UJCI Africa-China Occasional Paper No 1

Soldiers trying out their new UN peacekeeping uniforms prior to deploying to the Central African Republic as part of the UN MINUSCA mission, 2015. Wikimedia Commons.

China’s Soft-Power Status (via UN Peacekeeping) and its Implications for the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA)

Martin R. Rupiya, Ph.D
Institute for African Renaissance Studies, University of South Africa

ABSTRACT: As part of China’s newly acquired, soft power status, manifest in its foreign policy and global repositioning since 2015, Beijing has directed support towards Africa’s collective security of African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) established in 2003, and the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACRIC) of May 2013.

Since the 1990s, the nature of African conflicts have shown the limitations of traditional peacekeeping and its subsequent war-fighting variations that include enforcement as well as seek-and-destroy mandates. Meanwhile, APSA and ACRIC are not necessarily complementary notions, with the latter specifically seeking to reassert self-reliance based on the exclusion of external assistance, however described.  iven this context, the Chinese initiative, attempting to mediate African conflicts through international peacekeeping, may have misunderstood the context and utility of the tools against the background of Africa’s complex, protracted and increasingly ‘forever wars’.

This article argues that Africa’s collective security, led by the AU, is located in the sophisticated and elastic notion of subsidiarity, operating between states, subregional security entities and the PSC, in which responsibility is local and only subverted to the centre when all else fails. Where those crises dominate, intervention by the African Peace and Security Council (PSC) finds itself having to balance local and external interests and actors, some of whom may not necessarily subscribe to the APSA framework.

This article argues for a joint and mutual China-Africa conceptual re-evaluation of the assistance in order to create opportunities for a substantive relationship with the still emerging African collective security framework.

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