Joint security focus needed for development
Editor's note: This article is part of the Preview Policy Report for the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, to be published by China Watch, China Daily's think tank.
China's engagement with Africa since the end of the Cold War has witnessed remarkable development and particularly since the launch of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2000. This is reflected not only by the sharp growth in trade, direct investment and development assistance, but also by appreciable rise in the number of Chinese companies and communities. Bilateral trade has soared from $10 billion in 2000 to $170 billion in 2017, and there are more than 2,500 Chinese companies in 53 countries and six regions today.
However, China-Africa collaboration is growing amid the backdrop of conflicts in the continent, which pose a potential and real threat. China has been one of the collateral victims of conflicts in Africa. In Libya, Chinese government intervention in 2011 helped 35,000 Chinese nationals to be extracted to safety but 50 projects were abandoned and Chinese enterprises suffered a substantial loss of estimated $18.8 billion.
The building and operation of industrial parks also raised concerns on security. China's commitment to the process of industrialization requires deeper interaction between Chinese companies/communities and local actors.
Meanwhile, conflicts in certain African countries have impeded the economic emergence of the continent, which explains increasing efforts by African countries and international and regional organizations to bolster security mechanisms. The strengthening of China-Africa cooperation in the security domain satisfies, on the one hand, the necessity for China to protect its investments, and on the other, the need for African countries to strengthen their own capacities and build an effective security system.
Chinese participation in peacekeeping forces constitutes a significant guarantees to African security. Until 2015, of the 26 United Nations peacekeeping operations in which China participated, 13 were in Africa of which seven are ongoing and involve more than 2,000 Chinese blue helmets.
Since 2008, China has been the main contributor in the number of blue helmets and the second biggest financial contributor among the five permanentmembers of the UN Security Council.
Not only has the number of Chinese blue helmets increased significantly, but some changes can also be also perceived in terms of their deployment and positions. Staff earlier sent by China consisted mainly of military observers, policemen, doctors, engineers and technicians. But from 2013 to 2018, China sent about 400 soldiers to Mali within the framework of the MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali), who were partially intended to fight extremists. In 2014, China also deployed an infantry battalion of 700 UN peacekeeping forces in South Sudan. Equipped with light weapons for self-defence and armored cars, the battalion was tasked to protect civilians, humanitarian and UN staff, and conduct patrol and surveillance missions.
In addition, the Chinese UN peacekeeping forces are taking up more and more important posts. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the officer in charge of military observers was a Chinese who was appointed in 2007 by the UN Secretary-General, to command the Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
Institutionally, the peacekeeping operations office supervised by the Ministry of Defense was created in December2001. It is in charge of coordination and management of Chinese participation in the missions and the operations of the United Nations. A training center for peacekeeping operations, situated in Huairou district in the suburbs of Beijing, was created in 2009. It is in charge of technical and linguistic training of the UN peacekeeping forces. The center also organizes seminars and conducts research on peacekeeping operations. Recognized by the United Nations as a base for international training in peacekeeping operations, it organizes, with the cooperation of the international UN peacekeeping force, the training of top commanders, instructors and military observers. China in 2015 also established the UN-China foundation for peace and development at a cost of $1 billion. As part of the standing army mechanism of the United Nations, China announced the training of 8,000 men and women in 2015.
The defense of mutual interests in the economic and political arena serves as principal focus for China and Africa. The pursuit of common development with African countries depends on the security context of Africa and on the extent of China-Africa cooperation. Interdependence among stakeholders defines the win-win characteristic of their cooperation and the stability of the continent is the essential backdrop.
Meng Jin is assistant research fellow at the Institute of West-Asian and African Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The author contributed this article to China Watch exclusively. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of China Watch.
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