China’s Evolving Approach to UN Peacekeeping in Africa

Cedric de Coning & Kari Osland

Full report available here:


China’s new, assertive role in UN peacekeeping, especially in Africa, represents a significant shift in Beijing’s peace and security posture that is not yet fully reflected in official discourse and rhetoric, but that reflects China’s new confidence with its global power status. Every significant adaptation in its peacekeeping policy has reflected an important shift in the country’s practical foreign and security policy. Tracing and tracking China’s peacekeeping policy and practice is thus a useful proxy for analysing the evolution of its peace and security considerations. In this policy brief we consider the medium- to long-term trajectory of China’s peace and security practices by analysing its recent activity in Africa, focusing on how China has used its contributions to the UN peacekeeping missions in Mali (MINUSMA) and South Sudan (UNMISS).

Beijing’s peace and security discourse, including its emphasis on non-interference and sovereignty, has remained relatively constant over the last decades. However, China’s practice in Mali and South Sudan, as well as in Africa more generally, has evolved significantly. China is supporting international efforts to improve the peace and security landscape in these countries. China is also bilaterally influencing developments through significant investments in infrastructure, agriculture, health and education. However, it is its active engagement in supporting international and regional mediation and the assertive way that Beijing has chosen to use peacekeeping that are the most telling indicators of how much its actual practice on the ground has evolved beyond its official rhetoric. At the same time China has been developing its own unique approach to peacekeeping and peacebuilding, based on a theory of change that sees peace as emerging from development. Taken together, these developments reflect turning points in how China chooses to contribute to international peace and security, and are indicative of how China is adapting to its new global power status.IMG_9199

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