Washington: China`s military base in Djibouti isn`t the only sign of Chinese security engagement in Africa but the investments through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Africa can also motivate both Beijing and host countries to increase China`s military engagement on the continent.
The safety and stability of the government and population of partnering African countries can play a role in the types of projects China looks to fund through this initiative, reported The Washington Post.
Natalie Herbert, in an article in The Washington Post, said that China is looking to protect its economic investments and build its reputation as a world power through BRI.
Many China-Africa scholars and studies attribute Chinese interest in the African security environment to China`s need to protect its economic investments and the safety of Chinese citizens living in Africa and its reputation as a rising power.
Traditionally, West African countries have relatively limited Chinese financial assets and fewer Chinese residents than other African regions.
But within the first six months of 2019, the African Union, Nigeria and Liberia signed BRI agreements with China. Some analysts explain BRI investment agreements as paving the way for greater China security engagement.
The most recent Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Plan (2019-2022), for example, calls for security cooperation along the BRI, wrote Herbert.
Security assistance from Beijing also includes support for organizations that assist conflict-ridden nations.
China has donated money and resources to the G5 Sahel to fight violent extremism in West Africa in addition to the United Nations, the African Union, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), reported The Washington Post.
China and several African countries also engage in intelligence sharing, technology transfers and joint military and police training.
China led police training during the UN mission in Liberia in 2014, shared drone intelligence with Nigeria to counter terrorist activities in 2016, and donated patrol boats to the Ghanaian military to combat maritime piracy.
Working with multilateral organizations has enabled China to sidestep direct coordination with African governments, in some cases.
This participation allows China to assist and access countries that might not have strong bilateral political or economic ties to the Chinese government.
At the same time, the BRI enables China to strengthen its bilateral, nation-to-nation ties, notwithstanding African countries` deeper and historical ties with Western nations like France.
Though BRI is not a security cooperation mechanism — it is primarily an investment and infrastructure-building tool.
But China is one of the largest trading partners for the African continent, leaving little question that China`s involvement in Africa is growing, in and outside of the security sector.
Meanwhile, US policymakers are concerned that China`s involvement in Africa represents a growing threat to US interests on the continent.
China`s increased visibility and influence mean that African countries can request monetary and security assistance from Beijing rather than its Western partners.
Considering the Chinese moves in Africa, the US State Department earlier this year implemented “Prosper Africa” to provide other investment opportunities for African business and development.
European Union too launched an initiative last year aimed to increase European trade and investment with Africa. It seeks to boost security cooperation and reduce the numbers of African migrants heading to Europe.
As countries adjust their foreign policy accordingly, China`s military and security partnerships with countries in Africa seem likely to expand, posing new challenges and questions for African nations` long-time security partners like the United States.
Under the Belt and Road auspices, bilateral agreements provide China access to critical areas on the continent where it can justify an expanded military presence, opined Herbert.
By early 2021, 140 countries worldwide had signed more than 200 BRI cooperation agreements — essentially frameworks for Chinese companies to build infrastructure projects such as ports, railways, power stations and telecommunication networks using low-interest Chinese loans to host countries, reported The Washington Post.