China’s plan to strengthen peace and security in Africa

Jacob Zuma with Chinese president Xi Jinping

China will hold an open debate on enhancing Africa’s capacity in peace and security at the United Nations (UN) on July 19. But what does all this attention on peace and security mean for Africa: The Daily Vox team breaks it down.

China, which holds the July presidency of the UN Security Council, has put Africa’s peace and security on the top of the agenda at the UN.

China’s Security Council representative Liu Jieyi says China is pushing for broader conversations on peace and security in Africa and wants to “seek solutions to African problems by African countries in African ways.” Liu said enhancing Africa’s capacity for peacekeeping will both further peace and stability on the continent and help peace operations around the world.

Yu-Shan Wu, a researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), told The Daily Vox China is trying to change its role in the global landscape and engage more with other countries especially on the African continent and described Africa as an “evolving player”.

China’s president Xi Jinping has been speaking about the need for greater integration to improve security and political stability across the globe since his first address at the UN General Assembly in 2015. At the time, Xi said, “In the age of economic globalisation, the security of all countries is interlinked and has impact on one another. No country can maintain absolute security with its own effort, and no country can achieve stability out of other countries’ instability.”

One of the key items on the African Union’s (AU’s) Agenda 2063 is to “silence the guns” on the continent by 2020. After decades of conflict, civil war and violence, the AU hopes to achieve a conflict-free Africa which “makes peace a reality for all our people”. China’s position on global security aligns with this.

Wu said that since 2012, the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (Focac), an official forum between China and African states, has placed greater emphasis on peace and security. China has also been increasing its engagement with the African Union.

Wu said China is not a monolithic actor on the continent and that it has very different relationships with different African states. For example, its relationship with South Africa is focused on trade while in Djibouti and Sudan, the relationship leans more towards the military.

But if Africa is to drive global integration and industrialisation, it first needs to address issues concerning security and political stability. This, in turn, would benefit China. “It’s about security for its own people and also about portraying itself as a more responsible player,” said Wu.

China clearly stands to gain from pushing for African peace and security. But if it helps the continent as well, should we be looking a gift horse in the mouth?

Featured image via Flickr