Given their economic issues, do emerging powers need to engage in African security issues
Timothy M. Shaw , Andrew F. Cooper & Gregory T. Chin (2009) Emerging Powers and Africa: Implications for/from Global Governance , Politikon, 36:1, 27-44, DOI: 10.1080/02589340903155385
strict macro-economic explanations do not allow for the myriad political, strategic and social matters that are arising in this engagement. The analytical complexities of these emerging modes of South–South cooperation are examined at state and societal levels from a political economy perspective. Despite their differing intentions, Africa and the emerging powers appear to share common goals of advancing their respective national economies and enhancing their diplomatic status.
A decade into the new millennium, a new power dynamic is taking shape within the global political economy marking the end of American hegemony. The rapid and steady intrusion and recognition of a set of major emerging economies is chal- lenging the established order, wrenching global relations into flux. While none of these states are African, they affect the continent’s present and future in the world economy. Asserting their newfound influence, these countries seek a reorientation of power towards multipolarity. Articulated through an economics-led diplomacy, they have demanded a new set of international norms, a new trade agenda and equitable representation in the multilateral arena.
A continent known largely for conflict now boasts some of the fastest growing economies in the world, both small (Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome) and large (Angola and Sudan); however, Africa continues to contain ‘developmental states’ like Botswana as well as ‘fragile states’ like Liberia and Somalia. Yet in terms of summitry—which receives more treatment in our second section—Africa has only attracted investment and migration from China and the attention of the leaderships of China, Japan and India since the turn of the century.
The idea of the BRICs as a new version of domination for Africa, with even charges of neo-colonialism, has emerged in the context of China’s growing invol- vement in Africa (Alden, 2007; Alden et al., 2008). International commentators highlight how the operations of China’s national oil companies (CNOOC, CNPC, Sinopec) in Africa are closely tied if not driven by Chinese strategic inter- ests. Current interpretations of the ‘China Inc.’ euphemism emphasize the degree of coherence between Chinese state companies and Beijing’s strategic agenda. Other analysts, including Chinese think tank researchers, question this assump- tion, drawing attention to the tensions that exist between state companies and central government authorities as well as competition between companies. This contention is generating debate, and highlights the need for further research. It opens the possibility for reinterpreting what is actually happening in cases such as Sudan/Darfur (Downs, 2007).
The rapid rise of emerging powers has left a strong mark on Africa’s economic development. China has been particularly important through its trade expansion and the sheer scope and speed of its engagement, but has been followed by India, Brazil and South Africa, who have all become more prominent on the African continent in recent years. A number of other emerging economies such as Turkey and several Arab states are also becoming more visible and engaged. This is leading to a situation where traditional Western economies, financial institutions, and development aid agencies have seen their positions and influence weakened. What are the implications of these developments for the evolving African peace and security agenda How do the rising powers approach these issues How – and to what extent – do they engage with the African Union (AU), sub-regional institutions, and African governments on peace and security
The rising powers have become very visible in Africa in a short period of time, primarily through commercial and corporate expansion.
The rising powers have different approaches to political development and peace and security issues on the continent. As an African country itself, South Africa is a key player in the evolving security policies on the continent. The three other powers discussed here have a more marginal role in relation to political developments in Africa. Political alliances and commitment to South-South cooperation have facilitated close ties between governments, but it has also been coupled with a reluctance to address internal African conflicts. This has been most clearly expressed in the case of China and its strong emphasis on “non-interference” as a guiding principle for engaging with Africa. However, these rising powers’ expanding commercial engagement on the continent and the pressure to demonstrate that they are undertaking global responsibilities, coupled with Africa’s own attempts to address internal conflicts, have led to increasing changes, and they are gradually becoming more involved in African security issues.
These operations and deployments illustrates the broader scope of the organisation compared to that of its predecessor – the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). The AU came into existence in 2002, incorporating a wide divergence of member countries in terms of both democratic ideals and economic performance. The development of the AU was also driven more by a political than an economic agenda. In the peace and security field the AU has adopted an official policy that permits intervention in member states in “grave circumstances” (Vines, 2013).
The African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) provides the framework for the AU’s engagement and is the structure that seeks to provide for peace and security on the continent.
China – Security
China’s engagement in Africa, once characterised as decidely non-interventionist in its pursuit of economic interests, is on course to becoming more deeply involved in the region’s security landscape. While the motivation behind Chinese involvement remains primarily economic, the growing exposure of its interests to the vagaries of African politics and, concurrently, pressures to demonstrate greater global activism are bringing about a reconsideration of Beijing’s sanguine approach to the region. In particular, China faces threats on three fronts to its standing in Africa: reputational risks derived from its assocation with certain governments; risks to its business interests posed by mecurial leaders and weak regulatory regimes; and risks faced by its citizens operating in unstable African environments. Addressing these concerns poses particular challenges for Beijing, whose desire to play a larger role in continental security often clashes with the complexities of doing so while preserving China’s abiding foreign policy principles and growing economic interests on the continent.
