy rains and caused the traffic to flow nor-
mally again. This action was praised by locals who traverse the
road on a daily basis. During the heavy rains, a few villagers
were rescued from possible drowning after they attempted to
cross a river in flood. This rescue operation by the Chinese
Peacekeeping Engineering Detachment (CPND) was seen as an
act of extreme bravery by the UNMIL command. A notice
recommending the action and selfless help provided by the
CPND was circulated among the other divisions by UNMIL.
Zhang Jian, a non-commissioned officer from the CPND, dis-
played the fine quality of the Chinese blue-helmet soldiers by
saving a child who was already su bmerg ed under water and was
near drowning. He said: “I’m a blue-helmet soldier and I’m
glad to work for the peacekeeping. In the eyes of foreign ser-
vicemen in the same profession, Chinese peacekeeping ser-
vicemen are the synonym of outstanding skills” (Luo, 2009: p.
There have also been successes in cultural exchanges that
have promoted friendly relations between the Chinese peace-
keepers and local populations, which have further contributed
to respect generated by Africans and Chinese serving abroad.
Exchange activities with local students took place in December
2011, when students from the Young Students Development
Committee of Bukavu and peacekeepers from the thirteenth
Chinese peacekeeping detachment performed traditional dances
and sang songs together as parts of cultural and art exchange.
Both sides praised the mutual interaction as impressive, and a
gesture to build relationships. An insight was gained into each
other’s traditions and cultures, and the exchanges also showed
that the peacekeepers make a difference in the countries or
areas where they are stationed. They are viewed by the local
people not only as the “blue helmets”, but also as friends and
partners in changing stereotypes and building a better future for
all (Zhao & Li, 2012). Chinese peacekeepers in Darfur also
strengthened the training on dialogue in foreign languages and
psychological qualities that raised the troops’ language com-
munication abilities. The construction of a primary school in
South-Darfur by the engineering corps is a major boost for the
image of the Chinese peacekeepers in the region. It shows the
sincerity of the peacekeepers to not only complete required
tasks, but also to make additional efforts to win the support of
the Darfurians. These educational institutions will play an im-
portant role in promoting the local culture and social develop-
ment (Yang, 2009: p. 4).
The next section on African views on Chinese peacekeepers
is significant for two reasons. First, the moral obligations of
soldiers to protect, serve and keep the peace as guided by the
values described above is put into practice by eye-witness ac-
counts of Africans. Second, the accounts are taken from a broad
spectrum of citizens in post-conflict societies, highlights that
the link between theory and practice is not coincidental and
presents a glance on reality that enforces the credibility of the
research under investigation.
African Views on Chinese Peacekeepers
The first country where a firsthand account of the African
views on Chinese peacekeepers is presented, is Liberia. Chinese
peacekeepers operate under the mandate of the UNMIL mission
and according to a Liberian citizen1, they are considered to be
committed and professional in the task they perform. Besides
the economic influence of China in Liberia, where strong
foundations for trade and investments contributes to maintain-
ing a sound relationship, peacekeeping troops are viewed as
nat u r al m e d ia t o rs of t h e p eace. In the opinion of the interlocutor,
Liberian’s view on humanist philosophies is to establish
peaceful coexistence where security and equal justice benefits
all the citizens. She remarked Chinese peacekeepers desire that
common ground between all the parties to the peace be reached
and that they make a generous effort in doing this. It is very
important that China should maintain the mission’s mandate
and have peacekeepers act as unbiased agents. Whether com-
munitarianism can be promoted depends on whether the local
population and the peacekeeping troops respect fundamental
human rights, which will make it possible for the common good
to be achieved. Interaction between Liberians and peacekeeping
troops basically concerns their common humanity and the
moral obligation to feel empathy at the sight of the sufferings of
fellow human beings. This sense of empathy in turn can lead to
a form of moral action that strongly reflects on the philosophies
advocated by Confucius and Ubuntu. She does not feel that any
group benefits more from the interaction, but only that the two
groups have some kind of moral obligation towards one another
and the simple fact that a moral system is forged through mu-
tual interaction. For example, if the Chinese troops did not act
out of moral obligations, how would Liberians perceive them?
It would mean Liberians could not trust the troops and their
presence would be one of only considering their own interest.
Finally both parties are open to the idea to the fact that they are
1Interview with Liberian national, Zambia, Lusaka, 10 July , 2012.
2Interview w ith Liberian national.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
capable of love, friendship, solidarity, and tolerance2.
