Peace and security cooperation is already one of the most important pillars of the comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership between China and Africa, and its significance is growing, thanks to the Initiative on China-Africa Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Security (ICACPPS) launched at the 5th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in July 2012.1
Peace and security cooperation was included in China’s first Africa policy white paper, issued in 20062. In a 2015 update, China said it will deepen military cooperation, help Africa secure peace and security and support African efforts to confront non-traditional security threats.3
At the December 2015 FOCAC Summit in Johannesburg, China and Africa promised to implement the ICACPPS, support the building of a collective security mechanism in Africa, and jointly manage non-traditional security issues and global challenges.4
China-Africa peace and security cooperation is proceeding on bilateral, regional and international tracks. Bilaterally, China has close cooperation with those African countries with which it has diplomatic relations. Twenty-eight African countries have defence attachés in Beijing and China maintains 18 defence attaché offices in Africa. There is also a delegation of over 100 Chinese People’s Liberation Army officials in Tanzania to help it build military capacity.
At the regional and continent-wide level, China has cooperated with a number of organisations, including the African Union, the East Africa Community, the Economic Community of West African States and the Southern African Development Community. One prominent example is China’s support for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development as the core platform for mediating in South Sudan’s civil war.
Multilaterally, China participates in various international efforts for improving African peace and security, for example, President Xi Jinping announced at the Johannesburg Summit that China will provide $60 million in grants to support the building and operation of the African Standby Force and the African Capacity for the Immediate Response to Crisis. “China will continue to participate in UN peacekeeping missions in Africa and support African countries' capacity building in areas such as defence, counter-terrorism, riot prevention, customs and immigration control”, he said.5 At the UN Peacekeeping Summit last September, Xi said China would also send the first peacekeeping helicopter squad to UN peacekeeping operations in Africa, and announced $100 million in military aid to support the AU.6
Despite such progress, there is room for improvement. China-Africa peace and security cooperation is mainly focused on traditional security issues, carried out principally at governmental level and mostly bilateral. There is a debate about the nature of FOCAC. China has, it seems, drafted a detailed, well-funded plan for cooperation over the next three years, but there remains wide scope for more strategic thinking.
Faced with fast-changing security and governance challenges, China has to offer a distinctive approach to improve the current situation in Africa. The most important challenge may be to find a way to balance principles of non-intervention and non-indifference. It is hard to avoid the dichotomy between intervention and non-intervention. The Chinese Approach of Solving Hot Issues, advocated by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, is more of a practical concept rather than a theoretical or academic one.
The balance between non-interference and non-indifference should embrace four main ideas:
(1) Non-discrimination. It is necessary to stick to the tradition of treating all states equally, whether they be large or small, rich or poor, peaceful or conflict-affected. This is in accordance with the international principles established by the Westphalia System and it avoids moral distinctions between countries.
(2) Non-intervention. Because the resolutions and actions of the United Nations Security Council have collective legitimacy, they should not be regarded as intervention. China should participate in more collective actions taken by the UNSC while insisting on non-intervention bilaterally. Through sticking to the core role of the UNSC, China can also take part in regional and sub-regional solutions as it did in South Sudan.
(3) Non-militarisation/securitisation. It is important to maintain political dialogue and seek diplomatic solutions to conflicts, keeping military options as a last resort.
(4) Non-stop development support. To secure long-term solutions, the root causes of insecurity must be addressed by pursuing transformation and sustainable development both before conflicts and post-conflict.
Because security challenges change quickly, China should re-set its priorities. We need an updated set of principles to re-prioritise Sino-Africa peace and security cooperation. This should be done keeping in mind six principles: African lead, African way, African peace; China focus, hot issues focus, multilateral focus.
The first three principles set Africa at the centre of cooperation with China. That will contribute to the legitimacy of such cooperation and help it gain wider acceptance. Africa should have the leading role in tackling regional issues; China should support African Solutions to African Problems; and it should help Africa find a balance between security and development.