The result is increasing involvement in African security measured in terms of greater activism in multilateral peacekeeping operations, be it through cooperation at the level of the United Nations (UN) Security Council and the African Union (AU), or in terms of deploying Chinese troops to and providing greater financial assistance for peace support missions. This impulse has received further support with the announcement in 2012 of the China-Africa Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Security, which promises the integration of security issues into the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) process. Linking this aspirational commitment to a more institutionalised form of involvement, however, remains problematic, in part because of China’s uncertainty as to the practical implications this has for its established interests, as well as an underlying ambivalence towards some of the normative dimensions of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). These concerns in turn reflect wider debates in China as to the efficacy of expanding its role in existing regional and global governance structures.
China’s contemporary phase of intensive engagement in African countries may have been instigated by a search for vital resources, coupled to a belated recognition of the need to bolster diplomatic links outside the West in the aftermath of the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989, but its sustainability as a reliable source for China was always going to be predicated on building long-term stable relations (Taylor, 2007).
The first, reputational security, refers to the local and global image of the Chinese state and its implications. In the local context the lack of transparency in deals and close ties with governing elites have meant that China has been increasingly exposed to accusations of collusion with the sitting regime. In fact, as has been demonstrated in a number of African states, Chinese interests have been explicitly targeted by opposition forces for their role in bolstering regime interests or in more benign cases as a proxy for mobilising domestic support against the regime.5 Linked to this was the potential damage to Beijing’s carefully cultivated global image as an emerging power whose intentions were attuned to African sensibilities and therefore should be viewed as benign. The uproar around Chinese support for Khartoum during the onset of the Darfur crisis in the 2000s in both African capitals and the West underscored the negative impact that Chinese engagement in one African country could have on both its African foreign policy and global manoverability (Large &Patey, 2011).
The second, firm-level security, refers to the maintenance of China’s economic interests in the local environment and, concurrently, its impact on broader perceptions of Chinese foreign policy intentions in Africa. While government attention was firmly on the concerns of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) operating in strategic areas such as energy, the growing number of Chinese small and medium-sized enterprises operating across the continent meant that Beijing found itself drawn into local disputes with limited economic consequences, but inevitably with wider ramifications. For SOEs, the reversal of their positions in local energy sectors through the denial of licences and effective nationalisation seen in cases as diverse as Angola, Nigeria, Chad and Sudan conveyed a sobering message of uncertainty to their vested interests. Similarly, the widely publicised misconduct of some Chinese firms, symbolised by Chinese Non-Ferrous Metals Mining Corporation in Zambia, where an unremitting series of fatal accidents, egregious violations of local labour laws, and acts of violence against workers and management (all of which finally brought about its closure by the Zambian government in 2013) sullied China’s business reputation in the country and beyond (Kwan Lee, 2011). The conscious emphasis on and rollout of corporate social responsibility practices by the State Council after 2006 reflected the state’s continuing anxieties about this sector.
The third, citizens’ security, is linked to the previous concern, but manifested in incidents such as increasing hostage taking of Chinese nationals, crimes against the rising number of Chinese businesses and tourists in Africa and, in its most dire form, the collapse of state authority in countries like Libya. As one Chinese scholar admitted, “Chinese workers’ safety faces high risk in Africa” and the accompanying firestorm of criticism that Beijing faced from its assertive “netizens” whenever it failed to protect Chinese nationals in Africa was a growing source of anxiety for Chinese officials (Xuejun, 2010).
Sometimes all three security challenges were experienced at once (Clapham, 2008: 361-69; Large, 2009). Attacks on and kidnappings of Chinese workers in Sudan, or South Sudan’s oil shutdown and expulsion of a Chinese oil executive in early 2012, despite ongoing discussions with Beijing over large financial packages aimed at developing the country’s oil and agricultural sectors, are recent examples of this phenomenon. Even a carefully crafted “charm offensive” aimed at South Sudan did not spare Chinese interests there (Large, 2012: 14-18). A spate of protests by local communities supplemented by unlawful police actions starting in 2012 and carrying over into the following year targeted Chinese shopkeepers and miners in countries as disparate as Kenya, Senegal and Ghana. The beating and ultimately expulsion of Chinese miners provoked heated reaction by Chinese netizens, who declared: “When will our government wake up and rescue our fellow country men from Ghana ”6 Indeed, crime against Chinese citizens became an increasingly problematic phenomenon as the migrant community grew, replicating the apparent targeting of Chinese businesses in South Africa, home to the largest Chinese community in Africa. As a Chinese delegation to Tanzania declared during Xi Jinping’s visit in April 2013, “In the last three years, there have been a series of robbery incidents which targeted Chinese investors, including a woman who was killed last October. We think the government should consider this seriously to improve the business environment for Chinese and other investors in the country” (The Citizen, 2012).
But above all, it was the impact of the so-called “Arab Spring” in early 2011, which swept aside decades of authoritarian rule in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, that shook any remaining complacency that the Chinese government had about operating in a benign African environment. In particular, the loss and damages caused by the NATO-led intervenion to Chinese interests in Libya imposed huge financial costs on the 50 Chinese projects there (with a total contract value of $18.8 billion) and exposed the limited ability of China to protect either its economic interests, the firms or even its 35,850 citizens in Libya (Global Times, 2013). These losses occurred despite the fact that, as the minister of commerce himself noted, China had no investments in Libya (China Wire, 2012). Worried officials mulled over the unexpected outbreak of unrest in other parts of the continent, including Angola, where a large Chinese presence (which some Chinese estimates claim to be as high as 250,000 people) was coupled to the country’s largest foreign source of oil.Internally, the Chinese State Council set up a parallel body to its State-owned Assets and Supervision Commision to regulate and moniter the assets and activities of SOEs operating overseas. Like U.S. analysts who sought to identify ways of safeguarding long-term U.S. interests in the wake of the Arab Spring, so too Chinese officials began a search for ways to accomodate the changes taking place while perserving their fundamental interests in the region (Larocco& Goodyear, 2013).
