China's and India's perspectives on military intervention: why Africa but not Syria?

Pak K. Lee, Lai Ha Chan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


ABSTRACT: This article addresses the puzzle for students of international relations as to why China and India, two major re-emerging powers in Asia, do not always baulk at military intervention invoked by Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, while they rhetorically harbour strong reservations about it. The recent cases of Côte d'Ivoire (2011), Libya (2011), Syria (since 2011) and Mali (since 2012) show that both China and India acquiesced in external military intervention in these African countries plunged into brutal civil wars, with only intervention in Syria being rebuffed. By studying how they voted in the United Nations Security Council in 2011–12 and their discourses on intervention, including humanitarian intervention, this article examines why their decisions about intervention in Africa diverged from their decisions regarding intervention in Syria. The authors put forward the thesis that their behaviour can be explained by an interplay between norms and interests, in which they express a common anti-US liberal imperialist stance, shaped by a ‘collective historical trauma' and ‘post-imperial ideology', and demonstrate concerns for state failure and preferences for regional initiatives and political mediation to resolve civil wars.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-214
Number of pages36
JournalAustralian Journal of International Affairs
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • collective historical trauma
  • India
  • military intervention
  • post-colonial ideology
  • responsibility to protect


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