The Cornerstones of China-Africa Friendship

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2013-11-07 16:21
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From March 24 to 30, 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping conducted his first visit to Africa after taking office. This was a maiden diplomatic journey to strengthen traditional friendship and deepen overall cooperation between China and Africa. During the visit, Xi Jinping delivered a speech titled “Trustworthy Friends and Sincere Partners Forever.” In the speech, Xi Jinping stated that China and Africa should work together to promote peace and development in a new era. He also emphasized the importance of genuineness, real results, affinity, and sincerity in China’s engagements with Africa.

I. The importance of genuineness in China’s engagements with Africa

China’s genuineness towards Africa is embodied in the following three aspects. First, China cherishes the traditional friendship that it shares with African countries. As an African saying goes, “A river runs deep because of its source.” In the Ming Dynasty, the great seafarer Zheng He (1371-1433) made four visits to Africa during his seven great voyages, and brought African emissaries back to China. In the 1950s and 1960s, the first generation of leaders of the People’s Republic of China—Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and others—joined hands with their African counterparts to usher in a new epoch in China-Africa relations. In that period, China helped to build the famous Tanzania-Zambia Railway, even though it was experiencing severe difficulties of its own at the time. This railway has since become a symbol of friendship between China and Africa. The Chinese people will never forget the great efforts that African people made in the restoration of China’s lawful seat in the United Nations.

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives at Dar es Salaam International Airport to begin an official state visit to Tanzania on March 24, 2013. Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and his wife were present at the airport to greet President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan on their arrival. / Photo by Xinhua reporter Wang Ye

Second, China has always respected the sovereignty and dignity of African countries, and has never interfered in their internal affairs. China’s leaders have always maintained that all countries are equal, irrespective of size, strength, and wealth. They have opposed the bullying of the small by the big, the domineering over the weak by the strong, as well as interference in the internal affairs of other countries. China will continue to firmly support African countries in exploring development paths that are suited to their own national conditions. Promoting unity and cooperation with African countries has always been an important foundation of China’s foreign policy. In his speech, President Xi Jinping stated, “This will never change, not even as China develops and enjoys higher international status.”

Third, China has always stood by its commitments, implementing aid projects in Africa to the letter. China’s selfless assistance has been extremely important to African countries that are in need of financial and technological support. While many Western countries have reduced their aid to Africa under the impact of the international financial crisis in recent years, China has continued to steadily fulfill its aid commitments, winning unanimous praise from African countries as a result.

II. The importance of real results in cooperation with Africa

China-Africa relations have experienced a period of rapid growth since the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000. Trade between China and Africa has increased from just US$10.5 billion in the year 2000 to US$200 billion in 2012. Moreover, in 2009, China replaced the US to become Africa’s largest trading partner.

During his visit, President Xi Jinping stated that China will continue to expand investment and financing cooperation with Africa, follow through on its commitment to provide African countries with a US$20 billion credit line from 2013 to 2015, put into practice the partnership on transnational and trans-regional infrastructural development, and enhance mutually beneficial cooperation in areas such as agriculture and manufacturing.

China attaches great significance to people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and Africa, believing that these exchanges represent an important foundation of the new strategic partnership between China and Africa. During his visit, Xi Jinping participated in the opening ceremonies of several projects that benefited from Chinese aid. A string of welfare projects and cultural facilities offer clear indication that China will promote the expansion of China-Africa ties in the direction of people-to-people exchanges, public welfare, as well as cultural and youth exchanges. These initiatives will allow for a new leap to be achieved in China-Africa relations.

Friendship between peoples is the foundation of relations between countries. In China, we believe that having close friendships is a source of great pleasure in life. With regard to China and Africa, it is the people that constitute the foundation and the lifeline of this relationship. Therefore, China-Africa relations should be oriented more towards the people. Only by creating more opportunities for direct exchanges between the Chinese and African people will the friendship between the two become rooted deep in people’s hearts. In his speech, President Xi Jinping made special mention of a Chinese TV series that was popular in Tanzania, Dou Dou na mama wakwe zake, saying how it had instantly brought the Chinese and African people closer together.

