China’s engagement in Africa has obliged the EU to re-evaluate its own relationship with Africa. Since 2008, in an attempt to resolve the conflicts of norms and interests, the EU has proposed establishing a trilateral dialogue and cooperation mechanism between the EU, China and Africa, which so far has not yielded any substantial results.
The differences between China’s and the EU’s Africa policies are mainly visible in two areas: aid and security. The contradiction between their respective aid policies lies in China’s ‘no-strings-attached aid’ versus European ‘conditionality’ or emphasis on ‘fundamental principles’. The contradiction between their security approaches in Africa lies in China’s non-interference policy and the European concept of human security. Promoting common normative values and principles is at the core of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), which is important for the EU’s self-construction at present. China’s non-interference policy is related to its domestic security and stability and in this context it engages in its own rhetoric. In matters of principle it is difficult for both sides to make compromises or accept limitations imposed by the other.