Beijing is hosting African military leaders for a week-long summit aimed at strengthening China-Africa military relations, with discussions expected to mainly focus on peace and security across the continent.
The Defense Ministry kicked off China-Africa Peace and Security Forum on Sunday with the presence of African defense ministers and military chiefs in Beijing.
High-ranking military attaches and army representatives from virtually all African countries are attending the event.
“The main point of the forum will be more technical and specialized exchanges,” said Wang Hongyi, a researcher from the Institute of West Asian and African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
“Security cooperation between China and Africa is what African countries have requested, something the United Nations has promoted and, of course, it is also conducive to protecting Chinese interests in Africa,” Wang added.
The security forum is being held as China is also strengthening its investments across the continent, through the multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project, which is also known as the “new Silk Road.”
The trade infrastructure project, which is also on the agenda in the summit, announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013, envisions the construction of railways, roads and ports across the globe to connect China by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
The plan, however, has many critics, who believe the project could bury African nations under debt to China, calling it Beijing’s “debt trap.”
Beijing says when it comes to “the debt problem, there really is not that much Chinese debt in Africa.”
China’s growing military presence in Africa has already prompted the United States to take countermeasures amid a long-running trade dispute between Washington and Beijing.
China overtook the US in 2010 as the continent’s largest trading partner.