The future of China-Africa relations lies in the hands of young people. It goes without saying that youths are vital to the flourishing of China-Africa relations. As the saying goes, “It is more helpful to teach people how to fish than to just give them fish.” This is the exact reason why China is actively implementing the “African Talents Program,” under which more African professionals are being trained in various areas and scholarships are being provided to African students. This is also the reason why it has established a Chinese cultural center in Tanzania.

III. The importance of “affinity” in strengthening friendship between China and Africa

President Xi Jinping pointed out that the Chinese and African people have a natural affinity toward each other. This is a feeling that cannot and will not be altered by the presence of certain disruptive factors. Since the beginning of the new century, China-Africa relations have enjoyed sound, rapid, and comprehensive development. However, attempts by the West to disrupt this relationship have never ceased. The most striking example of such attempts is “neocolonialism,” the groundless accusation that China is Africa’s new colonizer, and that the purpose of cooperation between China and Africa is to plunder Africa’s resources.

In fact, African countries have long been clear-headed when it comes to neocolonialism. In March 1961, the All-African Peoples’ Conference held in Cairo passed the Resolution on Neocolonialism. The resolution identified the US, Britain, and France as the major perpetrators of neocolonialism, and denounced the provision of aid with expressed or unexpressed strings attached. So it is clear that the real proponents of neocolonialism are Western countries, the very same countries that are now trying to pin this label on China.

The fact that Africa was a part of President Xi Jinping’s first foreign tour since taking office demonstrates the value that China attaches to its traditional friendship with Africa. During his visit, Xi Jinping was sincerely welcomed wherever he went, and the African people expressed their hospitality through their fervent song and dance. In his speech in Tanzania, Xi Jinping used the words genuineness, real results, affinity, and sincerity to describe China’s policy on Africa in the period ahead. These words were met with a strong positive response from the governments and people of many African countries. In a speech that lasted just 30 minutes, Xi Jinping was interrupted by the sound of applause no less than 30 times.

IV. The importance of sincerity in resolving differences in cooperation between China and Africa

As China-Africa cooperation continues to deepen and expand, it is quite normal for certain problems to arise during the process of cooperation. President Xi Jinping stated that “China and Africa are both experiencing fast development, and each needs to keep its knowledge and understanding of the other up to date. China will face up to new developments and new issues in China-Africa relations squarely and sincerely.” China will continue to work sincerely with African countries to properly address problems that are encountered. But in Xi Jinping’s words, “There will always be more opportunities than challenges, and more solutions than difficulties.” During his visit, Xi Jinping also urged Chinese companies to fulfill their social responsibilities and bring benefit to local people. By filtering out the impurities and shutting out the noise, President Xi Jinping’s visit was successful in further purifying the relationship between China and Africa.

China sincerely hopes that Africa will find strength in unity and make new achievements in peace and development, and it will firmly support Africa in this endeavor. China made it clear long ago that its cooperation with Africa is open and non-excluding to other parties. China has no intention of challenging the presence of other countries in Africa, including the US and European countries. China has always been a strong advocate of peaceful development and mutually beneficial cooperation in the international community, and is willing to engage in constructive cooperation in Africa with all countries, including the US and European countries. In the words of President Xi Jinping, “China hopes to develop better relations with Africa, and it also hopes to see other countries develop better relations with Africa.”

Relations between China and Africa have come to a new starting point. President Xi Jinping’s visit to Africa has maintained the direction of China’s policy on Africa whilst also allowing it to move forwards with the times. It has raised China-Africa relations to a higher level, and endowed China-Africa friendship with new contemporary relevance. Genuineness, real results, affinity, and sincerity not only define China’s policies on Africa for a new era, but also represent a declaration to the international community: China and Africa will always be reliable friends and sincere partners. Brought together by a common destiny, the Chinese and African people will support and help each other in working to realize the “Chinese dream” and the “African dream.”

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.9, 2013)

Author: Research Fellow of the Institute of West Asian and African Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

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