Alessandro Arduino

Alessandro Arduino

Affiliate Lecturer, Lau China Institute of King’s College London

Dr Alessandro Arduino is an affiliate lecturer at the Lau China Institute of King’s College London. He is also the author of Money for Mayhem: Mercenaries, Private Military Companies, Drones, and the Future of War (2023). His two decades of experience in China have focused on security analysis and crisis management. His main research interests are private military/security companies as well as China’s global security and foreign policy, primarily in China, Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. 

A man stands by as a fire rages in a livestock market area in al-Fasher, the capital of Sudan's North Darfur state on 1 September 2023, in the aftermath of bombardment by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. (AFP)

China’s African ambition comes with mounting challenges

The recent 15th BRICS summit held in South Africa heralded an expanded organisation with new African members. While China seeks to increase its presence and influence on the African continent, it also faces the difficult task of juggling security and development, particularly given that Russia is likewise adamant about safeguarding and expanding its own interests in the area.
Chinese President Xi Jinping looks on at the China-Africa Leaders' Roundtable Dialogue on the last day of the BRICS Summit, in Johannesburg, South Africa, 24 August 2023. (Alet Pretorius/Pool/Reuters)

BRICS expansion a sign of shifting global governance and security architecture

The world's map of global governance and security architecture is shifting, and BRICS is heeding the call for change, says academic Alessandro Arduino. Countries like Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, who have just been invited to join BRICS, seek to diversify their strategic options. This is in line with China's outreach to the global south and Russia’s need to combat international isolation, but the other BRICS members may have some hesitation.
A supporter holds a picture of Niger General Abdourahamane Tiani, the chief of the powerful presidential guard, as with others rally in support of Niger's junta in Niamey on 30 July 2023. (AFP)

Domino effect in West Africa: Niger coup destabilises China's expanding economic footprint

The recent Niger coup and conflicts from Mali to Burkina Faso, Chad and Sudan have cast uncertainty on the future of Chinese economic diplomacy in the Sahel and other parts of Africa. Academic Alessandro Arduino explains.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (left) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on 17 July 2023. (Saudi Press Agency/Handout via Reuters)

Ankara’s drone diplomacy in the Gulf complicates China’s regional calculations

When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan headed to the Gulf last week seeking investments, he had a formidable bargaining chip — drone diplomacy. The top-of-the-line Turkish combat UAV, the Akinci, is much sought-after in Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia. China may be worried, as this development could threaten its leading position in the field and hinder its economic and diplomatic offensive in the Middle East.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi attends the 23rd Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Council of Heads of State (SCO) Summit via video link at the Office of the President of Iran, in Tehran, Iran, 4 July 2023. (Iran's Presidency/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via Reuters)

SCO: This year's virtual summit may not have solved real concerns

Mere dissatisfaction with the West is an insufficient adhesive to solidify membership within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which just welcomed Iran as a full member. While India tried to assert a greater role during the virtual SCO summit it hosted, conflicts of interest among members, and now between Iran and dialogue partners like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will be challenging to manage.
This handout photograph released by Pakistan's Emergency Rescue 1122 Service on 4 April 2023 shows firefighters trying to extinguish a fire that erupted at a warehouse of a hydropower dam construction site in Dasu, the main town in Upper Kohistan district of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. (Pakistan's Emergency Rescue 1122 Service/AFP)

China's urgent need to safeguard lives and investments along BRI

China’s private security companies, entrusted to protect Chinese companies’ investments abroad, especially in the Belt and Road Initiative, are largely unequipped to meet the task. With surging violence against Chinese overseas, which has gotten even more precarious with recent civil unrest and conflicts from Central Asia to the Middle East, can more be done to improve the situation?
People board a mini-bus as they evacuate southern Khartoum, Sudan, on 14 May 2023. (AFP)

Can China do more to protect its interests in Sudan?

While Chinese workers and infrastructure projects are at risk amid escalating conflict in Sudan, China is hard put to go beyond hedging its bets. Legislation may be needed to support Chinese private security companies (PSCs) operating in Africa, who are currently filling the security gap in safeguarding China’s BRI development in the region.
A man waves a Sudanese national flag while taking part in a protest march against a deal agreed the previous month between military leaders and some civilian factions on a two-phase political process since the 2021 military coup, headed towards the presidential palace in Sudan's capital Khartoum on 24 January 2023. (AFP)

Sudan conflict: China and Russia have different interests

Academic Alessandro Arduino gives a reading on the recent Sudan conflict, exacerbated by the participation of mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group. China’s economic interests are being threatened in the mayhem, without any reprieve from a “no limits” partnership.
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 20 March 2023. (Sputnik/Sergei Karpukhin/Pool via Reuters)

President Xi in Moscow: From wolf warrior to peacemaker?

President Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow, following on the heels of China’s role in brokering a Saudi-Iran deal, speaks of China’s new-found confidence as a diplomatic rainmaker.