The Western Sahara (MINURSO)
An official at the Sahrawian Sahraouian Embassy (Western
Sahara) in Pretoria, South Africa, commented that Western
Saharans basically ascribe to moral obligations proclaimed by
Muslim philosophy (the Quran), but also accept the humanist
character of Ubuntu3. What is important for citizens in Western
Sahara is to be kind, honorable and humble to one’s fellow
human beings, keep one’s promises, be honest and fair in one’s
interactions and not be arrogant in one’s claims or beliefs.
These are moral obligations and beliefs that are also shared by
Ubuntu. Western Saharans attempt to live according to the
Muslim moral obligetions, and these values are maintained
under the present peacekeeping conditions. The community,
however, is difficult to unite because of the fighting and the
unstable situation creates conditions for deviation from one’s
beliefs and a breakup of community values. This official per-
ceives the Chinese peacekeepers as agents of good and those
who are against their presence are elements of corruption and
sin. The functions of peacekeepers are part and parcel of de-
noting development and improvement in the country and are
seen as Godly acts worthy of praise and reward. The Chinese
peacekeepers are praised for their hard work and dedication,
and deserve to be called special keepers of the peace. The
kindness and humbleness of Chinese peacekeepers stand out as
distinctive attributes, while showing that African and Asian
values on humanism share a common understanding. Nobody
benefits more from the interaction as the qualities of honesty
and fairness are promoted. This expresses the mutual interac-
tion between the two groups4.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO)
Living a life that reveres the values of humanism and re-
specting African philosophical traditions is different in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) than in any of the
other peacekeeping missions in Africa, according to remarks
made by a Congolese businessman5. The situation in the Congo
is in flux and the African philosophy of Pan-Africanism is
probably the only humanist tradition Congolese understand.
After so many years of fighting, there is one desire, and that is
the unification of the country and the people living there. There
is not much to speak of community values because the war torn
families apart and it is difficult to restore faith and trust in bro-
ken communities. Survival, family integration and avoiding
contact with the vicious and marauding rebel groups are char-
acteristic of people’s daily lives. Congolese citizens in general
are happy about the presence of the peacekeepers and although
the government wants to eject them, the locals see them as es-
sential to keeping peace and bringing stability. The Congolese
feel that no peacekeeping effort from anybody will succeed if
the citizens of the host country do not want peace. Sentiments
on Chinese peacekeeping troops are mixed. One segment of
society welcomes the peacekeepers because they are suppos-
edly separate the belligerents and provide the locals with hu-
manitarian assistance. Congolese also believe that the “Chinese
will come and fix” not only their roads, but also the country and
its people. Another segment of society see the Chinese peace-
keeping troops as agents of the state that wants to exploit the
country and its natural resources, as the huge business deal the
PRC signed with the Kabila government indicates (Whewell,
2012). Interaction occurs in a less open and reciprocal way
while rebels groups are threatening the village leaders and lo-
cals with reprisal if they are on too friendly terms with peace-
keeping troops. Overall, the DRC is a country where the values
of Confucius and Ubuntu are intertwined to a lesser degree
because of the absence of humanist beliefs and the perilous
Darfur (UNAMID) and Sudan (UNMISS)
Due to Arab cultural influences in the north and African or
Christian religion in the south, views on harmony and peaceful
coexistence is as diverse as the 600 tribes found in the country.
The tribes in Sudan tech nically a re African, Afro-Arab or solely
Arab and do not adhere to a single viewpoint on humanism. A
Sudanese embassy official in Pretoria, however, agrees that the
promotion of welfare and happiness can be spread as a single
value in community-building and peacekeeping efforts. Speak-
ing as a member of the Ja’alin, an Arab tribe, it is to be under-
stood that he is biased in his opinions on the Christian or black
south. He regularly receives reports from fellow Sudanese and
observers on the intervention of peacekeeping troops and com-
mented that they are judged by the same standard. In his view,
no particular contingent is elevated above the rest as they all
fall within the jurisdiction of the UN. However, this official
commends the Chinese soldiers as worthy, dignified and re-
spectful soldiers. On the other hand, Darfurians perceive Chi-
nese soldiers as shielding Khartoum and here to protect their oil
interests. In this light, it is understandable that Darfurians are
antagonistic toward the Chinese presence. However, this atti-
tude does not deviate from the official Sudanese government
position that Chinese troops are welcomed in Darfur. One spe-
cific characteristic that discerns the Chinese troops from, for
example, the Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis or Western
forces, are their strong moral obligations to care about each
other’s material well-being, and promote the common good
among each other. Interaction brings them closer into harmony,
and cultural and social values are exchanged. Finally, there is
not a single group that benefits more from the interaction as
they view each other all as equals and see the soldiers as indis-
pensable keepers of the peace7.
