The New Face of China-africa Re­la­tions

Africa ranks first among China’s “sin­cere part­ners and re­li­able friends.”

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Text by Zhang Chun

The Bei­jing Sum­mit of the Fo­rum on China-africa Co­op­er­a­tion (FO­CAC) sched­uled for Septem­ber will be the third sum­mit of the fo­rum since its in­cep­tion in 2000. It will mark the first time that two FO­CAC sum­mits are held con­sec­u­tively, fol­low­ing the Jo­han­nes­burg Sum­mit in 2015. Even be­fore its open­ing, the Bei­jing Sum­mit has drawn global at­ten­tion and in par­tic­u­lar, in­spired African coun­tries.

Ex­pec­ta­tions for FO­CAC, to a large ex­tent, stem from three ma­jor fac­tors.

The fore­most fac­tor, which is also most fre­quently cited, is that FO­CAC has driven the rapid de­vel­op­ment of China-africa re­la­tions since its in­cep­tion. Over the past 18 years, the an­nual trade vol­ume be­tween China and Africa mul­ti­plied 17 times, from US$10 bil­lion in 2000 to US$170 bil­lion in 2017, while China’s in­vest­ment in Africa rose to US$40 bil­lion from al­most noth­ing. Along­side such di­rectly vis­i­ble achieve­ments, China-africa co­op­er­a­tion has also cre­ated sig­nif­i­cant and far-reach­ing strate­gic and the­o­ret­i­cal re­sults.

To a large ex­tent, FO­CAC can pro­mote rapid de­vel­op­ment of China-africa co­op­er­a­tion be­cause of its sta­bil­ity and pre­dictabil­ity—the most im­por­tant as­sets in a world full of un­cer­tain­ties. Of all co­op­er­a­tion mech­a­nisms re­lated to Africa glob­ally, FO­CAC is one of only a few to op­er­ate on sched­ule for nearly 20 years. For in­stance, the Eu-africa Sum­mit, launched in 2000, didn’t con­vene its se­cond meet­ing un­til 2007 and missed one in-be­tween. The lat­est Korea-africa Fo­rum, which was planned for May 2014, was post­poned more than two years to De­cem­ber 2016. The lat­est In­dia-africa Fo­rum Sum­mit and Turkey-africa Eco­nomic and Busi­ness Fo­rum were both de­layed more than a year. De­spite the mul­ti­ple co­op­er­a­tion mech­a­nisms be­tween the United States and Africa, the U.s.-africa Lead­ers Sum­mit was only held once in 2014. Since its in­cep­tion in 2000, FO­CAC has been held once every three years in ad­di­tion to rel­e­vant meet­ings of for­eign min­is­ters and other high-rank­ing of­fi­cials and co­or­di­na­tion con­fer­ences on ac­tion plans im­ple­men­ta­tion. FO­CAC’S high-de­gree sta­bil­ity and pre­dictabil­ity have provided a sound strate­gic and pol­icy en­vi­ron­ment for co­op­er­a­tion.

The se­cond fac­tor driv­ing FO­CAC’S suc­cess is that China pro­vides an al­ter­na­tive op­tion for African coun­tries to solve their prac­ti­cal prob­lems. In the first half of the 20th cen­tury, China’s na­tional lib­er­a­tion move­ment set an ex­am­ple for the na­tional in­de­pen­dence of African coun­tries. For this rea­son, found­ing lead­ers of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China such as Mao Ze­dong and Zhou En­lai

es­tab­lished pro­found and in­ti­mate friend­ships with African lead­ers like Kwame Nkrumah, Ken­neth Kaunda and Julius Ny­erere. Such his­tor­i­cal con­nec­tions laid a solid cor­ner­stone for con­tem­po­rary China-africa co­op­er­a­tion. As a rule, more in­ter­ac­tions trig­ger more fric­tions. How­ever, it is such emo­tional con­nec­tion that puts the brakes on the neg­a­tive fac­tors of China-africa co­op­er­a­tion and pre­vents fric­tions from es­ca­lat­ing. Sta­tis­tics re­leased by the Pew Re­search Cen­ter show that most African coun­tries’ fa­vor­a­bil­ity to­wards China re­mained above 60 per­cent through­out the en­tire decade from 2007 to 2017.

To­day, China has set a new ex­am­ple for Africa with its de­vel­op­ment ex­pe­ri­ence and achieve­ments;

a “great re­ver­sal” has been hap­pen­ing be­tween China and Africa since the adop­tion of the re­form­ing and open­ing-up pol­icy. In 1978, China’s nom­i­nal GDP was about US$149.5 bil­lion, and that of Sub-sa­ha­ran Africa was US$180.6 bil­lion, in­clud­ing US$46.7 bil­lion of South Africa, US$36.5 bil­lion of Nige­ria and US$5.3 bil­lion of Kenya. China’s GDP had mul­ti­plied 81 times since to reach US$12 tril­lion by the end of 2017, much more than that of the en­tire African con­ti­nent, let alone any sin­gle African coun­try.

The same hap­pened in terms of per capita GDP. In 1978, China’s per capita GDP was only US$156.4, much lower than US$1,651.6 of South Africa, US$527.1 of Nige­ria and US$351.6 of Kenya. The Chi­nese fig­ure was less than one-third of the av­er­age of Sub-sa­ha­ran Africa (which stayed at US$495.4). But now, China has over­taken all African coun­tries, with its per capita GDP in­creas­ing to US$8,827 by the end of 2017, while the fig­ure is US$6,160.7 in South Africa, US$1,968.6 in Nige­ria, US$1,507.8 in Kenya, and US$1,553.8 on av­er­age in Sub-sa­ha­ran Africa.

