Trust and the Politics of Security Risk Management
: The European Union’s Engagement of China in Africa

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis asks why is trust between respective decision-makers the key factor when it comes to the EU’s ability to engage China (or not) on the resolution of security threats on the African continent? This thesis argues that the EU’s ability to impact upon Chinese decision-making in the realm of African security risk management relies above all on the capacity of EU policy-makers (i.e. operatives on the ground) to foster sufficient levels of cognitive-based political trust with their Chinese counterparts. More specifically, to attain such levels, this thesis demonstrates that these decision-makers have to do more than simply rely upon a convergence of rational interests with their Chinese interlocutors to foster trust, due to the primordial importance that cognitive factors – such as identity, communicative action and displays of empathy – play when it comes to bridging their contrasting political preferences with regard to the resolution of conflict situations on the African continent. This thesis shows that such cognitive factors often serve as the key variable between these actors either engaging in practical cooperation/coordination on the ground to help diffuse a given security threat or adopting conflicting (if not obstructing) views on how best to resolve a given conflict situation. To demonstrate this, the thesis comparatively focuses on two specific case studies: the EU’s interaction with China on the Darfur crisis (1) and bilateral dealings on counter-piracy activities in the Indian Ocean (2). The case studies will retrace a situation (1) where the EU’s inability to generate sufficient levels of trust with China prevented any form of meaningful diplomatic and practical cooperation, instead leaving both sides on opposing sides of the spectrum and will compare it to this other case (2), where the EU was able to foster enough trust to thereafter trigger a change in China’s tactical approach – more in line with its own expectations – to the extent of facilitating actual practical cooperation between the two sides.
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorAlessio Patalano (Supervisor) & Jacqueline Gower (Supervisor)

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