Forschungsarbeit: The European Union and China in Africa

The European Union and China in Africa

Explaining Conflict and Cooperation with International Relations Theory

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Regensburger Studien zur Internationalen Politik, Band 7

Hamburg , 168 Seiten

ISBN 978-3-8300-4726-1 (Print) |ISBN 978-3-339-04726-7 (eBook)

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The Chinese quest for African resources, market opportunities, and political influence in African countries has caught the attention of Western media and analysts. The depiction of Beijing’s „safari“ into Africa mainly presents a negative image of the Chinese engagement: China is said to risk political stability on the continent by politically and economically supporting autocratic governments, to import its low environmental and labor standards when investing into Africa, to contribute to Africans’ dependency on natural resource exports while draining its treasures of the soil, and, as a result, to thwart the Western nations’ development agenda for Africa. In spite of this negative view, the European Union has made an attempt to engage China into a trilateral dialogue with African partners to foster cooperation.

The analysis in this book addresses the question of conflict and cooperation in EU-China relations towards Africa on the practical and theoretical level. It uses three theoretical perspectives of international relations theory to build an analytical framework. The concepts of neorealism, neoliberal institutionalism, and cognitive evolutionist theory are combined to enable a structured observation of the EU and China in Africa. European and Chinese interests and policies towards Africa are compared to one another to see whether they conflict or converge.

The major strength of this study lies in its combination of several strands of theory, incorporated into a synthesized analytical framework. As bottom line to the theoretical discussion, the results of the study implicate that such a multi-causal explanatory approach provides a broader and deeper understanding of the object of analysis than a single line of argument. It is convincingly shown that in Euro-Sino-relations towards Africa, self-interested security and economic concerns matter as much as information, principles, and perceptions. The three theories, highlighting either the role of power and security, the prospect of cooperation despite competition, or the importance of learning in international politics, can each elucidate one aspect of EU and Chinese behavior. Looking at EU-China-Africa relations in a variety of policy fields, the analysis finds issues of competing and conflicting interests, but also potential for cooperation. The study concludes that, notwithstanding some fundamental controversies between the EU and China in regard to democracy promotion and political conditionalities, as opposed to the principles of state sovereignty and non-interference, the European and Chinese approaches aim at similar ends. The European proposal for dialogue and cooperation offers a path to complementarily coordinate the two strategies towards Africa in order to work towards common goals.

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