China’s Diplomacy in Africa: Ideas and Practices

China International Studies (English) - - Contents - Zhang Ying

Guided by the principle of sincerity, real results, affinity, good faith and the concept of upholding justice while pursuing shared interests, China’s Africa diplomacy is the best interpretation of fostering a new type of international relations and building a community with a shared future for mankind.

Working to foster a new type of international relations and build a community with a shared future for mankind are the two main objectives of China’s diplomacy in the new era. Despite an absence of prototype in the history of international relations which China could follow in realizing these goals, the ideas and practices of China’s diplomacy in Africa can provide significant lessons in this regard. Summarizing and reviewing these ideas and practices in the new era could be of significant reference value for advancing the abovementioned two missions.

New Ideas of China’s Africa Diplomacy

During his historic visit to Africa in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping advocated the principle of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith for China’s cooperation with Africa, and creatively put forward the concept of upholding justice while pursuing shared interests.1 China’s second Africa policy paper issued in 2015 reaffirmed the principle and the concept as the fundamental ideas of China’s diplomacy toward Africa and the guiding tenets of its Africa policy.

As pointed out by President Xi, China remains faithful in treating African friends, values real results in conducting cooperation with Africa, seeks to

cultivate kinship-like qualities in the relationship in strengthening friendship with Africa, and is sincere in addressing problems in cooperation with Africa.2 The highly concise remarks of President Xi that later gave birth to the principle of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith can be further elaborated as follows. “Sincerity” means that China and Africa are genuine friends, treating each other in a sincere manner. “Real results” means that China is wholehearted in its cooperation with Africa, making sure that African countries achieve tangible benefits from that cooperation. “Affinity” means that China stresses the Sino-african community of interests, responsibility and shared future. Similar destinies and historical experiences have brought the two sides closer together in their values, strategic interests and development priorities, which makes the China-africa cooperation particularly cordial. “Good faith” means keeping one’s promises and adopting a pragmatic attitude in solving problems that may arise in the process of cooperation.

With regard to the proper understanding of justice and interests, President Xi pointed out that justice reflects a value cherished by Chinese Communist Party members and the Chinese socialist state. It is no good if some people in the world live in decent conditions while others suffer. True happiness is the common well-being of everyone. It is thus China’s anticipation that the whole world will progress together and that the developing countries will accelerate their development. As with pursuing “interests,” China must adhere to the principle of mutual benefit and win-win outcomes instead of the philosophy of zero-sum game. With an obligation to provide whatever assistance it can to the impoverished countries, China should prioritize justice over interests, even sacrificing the latter for the former, and should never seek only for profit or be preoccupied with trifles.3 In a further interpretation by Foreign Minister Wang Yi of the concept regarding justice and interests, China should always prioritize

2 “Xi Jinping Delivers a Speech at the Julius Nyerere International Convention Center in Tanzania,” March 25, 2013, 99_664224/3101_664228/t1025803.shtml.

3 Wang Yi, “Upholding the Concept of Justice and Interests and Actively Performing the Role of a Responsible Major Country,” People’s Daily, September 10, 2013 p.7.

justice, which involves an element of morality, when it concerns Africa, treating African countries equally with sincerity, honoring the promises made, and even more, speaking out for the legitimate rights and reasonable appeals of Africa. On the other hand, the pursuit of interests should also lead to mutual benefits. In dealing with African countries, China will never take the old path of colonialist plunder, never copy the capitalist mercenary practices, and never selfishly consider its own interests. Instead, China wishes to work together with its African brothers for common development and prosperity. In this process, China will pay more attention to the sound demands of African countries, and carry on cooperation so that the African nations will reap benefits early on. When necessary, China will prioritize justice over interests and sacrifice benefits for righteousness.4 For Africa, the core idea of the concept regarding justice and interests is to make more closely aligned the prospects and destiny of China and African countries, and through cooperation to assist the African nations in achieving self-reliance and sustainable development with the ultimate goal of realizing common prosperity of China and Africa.

The principle of “sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith” inherits the Chinese traditional way of treating others. To properly handle the relationship between justice and interests and give priority to righteousness and responsibility is an important part of China’s cultural heritage. Dealing with interstate relations with “sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith” and the concept regarding justice and interests is a reflection of how Chinese leaders apply traditional culture to contemporary international relations with a high level of cultural confidence.

The principle of “sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith” and the concept regarding justice and interests are also rooted in the fine tradition of China’s foreign policy. Since the founding of New China, Chinese diplomacy has continually stressed fairness and justice, opposed hegemonism and power

4 “Wang Yi: Upholding Justice While Pursuing Shared Interests Is One Banner of China’s Diplomacy,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, January 11, 2014, shtml.

politics, and advocated adherence to international law and the fundamental principles of international relations, pursuing the democratization of international relations and respecting global cultural diversity. Insisting on the principle of sovereign equality, China underscores that all countries are equal, and should not be treated differently despite their size, strength and wealth. China adheres to win-win cooperation, opposes gaining benefits at other countries’ expense or adopting beggar-thy-neighbor policies. With these longheld diplomatic principles, it should come as no surprise that China now puts forward the principle of “sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith” and the concept regarding justice and interests. In one sense, it is a generalization of the practices that Chinese diplomacy has applied to Africa for quite some time.

