How do material factors – such as trade, investment, natural resources and the presence of nationals – explain China's engagement in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO) in Africa? The continent currently receives over 80 percent of the personnel sent by China for these missions. Alone, South Sudan, an oil-rich country, concentrates about 40 percent of China's peacekeeping contingent. Through a data-set built from four different sources – Chinese government, United Nations, China-Africa Research Initiative (Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies), and China Global Investment Tracker (American Enterprise Institute) – this paper uses a multi-method approach to analyze the main causal factors identified in the literature. Two objectives are pursued: 1) discuss the limits and possibilities imposed by the data; 2) unveil the most appropriate methodological approaches to deal with the subject.
Despite the fact that there is an incipient sub-literature which tries to understand what explains Chinese deployment to UNPKOs, we still do not have a “theoretically informed and rigorously tested analysis to address what combination of factors” explain this phenomenon. It is true, however, that the scholars engaged in this research agenda have found some consensus around the main causes involved: basically, (i) material determinants (such as those mentioned above); (ii) addressing identity concerns; and (iii) the socializing effects of multilateral institutions. What is not clear, for now, is how exactly this causal claims work along different cases. In this paper, only the first cluster of causes is analyzed.
Taking into account the proposed objectives, five methods were applied: Analysis of Variance (ANOVA), correlation, multivariate analysis, Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and Process Tracing. Due to the nature of the phenomenon analyzed, the results point to the fragility of inferences made solely through large-N research designs. In addition, the findings reveal the relevance of investigating causal configurations and mechanisms together and the need to mobilize various levels of analysis (e.g. bureaucracies, decision-making process, state owned companies and structural constraints). With this endeavor, it is expected that the research can make a contribution not only to studies on China's international projection, but also to the International Relations subdiscipline of Foreign Policy Analysis.