Meeting at the Nan Hua Temple in South Africa
The information a Chinese expatriate presented at the Nan
Hua temple was essential in describing the Chinese point of
view8. A moral code of conduct is necessary to guide the ac-
tions of peacekeepers in a humane and peaceful manner. He
referred me to the words of a venerable master, Hsing Yun,
who said: “There is no greater peace than contentment. The
best reward in life is peace, something that cannot be given to
us by the Buddha or any God. We need to create the conditions
and environment for peace within ourselves. The key to peace is
contentment (A Visit to the Nan Hua Buddhist Temple in
3Interview with official at the Sahrawian, Sahraouian Embassy in Pretoria,
South Africa, 16 July 2012.
4Interview with official at the Sahrawian, Sahraouian Embassy, 2012.
5Interview with Congolese businessman in Johannesburg, South Africa, 18
, 2012.
6Interview with Congolese busines sman, 2012.
7Interview w ith offici al at the Embassy of Sudan, 2012.
8Meeting with Chinese scholar at Nan Hua Temple, Bronkhorstspruit, South
Africa, July 27, 2012.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 47
Bronkhorstspruit, 2012). He indicated that Chinese peacekeep-
ers, which are trained at Langfang City, Hebei Province, are
instructed to behave and act in a selfless manner, but do not act
independently of the government’s decision to send peacekeep-
ers, and that the promotion of international prestige is the over-
riding motivational factor. The crimes committed by soldiers
from other peacekeeping countries against the local populations,
such as sexual abuse and the handling of narcotics, are inex-
cusable in comparison with the clean record Chinese troops
have. Except for the situation in Darfur where they are accused
of siding with the Sudanese government, they are heartily wel-
comed by the local populations in other mission areas. Chinese
troops strictly focus on being messengers of the peace and al-
legations by the western media that Chinese troops act as in-
termediaries to further the economic agenda of the PRC in these
countries, are unfounded, and are a deliberate attempt by west-
ern observers to discredit the good work of Chinese peacekeep-
ers. Contrary to what western observers believe, human rights
and humanitarian assistance are also important for the Chinese
government and that interaction with the local population can
assist them in achieving unity of purpose. This witness recalled
how they once helped with road repair work in the Eastern
Congo (MONUC mission), when the locals were so surprised
to see Asians fix the road that the children ran away in disbelief.
It was the first time these children came into contact with
Asians and they had no idea how to face the peacekeepers.
Afterwards, it was common for the locals and Chinese engi-
neers to engage in collaborative efforts to repair infrastructure.
Although language was a serious barrier in communication,
interaction was mutually rewarding and led to the acceptance of
the work being carried out by the engineering contingent.
The Chinese media in the context of PKOs, examples of
theoretical considerations in practice and African views on
Chinese peacekeeping troops have one aspect in common and
that is an understanding of the collective impact on the com-
munity. The next section draws on the manner of investigation
and presents the findings that is mutually rewarding for peace-
keepers and the local populations.
Media Reporting and the Collective
Impact on the Community
In analyzing the evidence of Chinese peacekeepers making
positive contributions to societies in different African countries,
China’s interaction with local populations is beneficial in ad-
vancing its peaceful intentions and reaching consensus on a
collective understanding of human rights. Mediating peace in
post-conflict societies leads to an emancipation of thoughts, and
improves communication and multiple-channel dialogues be-
tween members of communities and peacekeepers. The media
promotes an engagement with African leaders that lays the
foundation for a common discourse, and allows Chinese jour-
nalists to speak out freely about positive contributions. The
emphasis on positive journalism that values social solidarity of
the peacekeepers and the civilian population also reduces the
tension between the parties in conflict areas. There is a parallel
between positive and developmental journalism, both of which
emphasize community-building, increasing mutual interaction,
making the Chinese presence become greater, and more visible.
The traditions of communitarianism emphasize the need to
value social justice. A relationship between Chinese and Afri-
can traditions of communitarianism in practice proves to exist if
the media plays a role in establishing confidence-building be-
tween Chinese peacekeepers and the local populations. In the
first instance, the citizens have knowledge of the operational
environment in which the peacekeepers are employed. They
have the capacity to facilitate outreach by peacekeepers and
foster trust among the wider population in post-conflict regions.
