September 10, 2014
China and the Rising Terrorist Threats in Africa: Time for U.S.-China Cooperation?

by Yun Sun

In recent years, the rising terrorist threat in Africa has become an increasing concern for the region and the international community. From Boko Haram in Nigeria to al-Shabab in Somalia, from al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, the rising threats from the "arc of terror" have become a "plague" for the continent. As one of the major investors in the continent, China is also threatened by these increasing terrorist attacks. As the region and the world seek a cure for this terrorism "plague," the role of China in this effort, especially in potential counterterrorism cooperation with the U.S., deserves examination.

First of all, the rising terrorist threats in Africa undoubtedly hurt China's national interests. Most importantly, these challenges pose a direct threat to the security of Chinese investments/projects and the safety of Chinese personnel on the ground. Currently more than 2,000 Chinese companies and 1 million Chinese nationals are engaged in business operations in Africa, focusing primarily on the extractive industries and infrastructure development. Many of these projects are located in remote areas with minimum security guarantee from local authorities. Their vulnerability is attested by the disturbing cases of kidnappings of Chinese workers in Africa by local armed groups and the evacuation of 37,000 Chinese nationals from Libya during the civil war, raising questions about the wisdom and desirability of China's increasing investment efforts in Africa.

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