How Xi struck a chord with Africans

China Daily European Weekly - - COVER STORY - Ho­dan Os­man Abdi The au­thor is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for East African Stud­ies at the In­sti­tute of African Stud­ies at Zhe­jiang Nor­mal Univer­sity. The views do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect those of China Daily.

Speech at FOCAC sum­mit was just what the con­ti­nent needed to hear — a pledge of abun­dant help with­out in­ter­fer­ence

Ad­dress­ing lead­ers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from African coun­tries, in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions and aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping opened the 2018 Beijing Sum­mit of the Fo­rum on China-Africa Co­op­er­a­tion with a key­note speech that was met with roar­ing ap­plause and ended with a stand­ing ova­tion.

In my opin­ion, here are some of the rea­sons it was so pop­u­lar:

First, Xi’s per­sonal im­pres­sion of Africa and its hope­ful fu­ture pro­foundly res­onated in the hearts and minds of ev­ery­one at­tend­ing. His op­ti­mistic and en­er­giz­ing vi­sion of the con­ti­nent’s fu­ture stood in con­trast to the usual sym­pa­thy-filled rhetoric that only sees the lim­i­ta­tions of poverty and de­spair. Af­ter nine vis­its to the con­ti­nent, four as pres­i­dent, Xi spoke from his own ex­pe­ri­ence of what he called “a land of great prom­ise”, where he saw un­lim­ited po­ten­tial for devel­op­ment that could be driven by a com­pre­hen­sive, strate­gic co­op­er­a­tive re­la­tion­ship be­tween China and Africa. Xi po­si­tioned China as an en­abler of Africa’s will for devel­op­ment, some­thing that can be fur­ther reaf­firmed by the his­tory of unity, sol­i­dar­ity and con­crete re­sults wit­nessed by the peo­ple of Africa over the years.

Sec­ond, Xi re­it­er­ated five is­sues that China ab­stains from in its Africa pol­icy. These are of great con­cern to African na­tions, which to this day con­tinue to suf­fer from the con­se­quences of out­side in­ter­fer­ence. The is­sues in­clude: no in­ter­fer­ence in coun­tries’ cho­sen paths of devel­op­ment; no in­ter­ven­tion in their in­ter­nal af­fairs; no im­po­si­tion of China’s will on African coun­tries; no at­tach­ment of po­lit­i­cal strings to as­sis­tance; and no pur­suit of self­ish po­lit­i­cal gains in in­vest­ment and fi­nanc­ing on the con­ti­nent. These prin­ci­ples carry a sig­nif­i­cant con­no­ta­tion that re­ver­ber­ates from the dis­tinct his­tory of in­jus­tice both China and Africa have wit­nessed in the past, reaf­firm­ing the right of ev­ery na­tion to forge its own des­tiny in ac­cor­dance with its own cir­cum­stances.

Third, Xi’s vi­sion of com­mon devel­op­ment for “a shared fu­ture” that touches the lives of peo­ple in Africa and China is a fur­ther state­ment of the in­ter­de­pen­dent and in­ter­con­nected na­ture of re­la­tions that link both. As mul­ti­fac­eted devel­op­ment abol­ishes the bound­aries sep­a­rat­ing na­tions and con­ti­nents across the globe, there has never been a time where the fate of hu­man­ity was more in­ter­twined than it is to­day. It is no longer pos­si­ble for the pros­per­ity of one na­tion to come at the cost of an­other. As wit­nessed in the past, the con­se­quences of in­sta­bil­ity and un­der­de­vel­op­ment in some parts of the world have a desta­bi­liz­ing ef­fect on the rest of the world. Xi’s speech reaf­firmed the need to work to­gether, hand in hand, and move to­ward long-term com­mon devel­op­ment, peace and sta­bil­ity at a closer, more co­her­ent pace, by lever­ag­ing each other’s ad­van­tages to over­come chal­lenges. This vi­sion con­sti­tutes the as­pi­ra­tions for South-South co­op­er­a­tion, and the re­form of global gov­er­nance sys­tems to give cre­dence to more voices from de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. It also fos­ters the need to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment while pur­su­ing devel­op­ment to en­sure a sus­tain­able bet­ter life for peo­ple world­wide.

