All permanent members in the UNSC, except China, are more or less always involved in armed conflicts in the Middle East and Africa.

Even though China has overseas deployments, its soldiers are not directly involved in any kind of armed conflict. I.e. Chinese soldiers are not fighting in the battlefields/zones in person.

What are the reasons that China avoids direct engagements in combats in Africa and the Middle East?

P.S. I am not talking about UN peacekeeping missions.

  • I think this question should change from why to how. China have plenty of troops in Africa (mainly to secure their own investments in e.g mining), but they do act very differently to other from UNSC members. Oct 28, 2021 at 20:02
  • Why not the obvious answer "they believe in non-intervention"?
    – Allure
    Oct 30, 2021 at 12:05
  • Are there examples of countries that seek out armed conflicts in Africa and the ME for no reason? Also, China did join an anti-piracy naval force near the Red Sea.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 1, 2021 at 21:00

3 Answers 3


China is notably secretive about its long-term intentions: one of the predictable downsides of single-party systems. But I think it's safe to say (based on recent actions) that they are currently focused on extending and establishing their territorial borders in the Himalayas and the South China Sea, and on building their international reputation through trade, aid, and cultural events like the Olympics. China doesn't share the millennia-old soteriological conflicts that drive Western tensions in the Middle East; they don't have a history of colonization and exploitation that the West has in Africa, so they can easily play the detached, neutral party in those regions, picking up economic partners while others fight. And the more the 24 hour news cycle pays attention to overt violence in place the US and Europe are strong, the less it will play to China's slow course of expansion and unflattering human rights record.

  • 6
    Also, while China is indubitably involved in fewer foreign military excursions than the United States or even the European UNSC permanent members, it is worth noting that they actually have been involved in two international operations in Africa in recent years: the civil war in Mali and an anti-piracy operation in Somalia.
    – Obie 2.0
    Oct 27, 2021 at 16:15
  • How is that a downside? In a game of cards are you going to show your hands right in the beginning?
    – Faito Dayo
    Oct 30, 2021 at 2:04
  • 1
    @FaitoDayo: Well first, secrecy is clearly a downside for anyone trying to analyze politics. More philosophically though, secrecy is one of the enemies of peace. One only keeps secrets when one is trying to fool others, and in an ego-ridden theatre like international politics, fooling others often has serious and devastating consequences. Gamblers tend to find themselves on the wrong side of people's tempers; bad enough it you're talking about fists and knives, but truly unpleasant when they wield entire armies... Oct 30, 2021 at 4:34

Because they have a much better way of going about things. But it involves long-term planning that is more what Western companies and governments do.

If you want to control something, you buy it. If you want more farmland in another country, set up a subsidiary company in that country and then buy the land. Buy the mines. Build new roads, railroads, ports and airports.

After a few years, that country becomes utterly dependent on you. You control all their natural resources and all their trade, and you haven't fired a single shot.


By remaining outside of active conflicts China is able to ensure the relative safety of its citizens overseas, as well as the relative safety of its business interests.

China has, and is continuing to, cultivate a position as a neutral player China, and in doing so is able to avoid many of pitfalls that the European states face due to their early history of colonialism, as well as the many issues hat the US faces due to it's post war interventions.

It's interests are therefore more likely to be protected by governments, and less likely to be attacked by opposition elements. Both in a physical sense and at a political level.

  • So, then the obvious question is: Why don't the Westerners do the same?
    – user366312
    Oct 29, 2021 at 16:59
  • 1) Because many of the issues are historic, for example European colonialism, and the harm has already been done, 2) Because many of them have cultures that value interventionalist policies
    – user38958
    Oct 29, 2021 at 17:32
  • So, I would suggest updating your answer .
    – user366312
    Oct 29, 2021 at 17:44

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