BEIJING -- "In this vast world, I may be just like a small feather. But even so, I want this feather to carry the wish for peace."
These are not lines of a beautifully written prose poem about the lightness of being. They are excerpts from the diary of He Zhihong, a female Chinese peacekeeper who died in the line of duty while serving in a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission in Haiti in 2010. She was just 35 when she died.
Chinese President Xi Jinping shared He's story at the UN Peacekeeping Summit in New York in 2015.
"This was her wish, and it is also China's commitment to peace," Xi said at the summit.
Since first dispatching five military observers to the UN Truce Supervision Organization in 1990, China's armed forces have stood fast as a disciplined force for peace and justice and become a crucial part of UN peacekeeping operations.
He Zhihong, from the southwestern province of Yunnan, lost her life while serving the peacekeeping mission when a 7.3-magnitude earthquake ravaged Haiti. She left behind a four-year-old son and elderly parents.
She was posthumously honored with the Dag Hammarskjold Medal for her contributions to world peace. The award was named after the former UN secretary-general who died on a peace mission to the Congo in 1961.
She is far from the only Chinese peacekeeper to have sacrificed her life in the name of world peace. Over the past three decades, of the nearly 50,000 members of Chinese men and women in uniform to have served in 25 UN peacekeeping missions, 16 never came home.
"Peace is the common aspiration and lofty goal shared by all of humanity," President Xi said at the UN Peacekeeping Summit.
At the same summit where Xi shared He's story, the president announced a raft of measures China would take to support UN peacekeeping. From building a peacekeeping standby force of 8,000 troops, to training peacekeepers from other countries, and sending its first peacekeeping helicopter squad to the UN peacekeeping operations in Africa, these commitments show China to be a champion of world peace, a contributor to global development, and a defender of the international order.
China honors its promises. It completed the registration of a UN peacekeeping standby force of 8,000 troops in 2017. In the following five years since the summit, China provided 20 training programs to over 1,500 peacekeepers from more than 60 countries.
As the largest troop-contributing country among the permanent members of the UN Security Council, China has sent peacekeepers to over 20 countries and regions, including Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Liberia, and Sudan, playing a vital role in facilitating the peaceful settlement of disputes, safeguarding regional security and stability, and promoting economic and social development in host nations.
They erected a hospital in the scorching heat in Mali, repaired a bridge that floods in the DRC had damaged, rebuilt a village primary school in South Sudan, fought the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, one of the hardest hit countries, and offered free medical treatment to locals in Lebanon.
According to the Ministry of National Defense, a total of 2,240 Chinese peacekeepers are currently serving on seven peacekeeping missions and at the UN headquarters.
Such support for UN peacekeeping operations has earned China recognition from the UN and the international community.
"China is one of our main supporters, really both in terms of the financial contributions, also in terms of the contributions in the field with more than 2,000 peacekeepers," UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix said ahead of this year's International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers in May.