Perhaps the most influential driver of its gradualist shift away from a studied distance from African security issues has been China’s role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. What this has meant in practical terms is that, with African issues representing over 60% of all issues coming before the Security Council, Beijing is unable to maintain a position of studied abstension without encurring either Western or African criticism. This is exacerbated by the UN-AU institutional relationship involving an annual consultation between the Security Council and the AU’s PSC, reinforcing the focus on Beijing’s position on issues that matter to African governments, and concurrently the number and size of UN peacekeeping operations on the continent.8 One response seen since 1998 has been a gradualist involvement in multilateral peacekeeping.9 China’s approach has evolved from disengagement to sponsorship of UN Security Council resolutions establishing peacekeeping missions, the founding of three Chinese peacekeeping training centres, and direct particiation in peacekeeping missions in Liberia, the DRC, Darfur and South Sudan (Zhongying, 2005). Chinese engagement in peacekeeping, which has involved an expansion of the number of troops and acting as force commanders of two missions, has been limited to non-combatant roles. This changed with the deployment of a People’s Liberation Army mechanised infantry brigade to Darfur followed by the deployment of 395 elite troops with a mandate to protect peacekeeping headquarters and ground forces in Mali. The professionalism displayed by Chinese peacekeepers in Mali caused the UN’s special representative to declare that “China’s important work has exceeded expectations” (The Diplomat, 2013; People’s Daily Online, 2013).
Experiences in Sudan and the anti-piracy campaign in the Gulf of Aden produced similar expressions of international support for Chinese multilateralism. The reputational damage that ties with Khartoum produced in the build-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics was a harbinger of the challenges to come, as was the commensurate difficulties to ring fence that experience as a once-off form of Chinese intervention. China’s incremental approach to intervention in Sudan has taken it from being absent from the seminal Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 to acting as the key mediator between Khartoum and Juba in 2013. Concurrently, China’s involvement in the multinational naval task force off the coast of Somalia from 2009, itself the product of a shift in Chinese maritime strategy away from regional focus to one of “distance sea defence” and dealing with non-traditional security issues, also won it praise abroad and at home (Dehong, 2013; Christofferson, 2009: 3-4). Those in the
All of this fits within the broader parameters of a more activist Chinese foreign policy, accentuated under the new presidency of Xi Jinping and aiming to pursue an agenda for responsible change. The belief that China’s rising great-power status requires a revision of international institutions to reflect changing systemic dynamics and a commensurate commitment on the part of China for the greater provision of global public goods has become an article of faith in the Chinese policymaking community. In this context, according to Breslin (2013), a key Chinese goal is to “empower the United Nations as the only legitimate decision making body when it comes to finding global solutions to either transnational problems or cases of domestic state failure”. The elevation of the UN, where China’s privileged status as a veto-wielding member of the Security Council acts as an ultimate guarantee of its interests, is increasingly framed in terms of the principle of subsidiarity, which sees regional organisations as gatekeepers of legitimate multilateral actions. The intellectual foundations for this evolving approach have received further support from the Chinese research and academic community. Liberal internationalists like Wang Yizhou have argued for a movement towards a foreign policy of “creative involvement” that introduces flexibility to Beijing’s approach to security questions, while Pang Zhongying offers a more cautionary interpretation of “conditional intervention”.11 An effort to articulate common Chinese and African values through joint academic work speaks to a mutual desire for a shift in the norms agenda that mirrors the shifting economic relationship away from the West.12
Even with these gradualist changes to Chinese foreign policy practices towards African security, promoting greater multilateralism still introduces troubling dilemmas for Beijing. According to Dongyan (2012), the actual trajectory of peacekeeping and even more so peacebuilding into more substantive external involvement in African countries’ domestic affairs is “undermining the basic principles of the UN Charter and the fundamental rules of peacekeeping, and have already moved beyond those traditional peacekeeping agenda and tasks China is familiar with, i.e. peace and development”. The problem for Beijing is that, even if liberal peace is itself coming under criticism in Western circles, as Dongyan readily admits, it has already become institutionalised as “prevailing norms across the United Nations”. Efforts to address the matter of such liberal biases have inspired a Chinese formulation of the Responsibility to Protect, articulated by RuanZhonghe with his notion of “responsible protection”, which may offer one way out of this dilemma over the longer term, but this is still subject to the reception and support of African and the BRICS13 countries (Zongze, 2012). Furthermore, as the overlapping claims of regional authority by the AU and the Arab League demonstrated in the case of Libya, as well as the slow and divisive response of the AU to the crisis in Co^te d’Ivoire, seeking legitimarcy for intervention from regional organisations poses its own set of problems.
