China and Africa: Renewing friendship and expanding cooperation


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China and Africa: Renewing friendship and expanding cooperation


Source: CGTN     Published: 2019-10-7

What is the first word that comes to your mind when someone talks about China-Africa relationship? Friendship, many Chinese people would say.

Yes, China and African countries enjoy a time-honored friendship. More than 600 years ago, Chinese navigator Zheng He made seven trips to the Western Ocean, four trips to Africa. Moreover, at the Bandung Conference in 1955, then Chinese premier Zhou Enlai shook hands with the African leaders for the first time. By the beginning of this century, the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation had opened a new door of friendship between China and Africa.

The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation started as a ministerial conference. It was upgraded to FOCAC Summit in December 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa when the conference was celebrating its 15th birthday. It was also at that summit that Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed five "pillars" to promote China-Africa ties: political trust, economic cooperation, exchanges and inter-cultural learning, security, and unity on international affairs.

Meanwhile, President Xi also introduced the Ten Major Plans - a milestone proposal for bilateral relations. The Chinese leader said the Ten Major Plans will focus on industrialization, agricultural modernization, infrastructural construction, finance, green development, trade and investment facilitation, poverty alleviation, public health, humanities, and peace and security.

Three years after President Xi's proposals, 53 African leaders and over 1,000 representatives gathered in Beijing to map out the future of China-Africa relations. It was also the first time for a majority of African leaders to visit the Chinese capital.

At the opening ceremony, President Xi Jinping unveiled eight major initiatives for the next three years and beyond. "China pursues common interests and puts friendship first in pursuing cooperation. China believes that the sure way to boost China-Africa cooperation is for both sides to leverage their respective strengths - it is for China to complement Africa's development through its own growth and it is for both China and Africa to pursue win-win cooperation and common development," said Xi.

In the past 10 years, China-Africa trade volume has been soaring. The volume stood at only 10 billion U.S. dollars in the year 2000. In 2010, it increased to more than 100 billion U.S. dollars, before touching 170 billion U.S. dollars in 2017. China has been Africa's largest trading partner for 10 consecutive years.

The traditional friendship is marked by mutual political support and China's economic aid. More recently, the key phrase is "win-win cooperation."

"Since the reform and opening-up, the relationship between China and African countries has changed from China's one-sided provision of economic aid to reaping win-win benefits. Especially with the development of the manufacturing sector in these African countries, their employment problems will be solved. If they become wealthy, China can benefit too," says senior diplomat Hua Liming. 

"The monumental achievement of China in East and Central Africa is the building of the Mombasa Railway - what we are calling the Madaraka Express. The Madaraka Express is perhaps the best indication that the relationship between Africa and China is not colonial; its liberative, its emancipatory," said Professor Peter Kagwanja from Africa Policy Institute.

Moreover, Africa has become one of the most favored destinations for Chinese travelers. Additionally, over 50,000 African students were studying in Chinese universities last year. China has also established 50 Confucius institutes across Africa. These developments have sparked criticism against China's so-called "neo-colonial intentions". However, what Africans have to say is exactly the opposite.

"Many countries see in China a meaningful partner, who's not just there to exploit the resources of the African continent, but assist its fellow partners to reach higher industrialization. So, China's also going to support many African countries to industrialize," said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

As China and Africa renew their friendship and expand cooperative ties, it is hoped that this relationship will not only benefit China and Africa, but also bring prosperity for other countries around the world.

Hua Liming is a senior fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.