Founded as the Organization of African Unity 50 years ago, at a time when African countries were struggling against colonial rule, the African Union (AU) today remains a champion of solidarity, peace and development. The 54-member organization looks poised to play a leading role in African affairs amid deepening integration on the continent.
Politically, the AU is committed to regional stability by advocating African solutions to African problems. Following coups d'état or armed rebellions in Mali, Guinea-Bissau, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic in recent years, it intervened along with sub-regional organizations to help ease those conflicts. On the economic front, the AU has called for the launch of a continental free trade area by 2017 while spearheading transnational infrastructure development.
As they celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the AU's predecessor this year, African countries have underlined the growing relevance of the pan-African organization. To live up to higher expectations, it is crucial for the AU to further improve its ability to address crises without interference from the West and promote balanced development across the continent.
The organization's anniversary celebrations also provide an opportunity for China to reaffirm its long-term commitment to Africa. China has been Africa's largest trade partner since 2009. Trade volume between China and African countries approached $200 billion in 2012, a sharp rise from $10 billion in 2000. China's investment in Africa has reached a combined total of $15 billion, with more than 2,000 Chinese companies engaged in sectors ranging from agriculture to telecommunications, energy and manufacturing.
Given its extensive economic interests in Africa, coupled with traditional friendship forged through mutual assistance dating back to the 1960s and the 1970s, China supports the AU's peacemaking efforts. It is China's belief that many hotspot issues in Africa are not purely security matters and therefore cannot be resolved by military means alone; instead, they require a holistic approach. That's partly why China expects the AU to take the lead in resolving the issues in an African way.