It was at the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) process, a tri-annual meeting that serves as the diplomatic cornerstone of official ties between China and the continent and the site for joint declarations of intent, that China’s new security policy towards Africa was officially unveiled in July 2012. Reflecting this “new thinking” on security, Hu Jintao launched the China-Africa Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Security, a much expanded spectrum of peace- and security-related engagement.14
China’s gradualist approach to engagement in African security matters aims to address the complexities of an expansive role in international institutions and a significant economic presence on the continent. It remains, however, poised between what is at this stage a rhetorical commitment to deeper involvement in APSA and the realities of actually engaging these structures in a long-term sustainable manner. In this context, three speculative scenarios for China’s future involvement in African security are possible, i.e. the Chinese as architects, builders or subcontractors.
The Chinese can be seen as potential architects of African security in the sense of introducing new norms of conduct or revising existing norms aimed at diluting (if not replacing) the policy prescriptions of liberal peace, which are seen to be at odds with Chinese global perceptions and narrower economic interests. The sine qua non of such a process will be, of course, an ability to tap into African concerns surrounding these norms, especially pronounced after decades of Western-led military missions and structural adjustment programmes under the rubric, respectively, of humanitarian intervention and economic development.
The Chinese can be seen as potential builders in the sense of co-ownership of a process led by Africans and influenced by the seminal liberal ideas on intervention found in Article 4 of the AU’s Constitutive Act. Here Chinese engagement will be decidelymultilateralist and oriented towards capacity-building, and would be similar to the efforts of other external powers in extending the ability of African governments and civil society to act on security, while the operating assumption will be that this is the most realistic way of ensuring the safety of China’s own economic interests in Africa. Finally, the Chinese can be seen as potential subcontractors in the sense of providing practical solutions to specific security problems facing China’s interests in Africa. Here the involvement in African security would be technical in content and selective in engagement, and would be aimed at supporting and fulfilling the narrowest form of obligations without incurring the costs of deeper
involvement. The focus would be on securing Chinese economic interests and attending to the diplomatic needs of China’s global reputation.
China is still in the formative stages of participation in global governance structures and, as such, needs to develop its capacity to provide the requisite international public goods expected of a major power. With this in mind, it is not surprising that Beijing’s policymaking towards African security diplays aspects of all three scenarios for engagement. For instance, its research and policymaking community is theorising new norms on a host of foreign and security policies, reflecting the impulse towards becoming an architect of African security. At the same time, Chinese participation in multilateral security and peacekeeping operations is indicative of its role as a builder of African security. And although it has expressed a desire to play a greater role in African security affairs, in line with the subcontractor scenario, as it stands today its interests are still largely defined by its economic concerns and the impact of African issues on its global reputation.
As Iyasu (2013) points out: “Whether China likes it or not, it plays a significant role in peace and security in Africa; negatively, through its absence, and positively, through an increased partnership with African states and institutions working for peace and security”. The pressures to expand its role will continue to grow in line with its ever-increasing economic involvement on the continent. That being said, in the final analysis one can expect Beijing to demonstrate caution and adaptability as its policymakers balance the costs and necessities of becoming more involved in African security.
Historical evolution towards African security
With the ending of the cold war and the concurrent onset of a democratisation process across the continent, starting in Benin in 1991 and winding its way across much of Africa, a new security agenda for the continent began to take shape. It was primarily oriented towards managing these potentially volatile transitions away from authoritarianism and conflict and, as such, emphasised peacekeeping and the building of liberal institutions. This was formalised through the UN secretary general’s Agenda for Peace (1992; amended 1995) and reflected influential initiatives of the day such as the Commonwealth’s Commisson on Global Governance (CGG, 1995: 77-112). African leaders, led by Salim Salim at the Organisation for African Unity (OAU), attempted to revitalise the regional approach to security on the continent in the early 1990s, laying the basis of many of the normative changes through the Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (Jeng, 2012: 157).
A turning point in the African security debate was finally reached with the massive failure of the international community and its African partners to stem the tide of instability, destruction and genocide in countries such as Somalia, Rwanda, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). These “new wars”, said to be motivated by “greed and grievance”, exposed the severe deficiencies of some African states in managing complex claims to legitimacy and the effective allocation of national resources – deficiencies variously rooted in ethnicity, chronic deprevation and administrative corruption or failure (Kaldor, 1999; Collier &Hoeffler, 1999). The result was to spur on an expanded discourse that diagnosed the sources of African insecurity as rooted in governance failures and aimed to address these through a range of policy prescriptions that included external intervention on humanitarian grounds and built on past precedents of the comprehensive restructuring of the continent’s economic and governance institutions. Collectively characterised as “liberal peace” and given expression through processes that led to the UN Summit on the Responsibility to Protect and the establishment of the Commission on Peacebuilding in 2005, these plans were realised in UN- sanctioned interventions in the DRC and Sudan (Paris, 2004).
