Although European and Chinese interests differ, China seemed more willing than before to engage in addressing security challenges in Africa.
The EU wants to co-operate with China in Africa in the framework of trilateral dialogue and co-operation on peace, stability, and sustainable development, as described in a European Commission communication in 2008. The EU identified four areas for such co-operation: peace and security; support for African infrastructure; sustainable management of the environment and infrastructure; and agriculture and food security. This was the response of the EU to the rising engagement of China in Africa. Among the priorities of the EU in Africa, peace and security is the area in which the EU is the most willing to co-operate with China. China’s interests differ from those of the EU and it has a special focus on infrastructure development. But in recent years China has become more involved in addressing security challenges and has taken a more flexible approach towards the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, as Chinese facilities and workers have become the targets for attacks and kidnapping in Niger, Nigeria, and Sudan.
In 2013, China increased its participation in peacekeeping missions in Africa. It co-operated with European forces in Mali, and in May it announced it was sending 500 combat troops under the UN – a first. The anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden was another area of co-operation. The Chinese government has dispatched 37 warships and 10,000 naval personnel to the waters of Somalia, escorting more than 5,000 vessels. Actual co-ordination remains minimal, but in 2013 European and Chinese naval forces jointly escorted World Food Programme ships carrying aid to Somalia and discussed a joint counter-piracy exercise in the Gulf of Aden. Europeans also worked with China within the Africa–China–EU Expert Working Group on Conventional Arms. The group met a few times in 2013 to discuss opportunities for EU–China co-operation in preventing illegal trade in small arms and light weapons in African countries.