Algeria holds a significant importance for China in terms of economic, political, and geopolitical cooperations. From Global South perspective, Algeria-China relations is more than just bilateral relations but also how both countries position themselves at the international stage that align with global south aspirations.

For China, being part of Global South is an opportunity for expanding its influences in developing world especially in Africa because of the increasing market and economic expansion. China sees the infrastructure investments is not only for economic reason but also building a political influence such as diplomatic ties and international support[1]. However, for Africa countries like Algeria, it sees China’s presence as an opportunity for them to move beyond the old narrative of state development and starting to cooperate with China in various field with more multipolar approaches. Many views that the engagement with China signify on economic diversification and encouraging for infrastructures developments which is crucial for Algeria economic growth[2].

China economic presence in Algeria through Belt and Road Initiatives (BRI) has fostered economic growth in the country with contributions in regional connectivity and development projects because of the two main reasons. This is because of Algeria geographical location is very strategic for China and could serve as potential gateway to establish a regional trade and infrastructure hubs in furthering its BRI’s ambition. Moreover, Algeria also holds vast amount of natural gas and resources which are important for China ongoing economic development. As a country riches in natural resources, Algeria is economic development was fostered by China state-owned and private companies’ investments in the sectors such as oil and natural gas, infrastructures, and manufacturing which are important for BRI expansion and deemed significance for China economic advantages. There are also companies that involved in connectivity projects like highways, railways and ports which help enhancing Algeria connectivity and trade potential while at the same time provides valuable sources for China’s energy demand and trade ambitions[3].                                         

  Figure 1: Trade relations between Algeria and China in 2021.[4]

The figure shows that Algeria holds significant amount of natural gas and petroleum where more than 80% of its export to China is petroleum which is critical source requirement for China’s energy-intensive industries, sustaining its industrial growth and energy security. This emphasizes on Algeria importance for China as key economic partner for China to bolster its economic interests while strengthening its status in regional dynamics and global markets.   

Algeria new visions for economic diversification has motivate them to be part of BRICS alliance and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as it will likely give impacts on Algeria’s economic, geopolitics, and security aspects. Both SCO and BRICS offer Algeria opportunity to leverage its economic and energy strengths for mutual gains because it’s consisted of key energy producers and consumers which very advantageous for Algeria[5]. Economically, Algeria's memberships will create more economic opportunities in trade, investments, and increased collaboration with other member states which could potentially contribute to Algeria's economic growth and diversification. As Algeria seek to lessen it oil’s dependency, cooperations with BRICS members will encourage for a more diverse economies and facilitate the exchange of trade and services, investments, and expertise. This is because BRICS contribute 32% of global GDP in 2022 surpassing G7’s number showed the bright prospect of the alliance to become one of the influential global economic trajectories which might be a reason why Algeria is interested to be part of the alliance[6].

While BRICS’s application is mainly driven by the economic factors, China growing influence as global power is seen as the reason that influenced Alegria to be part of the SCO as well as part of the county strategic play between economic interest and geopolitical ambitions[7]. For Algeria this alignment with China regional activities in Africa is beyond than just economic factors as this strategic alignment hold significance in addressing country and regional security concerns in North Africa.

Notably, the influence of China and Rusia, the country in both BRICS and SCO offered a possibility for mutual strategic engagement that align with Algeria’s strategic ambitions. With SCO known for its commitment and comprehensive approach in security, economy, and regional politics, it will provide Algeria a safeguard and valuable opportunity to assert its diplomacy on the international stage. Given Algeria first-hand experience in combating terrorism, membership in SCO will give Algeria platform to amplify its voice on regional and global issues especially issues related to counterterrorism and security concerns. In fact, Algeria still recovering from its past experience of terror act from the extremist groups, and collaboration with China and SCO will shape its approach to security, governance, and international relations thereby fasten the national reconciliation process. 

SCO regional and global engagement will allow Algeria to actively participate in broader dialogues and discussions with the member states on collaborative efforts in counterterrorism, joint exercise, and intelligence sharing. Recently, China and Algeria had a mutual agreement to collaborate in combating extremist entities and terrorism activities in their respective area such as intelligence sharing, training-capacity building program, technological assistance, and enhancement of anti-terrorism campaigns[8].