For Africa, these enhanced efforts at tackling security were integrated into the tranformation of the OAU into the AU, a process that culminated in 2002 with the passage of the Constitutive Act. The African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) that emerged from this process was a five-pronged system composed of the Peace and Security Council (PSC), the Early Warning System (EWS), the African Standby Force (ASF), the Panel of the Wise, the Peace Fund and the eight designated regional economic communities (RECs) – although only five presently lead in this area. The RECs – the building blocks of a possible continental union – have begun to develop regional forms of the ASF and EWS (AU, 2010: 8). Notably, the AU provisions for intervention as described in Article 4 went well beyond the OAU’s defensive posture on sovereignty to one predicated on “non-indifference”, calling outright for intervention in cases of genocide, ethnic cleansing and other forms of conflict where the state had abrogated its responsibilities to its citizens (AU, 2000). Coupled to this was a more robust endorsement of peacebuilding, democratic governance and institutional development through the issuing of the Common African Defence and Security Policy in 2004 and the Declaration on Unconstitutional Changes of Government in 2009 (Vines, 2013: 90-91). The AU, unlike its predecessor, has demonstrated a willingness to be actively involved in continental security issues, having suspended nine member governments for constitutional violations, applied sanctions against six member governments and authorised several peace support operations in the last decade (Vines, 2013: 91-93).
The African Union (AU) is an inter-governmental organisation managing the common affairs of 54 African states. It was established on 26 May 2001 in Addis Ababa and launched on 9 July 2002 in South Africa to replace the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). The AU has 14 stated objectives, of which the key ones are to achieve unity and solidarity between the countries and people of Africa, to defend the sovereignty of its member states, to accelerate political and socio-economic integration of the continent, and to promote peace and security, democracy and human rights, and sustainable development (www.au.int). The AU is made up of both political and administrative bodies. The highest decision-making organ is the Assembly of the AU, made up of all the heads of state or government of member states of the AU. The AU also has a representative body, the Pan African Parliament, the Executive Council, the Permanent Representatives Committee, and the AU Commission, the secretariat to the political structures.
The key driver of the emergence and evolution of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) is the understanding that “…ensuring peace and order is a prerequisite for the promotion of peace, development and the improvement of Africans’ livelihoods” (Murithi, 2012: 267). In Murithi’s view the AU can now be viewed as a ‘norm entrepreneur’ and the behaviour of its Peace and Security Council (PSC) as ‘interventionist’. However, he also points out that the limitations of APSA’s fledgling institutions have been exposed in complex humanitarian situations such as in the Darfur region of Sudan. Indeed, he concludes that there is a ‘security gap’ in Africa between what the AU wants to achieve and the reality of what it can realistically deliver (this corresponds with what is called a ‘capabilities-expectations gap’ (Williams, 2009: 113). In the view of several analysts, and as we found in this study, the AU will need to seriously orient the political leadership of the continent and take decisive and necessary action to ensure successful peace operations.
A key driver of South Africa’s post-apartheid foreign and defence policies is the desire to contribute to Africa’s stabilisation and recovery, in the process gaining access to trade and business opportunities – and so demonstrating to its citizens the value of engaging the rest of Africa (Van Nieuwkerk, 2012). This role is not unique to this country – governments with ambitious foreign policy agendas tend to exercise power and influence abroad in order to gain domestically. This is true for the Western nations as it is for the BRICS alliance. It is also true that often, the return on the investment is less than satisfactory – as United States meddling in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrates. To what extent is South Africa contributing to Africa’s stabilisation and recovery efforts and how is it constrained in exercising this role
We view the South African government’s approach to Africa essentially as the exercise of peace diplomacy, defined as its involvement in continental peace-making (diplomatic interventions in the form of mediation or negotiation processes), United Nations mandated peacekeeping operations, and peace building (in line with the AU framework for post-conflict reconstruction and development). Peace diplomacy can also be equated to the exercise of soft power. Such an approach is by definition driven by multi-actor coalitions of decision-makers and implementers in government and state structures.
As expected, in the wake of its transitional experiences the post-apartheid South African government incorporated several ‘best practices’ in its foreign policy posture – peace diplomacy – and soon developed a reputation as an able conflict mediator, particularly in Africa, but also elsewhere, such as with the Lockerbie case, Northern Ireland, and Timor Leste (although there is doubt to what extent its mediation efforts outside Africa can be regarded as effective).
We can best describe post-apartheid South Africa’s behaviour as that of an emerging middle power. Indeed, since 1994 its government followed a pragmatic, reformist foreign policy agenda. This was not always the case. South Africa’s relationship with Africa evolved over time. This is because material conditions change, as do decision-makers (Presidents Mandela, Mbeki and Zuma illustrate that personalities matter). Furthermore, where interests of domestic actors (government, political formations, business, civil society) overlap, it produces a convergence of views (the ‘national interest’) but cannot be assumed to be static – it dynamically changes over time.
This apparent bleak record must be seen in the context of successful interventions elsewhere. The joint Botswana/South Africa military intervention – seemingly under the auspices of the SADC – in Lesotho in 1998 is criticized by many as a failure. Despite its shortcomings, Operation Boleassucceeded in stabilising the situation in order for a process of political negotiations on a new constitution and voting system to take off. In the case of the DRC, the South African government’s persistence in playing the role of peacemaker also paid off. Despite ongoing violence in the East of the DRC, the ‘Sun City’ talks in 2002 and the subsequent Pretoria Agreements of 2002–03 laid the foundations for a credible peace process and opened the door to post-war reconstruction of Congolese society. South African personnel continue to make up a large contingent of UN peace support and enforcement operations in the DRC. South African diplomats also play a key role in coordinating activities of the member states of SADC and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in determining the nature of mediation in the DRC and Great Lakes region in the context of the UN Framework for Peace, Security and Cooperation for DRC and the Region (Khadiagla, 2012; SAFPI, 2013).
