Chapter 9: The evolution of China's normative position on the use of force
On 17 March 2011, for the first time in over 11 years, China did not vote in favor of a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution authorizing the use of force. The resolution at issue (S/Res/1973), '[d]etermining that the situation in [Libya] continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security,' provided a mandate 'to take all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack'. Li Baodong, China's official representative at the UNSC, explained that 'the United Nations Charter must be respected and the current crisis must be ended through peaceful means. China was always against the use of force when those means were not exhausted'. However, the consistency of China's position on the use of force may have been overstated. From 1990 through March 2011 China voted in favor of 31 of 43 UNSC resolutions authorizing the use of force (see Table 9A.1). Although they did not support 12 such resolutions, Beijing has never formally vetoed one. Yet China occasionally blocks other types of UNSC resolutions, such as the recent veto of a draft resolution demanding that the Syrian government 'cease all violence and protect its population' (S/2012/77). Moreover, Beijing did not support 11 of the 21 resolutions authorizing the use of force from 1990 through September 1999. Starting from 15 September 1999, however, China voted in favor of 20 in a row, until the case of Libya. Just two weeks after the Libyan abstention, China voted in favor of using force in the Ivory Coast (S/Res/1975).
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