Moreover, SCO core principles adhere non-interference in the internal affairs of the member states, which align with China principles of handling domestic issues without external interference. While Algeria projected for economic benefits and alignment with powerful states are compelling, associating itself with an organization that might be seen as condoning or ignoring human rights violations might expose Algeria to criticism from international actors and organizations that concern with human rights issues. With international community condemned China human rights violations in East Turkistan and Tibet, this factor might hinder Algeria from giving a response on human rights issues and will receive backlash from international community for siding with China. Even before formally integrate to neither BRICS nor SCO, Algeria is one of the countries that support China internal affairs and show solidarity on China claims about no human right violations happened in East Turkistan[9]. The economic interdependence has made Algeria to adopt cautious diplomatic approaches so that it does not provoke or upset China in order to prevent potential economic disruptions that could arise from strained relationship.

Hence, it is important for Algeria to navigating it potential membership in SCO to benefiting from economic advantages while concurrently addressing concerns about international human rights concerns, such as Uyghur issue. There are some policy recommendations that Algeria should consider to strike balance between economic interest and advocate for human rights principle.

First, Algeria should adhere for a broader partnership beyond the organization to maintain its commitment for human right causes while advancing its economic and security interest. By collaborating with likeminded country and international organizations, Algeria can use it status in SCO to advocate for establishment of mechanism to address human right issues within other organization like Africa Union (AU) and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).  With the engagement of constructive dialogue and promoting multilateral cooperation, Algeria can strengthen its voice on global platform to address concerns related to Uygur community and other human right concerns. By framing its concerns within the context of international norms, Algeria can engage in the issues while avoiding confrontational rhetoric that might hinder it status in SCO.

Moreover, Algeria is a sovereign country which means it responsible for its own decisions which gives them the right to balance both public and private diplomacy, especially to address their concern on international issues. Public diplomacy could involve carefully worded statements expressing Algeria's commitment to human rights principles and international law, emphasizing the importance of peaceful dialogue and cooperation. While private diplomacy could entail confidential discussions with government officials, expressing concerns and seeking assurances of positive steps toward addressing the issue, all while recognizing China's sovereignty and the principle of non-interference in domestic affairs. This is because public statements may be reserved for matters of utmost concern, private discussions and negotiations behind closed doors may prove more effective in influencing policy changes. Therefore, by utilizing both strategy, Algeria can uphold its international obligations and values while minimizing the risk of upsetting China and maintaining productive diplomatic channels.

In conclusion, Algeria stances are primarily driven by their pursuit to prioritize self-interest and preservation of national security in today competitive global arena. As the country reliant on China's economic advantages, this factor potentially influencing Algeria to prioritize economic considerations over more assertive foreign policy postures to ensure economic stability and growth of the country. This alignment may position Algeria favorably within the SCO framework, but it also underscores the diplomatic and ethical implications that must be sacrificed in the pursuit of membership. However, by strategically engaging in dialogue, comprehensive partnerships, and advocating for transparent discussions, Algeria can navigate its role within the organization while advancing its principles on human rights and contributing to positive change on the global stage. Hence, balancing this situation require astute diplomatic maneuver to gain the benefits of the membership while safeguarding Algeria’s sovereignty and international reputations.

[1] Dreyer, J. (2023). The World China Is Building.

[2](Zoubir, 2023). Algeria and China: Shifts in political and military relations.

[3] Ibid.

[4] (Algeria (DZA) and China (CHN) Trade | OEC, 2021).

[5] (Saada, 2023) Algeria's Quest for Economic Integration: Joining the Shanghai Organization to Foster Stronger Ties.

[6] (Eagle, 2023) Animated Chart: G7 vs. BRICS by GDP (PPP).

[7] (Abdelmomen, 2023) Algeria Submits an Application to Join the SCO.

[8] (Reuters, 2023). China to deepen security, defence cooperation with Algeria.

[9] (Permanent Mission of The People’s Republic Of China To The United Nations Office At Geneva And Other International Organizations In Switzerland, 2021). Joint statement of 69 countries at the Interactive Dialogue on High Commissioner's annual report at the 47th session of the Human Rights Council.

Prepared by

Farhan Suzaki

27 August 2023