The principle of “sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith” and the concept regarding justice and interests stress that China regards noninterference into other countries’ internal affairs as the prerequisite of its relations with Africa. Over the years, one fundamental guideline of China’s diplomacy has been its respect for the independent choice of other countries on their own development paths and social systems, and provision of assistance without any political conditions attached. Although times have changed, the diplomatic tradition of China remains the same as it was at the founding of New China. In its relations with Africa, China consistently upholds the principles of sovereignty, equality and non-interference into other countries’ internal affairs, which have been written not only into the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence but also into the Eight Principles for Economic Aid and Technical Assistance to Other Countries.5 They remain the fundamental principles of China’s diplomacy toward Africa. In its assistance to Africa, President Xi has repeatedly stated that China will continue to provide due assistance for African development without attaching any political conditions.6 Foreign Minister Wang Yi also stresses

5 From December 14, 1963 to February 10, 1964, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai visited ten African countries of Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Ghana, Mali, Guinea, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia, putting forward the Five Principles Guiding China’s Relations with African and Arab Countries and the Eight Principles for Economic Aid and Technical Assistance to Other Countries.

6 “Xi Jinping Delivers a Speech at the Julius Nyerere International Convention Center in Tanzania.”

that China’s cooperation with Africa will continue to follow the principle of non-interference, will not attach any political conditions to its assistance and will not impose its will on others.7 This is in stark contrast to Western countries’ assistance to Africa, which is usually attached to some political conditions. Kenneth Kaunda, the founding father and first president of Zambia, once highly praised what China did to Africa as friend-to-friend support, and identified China as Africa’s all-weather friend. Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, President of Djibouti, also indicated that China’s assistance to Africa sought no advantage and was committed to Africa’s development, showing their sincere and deep friendship.8

The principle of “sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith” and the concept regarding justice and interests also mean that China will better perform the role of a responsible major power in its diplomacy with Africa. The role of a “responsible major power” has two implications. The first is the responsibility to speak out on behalf of the legitimate rights and reasonable demands of Africa, to support the African countries in pursuing their own development paths, to oppose attempts by Western nations to exploit and oppress Africa, and to strive to build a better development environment for African countries through the reform of unjust and unreasonable aspects in the international political and economic order. The second is to provide financial, technical and personnel support within China’s capability for the industrialization process of Africa, help African countries build infrastructure such as railways, roads, ports and power plants, address the bottlenecks restricting African development, and share China’s successful experience with

The principle of “sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith” and the concept regarding justice and interests are two core ideas of China’s Africa policy and complement each other. 7 “Wang Yi: China Practices the Correct Concept Regarding Justice and Interests and Helps Sustainable Development of Africa,” Forum on China-africa Cooperation, January 10, 2017, zflt/chn/zt/1_1_2_1_2_1/t1429265.htm.

8 “Outcomes of the Forum on China-africa Cooperation Receive International Positive Response,” People’s Daily, July 21, 2012, p.4.

African countries.

As two core ideas of China’s Africa policy, the principle of “sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith” and the concept regarding justice and interests complement each other and neither can be disregarded. Their purpose is to integrate China’s assistance for African countries in realizing their independent sustainable development with the promotion of China’s own development. Hence, the two ideas bear distinct characteristics of the times. On one hand, they reflect China’s fundamental position toward its diplomacy with developing countries in the new era. On the other hand, they conform to the new trends in market economy and globalization.

China’s Diplomatic Practices in Africa under New Ideas

Since President Xi Jinping put forward the principle of “sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith” and upholding justice while pursuing shared interests, China’s diplomacy in Africa has actively followed these two guiding ideas. China “is willing to work with African countries to build and develop a China-africa comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership featuring political equality and mutual trust, win-win economic cooperation, mutually enriching cultural exchanges, mutual assistance in security, and solidarity and coordination in international affairs.”9

Politically, China has been enhancing bilateral visits and multilateral cooperation. Both China and Africa stress the unique role of summit diplomacy to ensure positive interaction between the two sides from the top. In 2013 after he became President of China, Xi Jinping chose to pay his first state visit to Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo and attended the fifth BRICS summit held in Durban, South Africa. In 2015, President Xi joined other Asian and African leaders, including then President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and then Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab of Egypt at the activities commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Bandung 9 “Full Text: China’s Second Africa Policy Paper,” Xinhua, December 4, 2015, http://www.xinhuanet. com/english/2015-12/04/c_134886545.htm.

