China is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and a leading world economy. Hence, it is important to understand its foreign policy towards the ‘responsibility to protect’ or R2P. R2P is a norm developed at the beginning of the century to protect populations from intra-state mass atrocities (such as genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing).The R2P norm comprises three ‘pillars.’ First, a state has the responsibility to protect its population from mass atrocities. Second, the international community has a responsibility to assist the state in fulfilling it’s primary responsibility. And third, if a state fails to protect it’s citizens from mass atrocities and peaceful measures have failed, the international community has the responsibility to intervene through coercive measures such as economic sanctions. Military intervention can be undertaken as a last resort. Existing academic works reveal that China is committed to R2P but it is cautious about the stance it takes. Scholars of international security studies argue that this caution, or rather tension, comes from China’s enduring commitment to the twin principles of state sovereignty and non-interventionism and, on the other hand as a global power, from its international responsibilities of peace and humanitarianism.China’s stance on R2P has, nevertheless, evolved from extreme resistance to active engagement. In 2001, China resisted the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty’s report on R2P. However, it endorsed the norm when R2P was adopted in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document. Courtney Fung argues that this normative evolutionary development began with China’s opposition to R2P (2001-05), leading to toleration (2005-08) and presently adaptation (2009-present). While understanding this history is important, it is critical to disentangle the arguments that lie at the foundation of China’s cautious stance on R2P. One reason is China’s fundamentally different approach from Western powers towards global peace and security issues. China has serious reservations with pillar III of R2P, which is about military intervention as a last resort. China instead favours the resolution of conflicts through peaceful political dialogue rather than the use of force. It places great importance in the independence of internal affairs of states and believes that it is the responsibility of states to protect their populations. Further, it is strictly against non-consensual military intervention. This is a salient feature of China’s strategic culture and diplomatic discourse which are often linked with its economic development policy with other countries.But, the problem is there are reputation costs of non-compliance with international norms like R2P, especially when they involve risks as grave as the slaughter of innocent people. Critics argue part of the reason China and Russia did not veto the UNSC resolution 1973 in Libya was that they wished to be seen as responsible major players. The other reason was the consensus among regional organisations such as the Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Gulf Cooperation Council in condemning violence in Libya. This regional consensus influenced China’s decision in allowing the passage of resolution 1973. China’s repeated vetoes on resolutions, even ineffectual ones, on the Syrian crisis sharply contrasted with its stance on Libya, even though the Syrian conflict has turned out to be more vicious and appallingHowever, China’s repeated vetoes on resolutions, even ineffectual ones, on the Syrian crisis sharply contrasted with its stance on Libya, even though the Syrian conflict has turned out to be more vicious and appalling. Experts on R2P and international interventions offer a number of reasons. First, China’s aversion to intervention was influenced by the ‘blow-back’ effect from the controversial military operation in Libya. Both China and Russia criticised the US, UK and France — or the P3 — for killing Qaddafi and for the regime change, and thereby exceeding the mandate of the UNSC. The P3 further angered the Chinese and the Russians when they did not explain the reasons for the regime change in Libya.Another reason for China’s decision to veto was that they believed, unlike Libya which fragmented instantly, the Assad regime was still intact and therefore the responsibility of protecting the people resided with him, not outside powers. China particularly opposed the use of force, as it raised serious concerns about the consequentiality reasoning of military intervention, especially in the aftermath of the operation in Libya. It argued that based on recent experiences (such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya), military operations do more harm than good. Equally notable was its criticism that the post-crisis reconstruction is often ignored at best, which in R2P’s parlance is called the ‘responsibility to rebuild.’ However, China has, simultaneously, advocated for and contributed to the normative architecture of R2P. In March 2012, Ruan Zongze, the vice-president of the China Institute for International Studies (CIIS), which is the official think-tank of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wrote an opinion piece, ‘Responsible Protection’ or RP, which may be termed the Chinese version of R2P. In 2013, CIIS held an international conference which had delegates from the BRIC countries to discuss the thematic areas of R2P. However, China has not endorsed RP as its official stance even though its representatives have on occasion mentioned the terms in their speeches. While RP’s evaluation is a long discussion, some proponents of R2P like Gareth Evans perceive the concept as China’s contribution to the normative development of R2P.However, other scholars argue that China’s opposition to non-consensual intervention further tightens R2P’s implementation in future cases. They further argue that RP is actually China’s way of containing the norm rather than developing it. According to this argument, the Chinese wish to be seen as part of the global normative order, but at the same time, they have serious disagreements with the Western powers over the conceptual, political and operational mechanisms of R2P and international interventionism. The tricky part is that China agrees that it is the responsibility of the international community to respond to humanitarian crises, but it does not endorse pillar III of R2P. The problem is that some conflicts go beyond the necessary diplomatic, economic and political means of resolution, like the six-year-long civil war in Syria. The question then is what do we do when the use of military force becomes inevitable. China’s stance is quite puzzling as it treads this path quite cautiously and diplomatically.This final point is worthy of particular consideration after Xi Jinping’s heralding of a ‘new era’ for China at the 19th National Congress. As a strong and stable international statesman, Jinping has shown the will and determination for scaling up China’s role internationally. As the famous line from Spider-Man aptly puts ‘With great power comes great responsibility,’ one wonders what new responsibilities China, as a global power, is willing to assert regarding issues of conflict prevention and R2P. Some say that Beijing is less likely to stress opposition against neo-interventionism after the prolonged conflict in Syria and Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, but is difficult to predict. At the moment, China seems committed but cautious towards R2P. The writer is a Lecturer, Department of English, Rutgers University PhD Student of Global Affairs, Rutgers University, Newark, USA. E-mail: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.orgPublished in Daily Times, November 30th 2017.