|China has helped build primary schools in African villages
Liu Guijin has the distinction of having served as the first Special Representative of the Chinese Government on African Affairs and being involved in the launch of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000. He is now Special Envoy on FOCAC Affairs of the Foreign Ministry of China. The veteran diplomat talks to ChinAfrica reporter Lu Anqi about some of the anticipated focal points at the Johannesburg Summit and China-Africa cooperation in general.
ChinAfrica : What will be the highlights of the Johannesburg Summit?
Liu Guijin: The First FOCAC Summit was held in Beijing in 2006, and now it is South Africa's turn to play host to the Second FOCAC Summit. This embodies a balance and joint ownership of FOCAC by China and Africa.
In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Africa and put forth the principles of "sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith" to guide China's relations with Africa. He also called for a balanced approach to principles and interests.
Premier Li Keqiang visited Africa last year and laid out the framework for China-Africa cooperation. Li proposed four guiding principles: treating each other sincerely and equally; consolidating solidarity and mutual trust; jointly pursuing inclusive development; and promoting innovation in bilateral pragmatic cooperation. He also outlined the Six Projects - six primary areas of cooperation, namely, industry, finance, poverty reduction, ecological protection, people-to-people exchanges, and peace and security. To reach this level of cooperation, Li said China and Africa should enhance FOCAC. He also pledged that China will cooperate with Africa to construct three major networks of high-speed railways, highways and regional aviation, and help Africa accelerate its industrialization.
Therefore, the following could be some of the highlights at the Johannesburg Summit:
First, cooperation in Six Projects, the Three Networks and industrialization.
China and Africa have their respective strengths and need each other for development. African countries have the desire to accelerate industrialization, develop manufacturing, create more jobs and add value to their products. China has many competitive industries and strong and quality production capacity, which could be transferred to African countries. China-Africa cooperation could help achieve win-win growth.
Second, cooperation in agriculture. China will continue to help African countries develop agriculture to solve food insecurity, alleviate poverty, and realize the post-2015 development agenda.
Third, cooperation in health. China sent medical teams and considerable assistance to Ebola-stricken West Africa since the outbreak of the disease in February 2014, contributing greatly to the fight against the epidemic in Africa. China will continue to support Africa to improve its public health system.
Fourth, people-to-people exchanges will be another focus. Exchanges in education, culture, joint research by think tanks, and other fields are expected to be enhanced. There is no lack of projects or money in China-Africa relations. The biggest challenge lies in the fact that people from China and African countries have yet to know each other better. Many Chinese have only a vague idea about the continent, and the same is true in Africa. There is much to be done in this respect.
What is the major difference between FOCAC and other similar mechanisms related to Africa?
FOCAC has become an important platform for dialogue between China and Africa, a banner of China-Africa cooperation and an important mechanism leading international cooperation on Africa. Compared with similar mechanisms, the three major differences are:
First, FOCAC is an equal cooperation platform jointly owned by China and African countries. Second, it is practical and the targets and plans put forward are often fulfilled ahead of schedule. For instance, at the First FOCAC Ministerial Conference, China proposed to waive over 30 African countries' debts totaling more than $1 billion. It was done in two years, ahead of schedule. At the Fifth FOCAC Ministerial Conference, China pledged $20 billion in credit for African countries, which too was disbursed in two years, ahead of schedule, and last year, China decided to add another $10 billion. China also helped build 100 primary schools in African villages, 30 regional hospitals and 20 agricultural technology demonstration centers, all ahead of schedule. Third, China insists on the principle of equality and mutual benefit in its cooperation with Africa. China and Africa are cooperators and partners. FOCAC is a mature mechanism that has become more pragmatic and more attuned to the needs of China and African countries.
What are the major changes in China-Africa cooperation since the launch of FOCAC?
China-Africa cooperation has expanded and increased greatly and continuously, and the cooperation level has also witnessed increasing rise.
Now China and Africa are also working on industrial cooperation as Africa needs a lot of infrastructure and quality production capacity for development.
Greater attention is being paid to environmental protection. The cooperation projects are greener, more sustainable, and more serving the needs of African countries.
China has been investing to set up factories in Africa, transferring skills to local people, training technical personnel, creating jobs and adding value to local products.