South Africa’s corporate ambitions in Africa seem to be one of the key motivating factors explaining its forays into African peacemaking. Others talk of a policy ‘contradiction’ whereby involvement in peacemaking and peacekeeping is motivated by a humanistic impulse in the ruling party and government (to alleviate suffering on the continent) as well as expectations of economic payback (whereby investment in peace processes is expected to reap benefits). Our interaction with officials and others involved in South Africa’s peace diplomacy leads us to conclude that these disparate impulses all mark the South African government’s decision-making processes and that choices are not easily constructed. It remains critical for South Africa’s foreign, security and economic objectives to be formulated and implemented holistically in the long-term pursuit of African peace and development – the keystone of its ambitious international relations posture. This requires a harmonised foreign and security policy framework that is complementary to government’s emerging trade and economic policy frameworks. For this to work, the South African government will have to establish a national consensus regarding the country’s national interests in order to determine its national security policy and strategic approaches.
The balance that had to be brought was that historically the OAU was working on the principle of non- interference in internal affairs. The AU innovation was that learning from the experience of what happened in Rwanda and the genocide there and in other African countries. That principal of non- indifference, when there are human rights abuses, failure to exercise the responsibility to protect, was a very important innovation. Key in this entire process was the engagements of Algeria, Nigeria and South Africa.
We argue that Brazil’s engagement with security in Africa is marked by a tension inherent in its status as a rising power: Brazilian policy elites’ desire to transform the country into a global player and their insistence on respect for national sovereignty. On the one hand, Brazil seeks to become more of a norms setter in international relations, for which a role in African security has become essential. On the other hand, the country’s burgeoning engagement with security issues in Africa is tempered by the emphasis it places on sovereignty and non-intervention, as well as by its own limited capacity to become directly involved in security matters outside its immediate vicinity.
Protecting its citizens
Brazil’s expanding ties with Africa have also generated new security interests and concerns. For example, due to the growing the number of Brazilian organizations and companies active in Africa, the number of Brazilians residing in the continent has also increased. According to a ranking of major Brazilian multinational companies, over 30% of the top 64 Brazilian multinationals maintain a plant or office in the African continent, operating in areas such as oil, mining, construction, and agriculture26. In addition to large multinational companies, there are a growing number of small and medium companies operated by Brazilian citizens that provide services to the large Brazilian companies, mainly in the Portuguese speaking countries. There are also Brazilian food companies (supermarkets, restaurants and clothing stores operating in some African countries27.
While helping to cement ties with Brazil, these communities also generate concern for the Brazilian government, especially in contexts of political and social instability. According to 2012 figures from the Foreign Ministry, Brazilians in Africa are heavily concentrated in three countries (10,649 in Angola, 2,250 in Mozambique, and 914 in South Africa)28. These numbers are bound to increase as Brazilian companies and other entities expand their African operations, including beyond those three countries. Concern for the safety of Brazilians in Africa increased during the February 2011 military intervention in Libya, when Brazilian government officials in Tripoli and nearby European capitals had to arrange for the evacuation of 900 employees from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, the Brazilian state oil company Petrobra´s, and the construction company Andrade Gutierrez. This was the first time that the Brazilian Foreign Ministry had to use its Integrated Consular System– implemented in 2012 to digitize and consolidate information about Brazilian citizens living
abroad so as to expedite the issuing of passports and evacuations during crises (FUNAG, 2012, pp 94- 95).
In addition, Africa has become a relevant tourist destination for Brazilians. Between 2011 and 2012, there was a 44% increase in the number of Brazilian tourists visiting South Africa. Direct flights connect Sa~o Paulo and Johannesburg, and there is a new air route between Rio de Janeiro/Sa~o Paulo and Addis Ababa, operated by Ethiopian Airways, with a stopover in Lome´. A request for direct connection between Recife (located in Brazil’s Northeast) and Nigeria, operated by Brazilian airline Gol, is also under consideration by Brazilian authorities29. These links may help to boost direct commercial and tourist links between Brazil and Africa, also increasing the number of Brazilians exposed to risks abroad.
Gorm Rye Olsen (2014): ‘Great power’ intervention in African armed conflicts, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, DOI: 10.1080/09557571.2013.867299
When the African Union (AU) was established in 2002, it was clearly envisioned that the organization should play a major role in resolving and managing armed conflicts on the continent. On the other hand, it was obvious that the AU lacked a number of important prerequisites to act as an efficient conflict manager. The AU never was and still is not able to carry out peace and conflict management operations in Africa unless it gets handsome financial, logistical and technical support from the international society (Williams 2009; Albert 2007, 55ff).