Fourth, the syn­ergy be­tween the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sus­tain- able Devel­op­ment, as well as the na­tional devel­op­ment plans of in­di­vid­ual African na­tions, fur­ther so­lid­i­fies China’s ded­i­ca­tion to pro­duce con­crete devel­op­ment re­sults on the con­ti­nent. As a global ini­tia­tive that boosts eco­nomic and trade re­la­tions through in­fra­struc­ture con­nec­tiv­ity and pol­icy co­or­di­na­tion, the BRI’s am­ple sup­ply of fund­ing, ex­per­tise and tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments rep­re­sents a strong force to drive Africa’s devel­op­ment as­pi­ra­tions.

Fifth, the $60 bil­lion of funds and 10 co­op­er­a­tion plans an­nounced at the 2015 Jo­han­nes­burg Sum­mit have brought about con­crete re­sults and ben­e­fits to the African con­ti­nent that have boosted growth and pros­per­ity, demon­strat­ing the po­ten­tial of China-Africa co­op­er­a­tion. At the re­cently con­cluded Beijing Sum­mit, Xi pledged a fur­ther $60 bil­lion in fund­ing and an­nounced the launch of eight ma­jor ini­tia­tives to be adopted in col­lab­o­ra­tion with African coun­tries: in­dus­trial pro­mo­tion, in­fra­struc­ture con­nec­tiv­ity, trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion, green devel­op­ment, ca­pac­ity build­ing, health­care, peo­ple-to-peo­ple ex­change, and peace and se­cu­rity. These an­nounce­ments show­case China’s con­scious eval­u­a­tion of the con­ti­nent’s needs and show vivid at­ten­tion to its devel­op­ment pri­or­i­ties as en­vis­aged by Africans them­selves.

Xi reaf­firmed the fact that the fu­ture of China-Africa re­la­tions is de­pen­dent on the youth of these na­tions. Africa’s vast nat­u­ral and hu­man re­sources need to be nur­tured, pro­tected and ef­fi­ciently uti­lized to achieve sus­tain­able devel­op­ment. Ef­fec­tive un­der­stand­ing must be built be­tween them to en­sure the long-term ef­fects of these re­la­tions are main­tained. Most im­por­tant, his speech con­firmed that fu­ture ac­com­plish­ments in South-South co­op­er­a­tion will de­pend on the ef­forts made by young peo­ple to re­al­ize co­op­er­a­tion and pro­mote these re­la­tions. The ini­tia­tives he an­nounced were de­signed to en­sure that ben­e­fits of China-Africa co­op­er­a­tion can be car­ried on from one gen­er­a­tion to an­other.

Fi­nally, along with his sin­cere voice, clear terms and ami­able ex­pres­sions, Xi’s speech showed a leader talk­ing to his coun­ter­parts, po­si­tion­ing him­self and his na­tion as an all-weather friend and brother, will­ing to nav­i­gate the best route to re­al­ize hap­pi­ness and pros­per­ity for the peo­ple of this rich con­ti­nent. He vowed to achieve this hand in hand with each African na­tion, in co­op­er­a­tion with other in­ter­na­tional part­ners aim­ing for the devel­op­ment of the con­ti­nent.

The pos­i­tive en­ergy and op­ti­mism that filled his ad­dress re­minded me of a fa­mous quote by the the­ol­o­gist and poet Rumi, who said: “Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flow­ers, not thunder.” The dis­play of sin­cer­ity and de­ter­mi­na­tion for the com­mon pur­pose of devel­op­ment by Pres­i­dent Xi dur­ing the 2018 FOCAC Sum­mit reaf­firms the cer­tainty that the China-Africa fam­ily will con­tinue to grow larger and stronger, de­spite the ris­ing chal­lenges of chang­ing times.


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