On becoming a responsible great power: contextualising China’s foray into human rights and peace & security in Africa
The deepening of Chinas engagement with Africa has also prompted the broadening of its interests on the continent. This has resulted in Chinas expansion into increasingly riskier territories, which means there is a greater urgency to protect its interests from the political vagaries endemic to conflict-affected African states. This evolution marks a shift away from traditional perceptions of Chinese engagement in Africa as being limited to its economic interests, towards one where China becomes a politically interested and invested actor. This trend is paralleled by a macro-level reorientation of Chinas foreign policy goals, where it envisions itself playing a stronger norm-setting role in the global arena.
This policy insights paper explores the values and imperatives that motivate Chinas engagement in peace and security, human rights and human security in Africa.
Chinas foray into political matters is a consequence of the growing need for it to respond to attacks on its citizens and investments on the ground, but can also be traced to grander foreign policy underpinnings associated with its desire to position itself as a norms entrepreneur in the global arena. What emerges from the interplaybetween these two factors is a dynamic foreign policy that is responsive to the political contexts of African states while guarding the sanctity of state sovereignty.
To be a successful player in promoting peace, security and human rights in Africa, China has found it necessary to develop an approach that mitigates the challenges of operating in volatile environments by increasing its engagements in multilateral organisations. In doing this, China positions itself as an important alternative to established global norms, projecting its aspirations of becoming a more responsible great power in world affairs.