This paper asks two questions. First, why have the US, China and the EU intervened in a number of conflict situations and, second, why did they act the way they did in those situations
s the paper applies a neoclassical realist framework, it puts much emphasis on the significance of perceptions of the relevant decision-makers’ determination of what is in the national interest. National interests are defined as either ‘hard core’ (security) or ‘core’ (security and economic wealth) concerns (Gegout2012, 139). Stressing the significance of material interests means this paper is sceptical as to the impact of ethical considerations or soft notions of national interest, such as prestige, esteem and reputation, in relation to explaining these interventions. It is assumed that scrutiny and comparison of the motivations and interests of the US, China and the EU can contribute to describing the changing geopolitical environment of Africa. Therefore, the analysis can contribute to understanding the current conditions for conflict management on the continent. This means trade and aid issues are not dealt with in the paper.
According to neoclassical realism, the determination of the national interest depends on how key political decision-makers subjectively perceive the international power structure, as well as the domestic environment (Reichwein2012; Schmidt and Juneau 2012; Toje and Kunz 2012). However, Catherine Gegout suggests distinguishing between several types of national interest or primary concerns of states. She refers to security as a ‘hard core’ concern, whereas it is considered a ‘core’ concern to pursue security and economic wealth at the same time. It is worth noting that Gegout does not dismiss the significance of normative and ethical concerns influencing foreign-policy-making (Gegout2012, 138ff).
Chris Alden maintains that a number of interrelated issues motivate China’s involvement in Africa (Alden 2007). First is resource security and the need for new markets and investment opportunities. With the increasing globalization of its interests, public and private, China needs stable overseas markets and general long-term stability in Africa (Lei 2011, 346ff; Stahl 2011b). Therefore, Beijing perceives a peaceful international environment not only an economic necessity but also an attractive foreign policy goal (Zengyu and Taylor 2011, 150f). Second, Beijing has a political-strategic interest in making allies in Africa (Alden 2007; Yi-chong2008, 23ff). By pursuing this particular interest, China hopes to increase its influence on its African partners and to strengthen the African voting bloc within the UN to have a group of like-minded countries challenging the global dominance of the US and the West. The bottom line to these different types of interest is all about the core national interests of China, namely economic wealth and security, in this particular order.
As early as 2005, China appointed representatives to the AU. Beijing soon established a tradition of attending AU summit meetings as an observer and the two parties hold annual meetings exchanging views on major international and regional issues of common concern. The AU Commission has developed into being a full member of the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) (Hoeymissen2011, 99). The 2009 FOCAC declared that China had agreed to step up cooperation with the UN, the AU and regional African institutions to address security issues on the continent.
As a consequence of the close relationship between China and the AU, the views of African regional organizations have emerged as an important factor influencing China’s position in the UN Security Council (UNSC) on African issues (Hoeymissen2011, 95). Therefore, Beijing has changed its position from opposing sanctions against Sudan in 2005 to engaging in discrete diplomatic efforts to convince the Sudanese President to accept the hybrid UN–AU peacekeeping mission to Darfur (Stahl 2011a, 161f; Huang 2011). China has taken a more and more cooperative stance and supportive role in the UN towards peacekeeping, indicating the Chinese leadership has taken a more flexible position on the crucial issues of sovereignty and, thus, on the issue of non-intervention in internal African affairs (Huang 2011, 161; Shelton 2008, 4–5). The flexibility showed itself during the 2011 crisis in Libya. On the one hand, China supported UN resolution 1970 placing sanctions on the Libyan regime because of its violations of human rights, while on the other hand Beijing abstained from the critical vote in the UNSC authorizing military action that included enforcing a no-fly zone (Beckford 2011).
When it comes to conflict management and peacekeeping activities in Africa, it appears that the basic explanation of the changing Chinese policy is linked to China’s concern for its global image as it seeks to foster an image of itself as a responsible power encouraging global peace and stability, as is argued by several authors (Huang 2011, 260; Stahl 2011a, 163). In order to substantiate this particular argument, Chin-Hao Huang quotes an editorial in the widely read Communist Party domestic and foreign affairs journal Liaowang: ‘The focus at present is to take a more active part in international affairs and play a role that a responsible power should on the basis of satisfying the security and development interests’ (Huang 2011, 260). The quotation may contribute to explaining why Beijing seems to have become less and less immune to external pressure when it comes to African issues and also why it has modified its traditional positions towards the continent (Stahl 2011a, 163). On the other hand, a recent analysis by Jonathan Holslag demonstrates that China has basically pursued a conservative policy aimed at avoiding getting entangled in domestic affairs in African countries. The overall aim of China in Africa has been to avoid political instability that could upset its economic interests (Holslag2011). Following the argument of Holslag, what appears to be a policy demonstrating China to be a responsible power is just a new way of pursuing China’s national interest in securing markets and investment opportunities and, at the same time, not pushing aside potential allies on the continent.
To sum up, China has strong economic and thus national interests in Africa. At the same time, Beijing has developed a number of secondary interests on the continent related to maintaining peace and stability. Apart from serving its own interest by contributing to a stable and peaceful environment, active support of the UN’s peacekeeping efforts serves a crucial Chinese interest in enhancing its international reputation and esteem by making China appear a responsible rising global power. Like in the US case, it has not been possible to identify intentional ideas that may have influenced Beijing’s policy-making towards Africa.
China is equally preoccupied with its national interests in Africa, which are essentially economic. The most remarkable aspect of China’s political-strategic interest in Africa is its link to China’s ambition to appear a responsible global power. If this particular ambition is seen as just one instrument or means among several policy instruments promoting the economic interests of Beijing in Africa, it is not so remarkable.