Conference held in Bandung, Indonesia. In the same year, Xi attended the Johannesburg summit of the Forum on China-africa Cooperation (FOCAC), working together with African leaders to upgrade Sino-african relations to the level of comprehensive strategic partnership. Also in 2016 alone, Xi Jinping received visits by the heads of state of Egypt, Nigeria, Mozambique, Togo, the Republic of Congo, South Africa, Chad, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Gabon, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

On the multilateral level, besides attaching great importance to the FOCAC’S role, China also firmly supports the African Union in African integration, continually utilizing multilateral diplomacy in the development of Sino-african relations. China established its permanent mission to the African Union in 2015, which marks the transformation of China’s Africa diplomacy from exclusive bilateralism to stressing both bilateral and multilateral channels. In April 2016, China and the African Union held the first consultation on human rights, discussing each other’s human rights affairs and agreeing to establish a regular consultation mechanism. In a speech delivered at the high-level opening event of the United Nations Africa Week in October 2016, then Chinese Permanent Representative to the United Nations Liu Jieyi urged that the international community step up awareness of, and investment in, Africa, safeguard African peace and stability, increase the independent development capability of Africa, improve Africa’s development environment, and support African countries in designing their development strategies according to their own national conditions and on the basis of the principle of self-determination. He also called on developed countries to honor their assistance to Africa without attaching any political conditions. During the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Marrakech in November 2016, China called on developed countries to implement the climate change roadmap as early as possible and make good on their financial commitment of providing US$100 billion annually to developing countries by 2020. This position of China echoed the theme of the first Africa Action Summit held during the same period, and reflected the concern and appeal of African countries for developed nations to increase

their technical and financial assistance.10

Economically, China has actively supported the development and construction of African countries. In recent years, China has set up the South-south Cooperation Fund, increased its investment in Africa and relieved the debt of some least developed and landlocked countries in Africa. China has also been providing additional funding to the China-africa Development Fund and the Special Loan for the Development of African Small and Medium-sized Enterprises.11 During President Xi Jinping’s visit to Africa in 2013, China and African countries signed and announced over 20 important inter-governmental agreements covering mechanism building, investment, livelihood and development assistance. These include the charter establishing the China-south Africa Joint Working Group, the agreement on investment promotion and mutual protection between China and Tanzania, and inter-governmental framework agreements and cooperation documents between China and the Congo Republic as well as between China and Tanzania.12 Barely a year since Xi Jinping was elected President, China had provided loans of more than US$10 billion to African countries, which represented about half of the total loan of $20 billion promised by China to Africa from 2013 to 2015. In January 2016, the China-africa Industrial Capacity Cooperation Fund financed by the China Export-import Bank was established, with an initial capital of $10 billion for medium and longterm development investment. The distinctive feature of these loans is that China gives priority to investment in infrastructure, agriculture and manufacturing, which indicates that China is changing its traditional strategy of investing in the energy sector. In fact, China’s input in Africa’s energy sector now only accounts for 20 percent of the total Chinese investment in Africa.13 The increasing financial support to Africa demonstrates China’s

10 China Institute of International Studies, Blue Paper on International Situation and China’s Diplomacy

(2017), World Affairs Press, 2017, p.379.

11 “Xi Unveils Ten Cooperation Projects for Africa, Announces Support Worth $60 Billion,” China News

Service, December 5, 2015,

12 “President Xi Jinping’s Fruitful Visit to Africa,” People’s Daily, April 11, 2013, p.3.

13 Yun Sun, “Xi Jinping’s Africa Policy: The First Year,” The Brookings Institution, April 14, 2014,

sincerity in helping Africa achieve common development. In 2014 alone, Chinese companies signed construction contracts in Africa valued over $70 billion, which would facilitate the building of vital infrastructure, provide job opportunities and improve local productivity.14 According to statistics, China-africa cooperation contributes more than 20 percent to the economic growth of Africa. By the end of 2014, a total of 3,000 Chinese enterprises had operated in Africa, providing direct investment of over $3 billion. The China Development Bank has created a special loan of $5 billion available for African small and medium-sized enterprises. As 85 percent of the employees in these enterprises are local, this means more jobs for local people. In Ethiopia, China has created more than 100,000 jobs.15 The urban light-rail company project financed by China in this country alone employs about 4,800 Ethiopians.16

In terms of trade, the import and export volume between the two sides continues to grow. In 2013 and 2014, the number was respectively US$210.25 billion and US$221.67 billion, both crossing the $200 billion threshold. In 2014, the trade volume had registered an around 74.5 percent increase from the 2010 level. In 2016, with the trade volume standing at US$149.2 billion, China became Africa’s No.1 trade partner for eight consecutive years.17

With regard to aid, by the end of 2014, there had been 1,071 Chinaassisted projects in Africa, comprising around 47 percent of China’s total foreign aid. Most projects are related to infrastructure, ranging from railways, roads, aviation facilities to bridges, ports and power plants. China had also donated 68 hospitals, dispatched 24,500 medical personnel, trained over 6,000 local medical workers and cured over 270 million persons. China has established 30 malaria prevention centers and 23 agro-technology

14 Deborah Brautigam, “Five Myths about Chinese Investment in Africa,” Foreign Policy, December 4,

2015, http://foreign

15 “Chinese Enterprises Create over 100,000 Jobs for Ethiopia in 20 Years,” Xinhua, December 12, 2017,

16 Deborah Brautigam, “Five Myths about Chinese Investment in Africa.”

17 “China-africa Trade Statistics in 2016,” Ministry of Commerce of China, February 22, 2017, http://

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