As the world's second largest economy invests billions in continent-spanning infrastructure projects, it's building a stronger diplomatic voice to match its ever-expanding presence on the global stage.
Across the developing world, Beijing has been engaging in mediation diplomacy — a style of conflict resolution where it's the sole or principal moderator — to protect its assets and gain recognition as a respectable superpower.
Africa, where Chinese President Xi Jinping will be touring in the coming days, has long been a training ground for Chinese peace efforts. In 2007, Beijing appointed its first-ever special representative to genocide-hit Darfur to help achieve a political settlement. And in 2015, Chinese officials brought together South Sudan’s warring parties for negotiations. Just this week, the communist state offered to mediate in a border dispute between Eritrea and Djibouti, the latter of which is home to China's first overseas military base.
"Being seen as a mediator in regional disputes can only help burnish China’s image," said researchers at the China Africa Research Initiative, a program at Johns Hopkins University. And in Africa, where Xi's administration has established greater military links, it's essential for Beijing to protect the stability of countries where China has economic interests, they added.
In fact, many speculate that it was China's concerns over its investments in Zimbabwe that resulted in the coup that ousted former leader Robert Mugabe in November of last year — a charge that Xi's administration has denied.