The African Union’s Peace and Security Partnership with China
By Asebe Regassa Debelo
(Social Science Research Council) — The China-African Union (AU) peace and security partnership can be positively harnessed in support of peace building processes on the continent. This policy brief urges African policymakers to look beyond the familiar narratives of Sino-African relations as “resource diplomacy.” It notes some of the challenges facing China’s engagement with peace and security issues in Africa, and considers several options for addressing them. The brief also offers recommendations to the AU and African sub-regional organizations on how to optimize the opportunities presented by China’s engagement with Africa to consolidate sustainable peace on the continent.
CHINA: FROM NON-INTERVENTION TO ENGAGEMENT
China has recently become Africa’s leading partner in the areas of trade, investment, and development. Apart from bilateral relations with African states, China partners with regional and sub-regional organizations on a growing number of issues. Of note in this burgeoning relationship is the partnership between China and the AU in the areas of peace and security. China’s involvement in peace and security initiatives on the continent marks a departure from the country’s non-interventionist foreign policy towards more active engagement.
To better grasp the policy change, it is useful to situate Beijing’s contemporary engagement in Africa in historical perspective. Over the past fifty years, the Sino-African partnership has passed through different phases of ideological, diplomatic, and economic relations. According to an AU official, China was one of Africa’s allies during the era of liberation movements and decolonization, and the current partnership can be seen as a continuation of the past. “The partnership is reciprocal,” asserted the official, reiterating the role some African countries played in lobbying for the People’s Republic of China to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.