Citizens also act as an important check on government excesses,
and thus promote greater accountability while also representing
a vital pillar to facilitate the task of building democratic struc-
tures in post-conflict societies (Lamptey, 2007).
Is the Chinese media really exercising influence and con-
necting different perspectives on communitarianism? Looking
at China’s eagerness to balance the international media in the
coverage of the Chinese image, positive reporting is playing a
role in harmonizing Confucianism and Ubuntu, especially in
the light of Beijing’s strategy of engagement in Africa (Li,
2012). The intention is to use the media to promote China’s
traditional philosophy of peace or peaceful co-existence. In this
regard, PKOs are carried out in an environment in which the
values and principles of both philosophies find expression.
Using the media as instrument to exert political power will not
serve China’s peacekeeping goals, instead, power politics will
create division in building trust, confidence and harmony. Al-
though it is not always possible to pursue positive media re-
porting techniques, China succeeds in changing the environ-
ment to suit its peacekeeping objectives. A common inference
is that Chinese peacekeepers do not want to become objects of
criticism, firmly hold a belief in promoting peace, and desire to
be viewed as flawless in the performance of their duties. From
an African perspective, the common good between locals and
the Chinese peacekeepers should not be subordinated to that of
individual needs, or pursuing the common good of one’s own
accord, but to pursue collective achievements in order to pro-
mote the good of others. Confucius’ moral teachings and Ub-
untu’s humane view of life can function as a unifying factor
and assimilate cultural backgrounds (Lutz, 2011: p. 5).
The two traditions both conform to the notion that recogniz-
ing non-material goods, such as humanity and relationships
over material wealth can bring peacekeepers and locals into a
situation of harmonious co-existence. China’s involvement in
peacekeeping improves the image of peacekeeping operations
as a whole. The legitimacy of peacekeeping missions in the
eyes of local populations and political elites is crucial for mis-
sion success (Mariani, 2012). The Chinese peacekeepers have a
modifying impact on the lives and livelihoods of the parties
threatened by conflict, chaos and violence. Projects such as
improving infrastructure, building schools and hospitals, or
providing medical assistance are vital for addressing the imme-
diate needs of local populations in fragile states that have come
out of conflict, or remain affected by it (Mariani, 2012). Inter-
action in mission areas not only strengthens mutual interest and
improves relationships, but also dispels stereotypes, misunder-
standing and sheds light on the lack of awareness that Chinese
and Africans are largely focused on identical moral philosophi-
cal backgrounds (Herman & Naidu, 2010).
The media is having a considerable influence on connecting
the Chinese tradition of peace and harmony and the African
phi los ophy of mutu al respect in peacekeeping areas. As a result,
portraying a positive image on the scale and intensity of PKOs
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 49
shapes the discourse of China’s engagement in Africa. There is
definitely a connection between the African and Chinese tradi-
tions of communitarianism. Both recognize their individual
membership in the community, and that the community is a
holistic entity. Social cohesiveness keeps the community to-
gether, and by carrying out familiar tasks, shared by all and
belonging to the whole community, this produces public good
and promotes reciprocal interaction. The media advertently
shows that a connection exists focusing on the shared-morally
significant history of philosophical association. Confucianism,
which advocates a peaceful society and Ubuntu, which empha-
sizes harmony, reconciliation and love between individuals,
draws the two traditions into a common bond. Ubuntu might
offer an attractive understanding of the specific forms that
populations in post-conflict societies can take to engage the
Chinese peacekeepers, insofar as both groups act in accordance
with a sense of belonging and have an obligation to engage in
mutual aid. The peacekeepers and local populations should
strive to realize the ideals, aspirations, embedded in past ex-
periences of those communities, seeing their efforts as being, in
part, contributions to a common good. Confucianism also em-
phasizes mediation over litigation as a way of dealing with
social conflicts, and in the peacekeeping environment, this
serves as an important factor in restoring harmonious relations.
As the cases in Liberia, the Western Sahara, the DRC and Su-
dan-Darfur show, there is a concentric effort by Chinese
peacekeepers to mediate as peace brokers in different segments
of civil society and that through careful planning and consider-
ate actions, community efforts are conceived by local popula-
tions as fulfilling their promises. Positive reporting plays a role
in shaping the image of China’s peacekeeping troops, and those
adverse connections in the peacekeeping environment are dis-
cussed by expressing simple qualities without comparison.
Further empirical research can highlight the interconnectedness
of the two philosophies. It is in this instance in which the media
can be used as a communication channel in connecting the
common boundaries of Confucianism and Ubuntu, and help to
bring transparency in the perceptions of Africans toward Chi-
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