China’s Risk Equation – Military Forces in International Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief

ASIA FORUM with Dr. Athol Yates

Executive Director of the Australian Security Research Centre

Wednesday, December 19, 2012, 10:00 – 11:30

China’s involvement in international humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) activities dates back to the early 2000s, and to date its involvement has been limited compared with its significant involvement in peace keeping operations. It would seem self evident that it is in China’s best interest to rapidly expand its HADR involvement given that these activities are viewed as a benign and less controversial use of military forces, and they can boost China’s reputation and recognition as a responsible stakeholder in the international system.

However, this simple sided analysis fails to consider that military involvement in HADR can pose significant downside risks. For example, tensions could increase if Chinese HADR efforts become characterized as a cynical advancement of its maritime power projection agenda, or seen as camouflage for acquiring more expeditionary capabilities. The use of its military forces for HADR also poses domestic risks for China. If its disaster contributions have significant failings this will undermine confidence by the Chinese people in the PLA.

By appreciating the risks to China of becoming involved in HADR, a better understanding of involvement to date in HADR activities can be developed, which enables more accurate assessment to be made of future HADR involvement.

Dr. Athol Yates is the Executive Director of the Australian Security Research Centre. The Centre is a think tank examining security issues with a focus on both within Australia and the region. His national security areas of expertise include national and homeland security strategy, non-traditional security threats and responses, and the use of defence forces for non-traditional missions.

In Sweden, he is researching the risks to China and other countries of Chinese military involvement in international humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) activities. Dr. Yates is a guest researcher at ISDP until December 2012.

Location: ISDP, Västra Finnbodavägen 2, Stockholm-Nacka. For a map and directions, please go here.

To attend: RSVP to Ms. Ebba Mårtensson at