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China's Relevance in the Security Domain in Africa and the Middle East

What is new
China’s involvement in Africa and the Middle East region is not new but it has significantly increased since the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative. Globally, even though China remains behind other historical partners such as the USA or Europe, the growth rate of its engagement is far higher. The gradual erosion of the Chinese principle of non-intervention has led China to change its posture vis-à-vis other developing countries, shouldering its responsibilities to help and, in some cases, to act as a model.

Why it is important
The economic weight of China and the opportunities brought by the Belt and Road Initiative make China a crucial partner for African and Middle Eastern countries. Even its passive attraction is influencing the regional and global geopolitical game. One of China’s distinct characteristics is its approach to the development/security nexus. In Chinese foreign policy, development comes before security in promoting stability, which explains why security remains a secondary tool in China’s diplomacy. However, this could change easily and rapidly.

What should be done
In the various scenarios envisaged in this document, the level of engagement is a key factor which must be monitored in order to assess the relevance of China in the security domain. If its level of engagement were to rise, the risk of China’s international isolation could be mitigated by strengthening its participation in international bodies and creating opportunities for cooperation.

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