The most conspicuous aspect of the international naval operations may be that since late 2008 China has contributed a limited number of naval vessels, among them two destroyers, to patrol the waters around the Horn of Africa. The Chinese ships were not only deployed to assist Chinese cargo ships and oil tankers, but were ready to protect foreign ships on request (Kamerling and Putten2011). The Chinese vessels were not part of a coordinated, international operation even though they operated side by side with naval ships from other nations, sharing intelligence with nations that have vessels in the waters off the Horn of Africa (Ji and Kia 2009, 7). China’s deployment of its naval force has to be explained by the narrow national interests of protecting Chinese ships and not least tankers transporting oil from Port Sudan. On the other hand, it is not to be neglected that there was a strong wish to improve the international image of the country and show China to be a responsible rising nation. ‘It is a signal to many that China wishes to participate more actively in international security’ (Kamerling and Putten2011, 123ff; Ji and Kia 2009, 1–7).
Since the turn of the twenty-first century, China has increasingly been involved in UN peacekeeping operations, both globally and in Africa in particular. Almost 75 per cent of China’s total peacekeepers are deployed on the continent, where they have been engaged in a number of high-profile conflicts. Beijing has deployed peacekeepers in Darfur in Sudan, in the DRC, in Coˆte d’Ivoire, in the Eritrea and Ethiopia border mission and to several other conflicts (Shelton 2008; Gill and Huang 2009). The increasing involvement in UN peacekeeping operations is the result of political choices made by the Chinese political leadership that have clearly aimed to build an image of the country as ‘a responsible great power’ that is taking a role in advancing global peace and stability, as argued by several authors (Hirono and Lateigne2011; Richardson 2011).
China repeatedly invokes the term ‘responsible power’ in framing its involvement in UN peacekeeping. For example, in 2006 the Deputy Chief of General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army described China’s involvement in the UN peacekeeping regime in this way: ‘In addressing grave issues involving peace and security, we are a responsible country . . . Chinese peacekeeping activities demonstrate our country’s image as a responsible superpower’ (Richardson 2011, 287–288). The official use of the term ‘responsible power’ is part of China’s rhetorical effort to gain recognition as a ‘legitimate great power’ on its own terms (2011, 288f). Chin-Hao Huang argues that peacekeeping activities help Beijing attain its aspirations to become a major global power (Huang 2011, 261 – 262).
China repeatedly declared its support for and appreciation of the efforts of AMIS in Darfur. In spite of official Chinese backing of the AMIS mission, financial assistance was strikingly limited. By the time the AU–UN hybrid force took over in Darfur in 2008, China had donated only US$1.8 million to AMIS out of a total budget estimated at US$466 million in 2006 (Hoeymissen2011, 100). Towards the end of 2006, China started to put pressure on the Sudanese government concerning Darfur to modify its behaviour and to engage in a political process for a peaceful resolution of the conflict (Hoeymissen2011, 106). The change in China’s position was mainly due to overwhelming international criticism of its role in Sudan and the increasing reputational costs that Beijing experienced from being so closely allied with the Khartoum government (Zengyu and Taylor 2011, 146). Providing support for the AU’s efforts in Darfur came to be seen as a ‘convenient way’ for China to respond to international calls to alleviate the Darfur crisis. Also, it was a way to enhance its image in Africa and to prevent its economic interests in Sudan from being negatively affected by international intervention or sanctions. The bulk of the expenditure of AMIS was paid by the EU (Hoeymissen2011, 100). The EU provided a consolidated package of civilian and military measures in response to a request from the AU. Between July 2005 and December 2007, the EU provided urgently needed equipment and technical assistance and a small number of military and civilian personnel. The EU committed a total of more than e300 million from the African Peace Facility from June 2004 to December 2007. In addition, individual EU member states contributed e200 million through bilateral channels (Ekengard2008, 36ff).
Darfur seems to be the turning point in the Chinese Africa policy, pointing towards a more flexible approach to the question of sovereignty in violent conflicts and not least in peacekeeping operations on the continent. It is argued the change in the Chinese policy towards Darfur and thereby also towards African issues in general reflects the increasing awareness of Beijing of its international reputation and of expectations of its role as a responsible power (Contessi2010). On the other hand, the sudden Chinese flexibility may also be interpreted as an illustration of the longstanding Chinese strategy of adjustment, as argued by Jonathan Holslag. The policy towards Darfur may suggest that Beijing follows two of the guidelines contained in the adjustment strategy aimed at avoiding instability, namely ‘enhance resilience’ and ‘prevent escalation’ (Holslag2011, 385).
Second, it is important to note that changes have taken place during the past ten years in Beijing’s position towards peacekeeping and conflict management in Africa. The more and more active position of Beijing has to be explained by the interest of China appearing a responsible global power. It can be argued that such an interest is basically equal to a national interest, which in the African context is equal to avoiding political instability by using almost all measures simply because unrest may harm China’s economic interests. At the same time, the changes seem to reflect a growing sensitivity to public standing and reputation that may or may not make China vulnerable to external pressure not only from African governments but probably also from Western powers.
neoclassical realism as a tool in foreign- policy-making.
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