Going Naval in Troubled Waters: The EU, China and the fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia
Title: Going Naval in Troubled Waters: The EU, China and the fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia
Citation: Jing MEN and Benjamin BARTON (eds), China and the European Union in Africa: Partners or Competitors?, Farnham, Ashgate, 2011, 81-103
ISBN: 9781409420477; 978-1-4094-2048-4
In this paper, we compare the EU’s and China’s anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia. For the EU, this is the first time it conducts a naval operation in the framework of its Common Security and Defence Policy. For China, it is the first time in half a century that it ventures into an out-of-area maritime operation. In terms of motivation, both the EU and China share not only important economic interests, but also aspirations of becoming global players in a multipolar world. Their operations serve both as an illustration of such aspirations, as well as a test case for future contingencies. By contrast, the approaches adopted by both in implementing the operations reveal the divergence of their strategies. While China, despite the willingness to become a responsible international actor, is caught in its traditional notions of non-interference and sovereignty as well as logistical constraints, the EU shows leadership in putting into practice its comprehensive notion of security. Finally, the coordination between the two as well as other actors in the area reveals the wider geopolitical stakes at hand and the complexity of making optimal use of the presence of several “great powers”. We conclude that thus far the EU succeeded in integrating China in the multilateral framework without compromising its own position and ambitions.
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