Since 2013, China’s foreign policy has been characterised by assertive trends in regional politics but also, an increasing cooperative side in its mediation activities. This trend contrasts with previous disengagement in conflict-affected states under the non-intervention principle. Why has China increased its role as conflict mediator since 2013, concretely, in the greater Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and what are the sources of this behaviour? To understand how mediation serves China’s international and domestic interests, I apply a framework based in Neoclassical Realism to the cases of South Sudan and Afghanistan intra-state conflicts, both unlikely cases for China’s intervention due to the domestic sphere of the conflict. This article highlights how a changing international arena and domestic factors, such as leader perceptions, domestic economic and security concerns are forcing China to change its foreign policy and mediate abroad. The analysis concludes with reflections and implications of China’s emerging role in mediation in the region and the limitations of the study.
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