The other three principles focus more on implementation. China focus emphasises the protection of China’s overseas interests; the hot issues focus highlights the key fields in Sino-Africa cooperation; and multilateral focus aims to apply regional and sub-regional platforms, and avoids the non-intervention dilemma in bilateral cooperation.
China should then develop a more detailed approach based on these guiding principles. The first thing is to focus on early warning. That means helping Africa build and improve its early warning and response mechanisms, especially its capacity in anti-terrorism and peacekeeping. Africa also needs help to establish the African Human Security Index proposed in the first 10 year implementation plan of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
Secondly, China should align its cooperation with the construction of African peace and security architecture. That should include support for the building and operation of regional and sub-regional security structures; support and funding for the establishment of an early response system in Africa; support and funding for the setting up of an African peacekeeping force; and promoting cooperation mechanisms among African countries in regional and sub-regional institutions.
Thirdly, China has to put Africa development at the centre of peace and security cooperation. Development is the first priority and the key to addressing security problems. Sustainable development will help improve the balance between development, stability and reform, as well as promoting sustainable post-conflict transformation.
China should also help Africa build a peaceful culture by supporting and investing in peace and security education. This will help to achieve the Agenda 2063 goal of silencing guns by 2020.
Another important objective is to improve the operational mechanisms for peace and security cooperation. China and Africa should align their strategies, taking into account Africa’s increased strategic planning awareness. China should combine all plans for promoting African development, including initiatives like the ‘Three Networks’ programme for developing highways, high-speed trains and aviation; the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development; and Agenda 2063, etc.
Shared experience and shared insight are very important for China-Africa peace and security cooperation. At the governmental level, both parties should enhance experience sharing in areas such as ethnic-relations management, cross-border security governance, early warning and response mechanisms and social-security monitoring. At the business level, China should improve the corporate social responsibility performance of its entrepreneurs through education to develop their sense of impending crises, consciousness of environment protection, integration and respect for local societies. Finally, at the intellectual level, China and Africa should encourage think tanks to contribute more to decision-making and implementation, to participate in the building of early warning systems and in follow-up evaluation mechanisms.
1 President Hu Jintao, “Open Up New Prospects for A New Type of China-Africa Strategic Partnership”, Speech at the Opening Ceremony of the Fifth Ministerial Conference of The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Beijing, FOCAC website, July 19, 2012, accessed on July 20, 2012, http://www.focac.org/eng/dwjbzjjhys/hyqk/t953115.htm.
2 Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China’s African Policy, Beijing: 2006.
3 China’s Second Africa Policy Paper, Xinhua News Agency, December 5, 2015, accessed December 6, 2015, http://africa.chinadaily.com.cn/2015-12/05/content_22632880.htm.
4 Declaration of the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, FOCAC Website, December 25, 2015, accessed December 26, 2015, http://www.focac.org/eng/ltda/dwjbzjjhys_1/hywj/t1327960.htm.
5 Xi Jinping, “Working Together to Write a New Chapter In China-Africa Cooperation,” Address by Xi Jinping at the Opening Ceremony of the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, 4 December 2015, http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/wjdt_665385/zyjh_665391/t1321614.shtml.
6 Xi Jinping, “China is Here for Peace”, Remarks by H.E. Xi Jinping President of the People's Republic of China at the United Nations Peacekeeping Summit, 28 September, 2015, http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/wjdt_665385/zyjh_665391/t1302562.shtml.
This article is part of Friends of Europe’s Discussion Paper ‘Europe, China and Africa : new thinking for a secure century ’ to be published in November 2016, which brings together the views of Friends of Europe’s large network of scholars, policymakers and business representatives on the future of EU-China cooperation in the security field in Africa. These articles provide insight into stakeholders’ views and recommendations as China evolves from an economic to a security player in Africa.
IMAGE CREDIT: CC / FLICKR – United Nations Photo