This change ver­i­fied the re­port to the 19th Na­tional Congress of the Com­mu­nist Party of China: As so­cial­ism with Chi­nese char­ac­ter­is­tics has en­tered a new era, China is blaz­ing a “new trail for other de­vel­op­ing coun­tries to achieve mod­ern­iza­tion” and of­fers a “new op­tion for other coun­tries and na­tions who want to speed up their de­vel­op­ment while pre­serv­ing their in­de­pen­dence.”

The third ma­jor fac­tor driv­ing FO­CAC is that Africa is a top pri­or­ity of China’s diplo­macy and has be­come strate­gi­cally im­por­tant for China. From the per­spec­tive of China-africa re­la­tions, China’s diplo­macy has roughly un­der­gone three stages in which Africa’s role evolved in ties be­tween China and other parts of the world. Africa oc­cu­pied a core po­si­tion in the first stage and is play­ing a key role in the cur­rent third stage. The first stage ex­tended from the found­ing of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China in 1949 un­til the adop­tion of the re­form and open­ing-up pol­icy in the late 1970s. Dur­ing the pe­riod, the Cold War set the main tone of the world or­der, and China chose to stand on the side of the so­cial­ist camp headed by the Soviet Union, adopt­ing a diplo­matic pol­icy of “clean­ing up the house be­fore invit­ing guests” (mean­ing it needed to clear out the rem­nants of im­pe­ri­al­ist forces in the coun­try to pave the way for build­ing equal diplo­matic re­la­tions with coun­tries around the world). Af­ter Sino-soviet re­la­tions

soured, Africa be­came the top pri­or­ity for China’s diplo­macy. The se­cond stage started from the late 1970s and lasted un­til 2000, dur­ing which China placed pri­or­ity on its re­la­tions with de­vel­oped coun­tries, in a bid to achieve a “rise through im­i­tat­ing” un­der the frame­work of in­ter­na­tional sys­tem. As China’s de­vel­op­ment en­tered a higher level, im­i­tat­ing de­vel­oped economies could not solve emerg­ing chal­lenges to re­al­ize sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment. Mean­while, de­vel­oped coun­tries be­came highly skep­ti­cal of China’s “rise through in­no­va­tion” un­der the frame­work of in­ter­na­tional sys­tem. In this con­text, China’s diplo­macy en­tered the third stage, dur­ing which the strate­gic im­por­tance of de­vel­op­ing coun­tries re­bounded. At the 2018 cen­tral con­fer­ence on diplo­matic work, Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping stressed that de­vel­op­ing coun­tries are China’s nat­u­ral part­ners in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs and that China should take the moral high ground by work­ing to ben­e­fit and pro­mote sol­i­dar­ity and co­op­er­a­tion among de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. Un­doubt­edly, Africa ranks first among China’s “sin­cere part­ners and re­li­able friends.” It is need­less to say that Africa and FO­CAC are of great im­por­tance to China’s diplo­macy.

These three fac­tors have not only guar­an­teed the suc­cess­ful op­er­a­tion of FO­CAC over the past 18 years, but also laid a solid foun­da­tion for its fu­ture sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment. As China’s de­vel­op­ment en­ters a new era, China-africa co­op­er­a­tion is also reach­ing a higher level. The key to China-africa co­op­er­a­tion in this new era is to seize on the three fac­tors fu­el­ing FO­CAC. We must earnestly pro­vide a new op­tion for Africa while deeply un­der­stand­ing Africa’s strate­gic im­por­tance to China.

African Coun­tries’ Fa­vor­a­bil­ity to­wards China 2007-2017

Septem­ber 18, 1974: ThenZam­bian Pres­i­dent Ken­neth Kaunda and other of­fi­cials in­spect the Cham­bishi River Bridge of the Tan­za­nia-zam­bia Rail­way. The 1,860-kilo­me­ter-long Tan­za­ni­aZam­bia Rail­way was one of the ma­jor projects aided by China in Africa dur­ing the 1970s. Xin­hua

1969: A Chi­nese med­i­cal team pro­vides med­i­cal ser­vices for lo­cal herders in the Sa­hara in Al­ge­ria. Since China dis­patched its first med­i­cal aid team to Africa in 1963, Chi­nese med­i­cal aid work­ers have treated mil­lions of pa­tients and trained tens of thou­sands of med­i­cal work­ers in over 50 African coun­tries and re­gions. Xin­hua

Septem­ber 6, 1963: Chair­man Mao Ze­dong meets with mem­bers of the vis­it­ing Kenya African Na­tional Union (KANU) del­e­ga­tion. by Liu Qin­grui/xin­hua

De­cem­ber 19, 1967: Chi­nese Premier Zhou En­lai meets a del­e­ga­tion from the Tan­ganyika African Na­tional Union from Tan­za­nia. by Liu Jian­guo/xin­hua

3 2 De­cem­ber 10, 2014: Chi­nese doc­tors teach lo­cal med­i­cal work­ers in­fu­sion tech­niques at the China-sierra Leone Friend­ship Hos­pi­tal in Free­town, cap­i­tal of Sierra Leone. by Dai Xin/xin­hua

1 1 The Ad­dis Ababa-dji­bouti rail­way link­ing Ethiopia and Dji­bouti is the first mod­ern elec­tri­fied rail­way in Africa. Built by Chi­nese en­ter­prises, it of­fi­cially be­gan op­er­a­tion on Jan­uary 1, 2018. by Sun Ruibo/xin­hua

2 July 24, 2018: Ma Xu, a rail­way worker from China Rail­way Ji­nan Group, in­structs a Kenyan stu­dent on in­stalling bolts. by Zhu Zheng/xin­hua 3

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