But China arguably has more at stake in Ethiopia than in any other country in Africa. Ethiopia is on a path that would certainly damage substantial Chinese economic interests both within the country and beyond its borders. Some have suggested that China will continue making every effort to support the Abiy government, including by defending Addis Ababa’s sovereignty in the face of human rights abuse charges. Could Beijing be pressured to go beyond its relative detachment to play a positive diplomatic role?
All Powers and Players Are Needed for Peace
U.S. diplomacy is struggling for a reason. Were China to pivot to active diplomacy by engaging with the TPLF, or even use political capital to pressure the Abiy government, it would find a very challenging task ahead. Growing violence, including against civilians, is worsening Ethiopia’s deep ethnic and regional divisions. U.S. concerns over growing Chinese influence in Africa rightly touch upon key issues of governance, human rights and economic and strategic competition. But while Chinese influence in Africa has expanded significantly over the last two decades, it has its limits. Despite its considerable investments, China acting alone is powerless to stop the forces of disunity and violence that gravely threaten Ethiopia.