A train stops at Mombasa Station. As of June 10, the Mombasa-Nairobi railway had transported 1.38 million passengers (WANG TENG)
Before the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), to be held in early September this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited four African countries - Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa and Mauritius. This was Xi's fourth tour to Africa after becoming Chinese president in 2013, indicating that China attaches great importance to developing China-Africa relations. His visit this year covered four sub-regions, West Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa and East Africa, receiving positive responses from the international community.
During his Africa visit, President Xi had in-depth exchanges of views with leaders of the four countries on bilateral relations as well as international and regional issues of common interest. He also witnessed the signing of about 40 cooperation documents. It is in particular worth noting that Senegal and Rwanda signed the Memorandum of Understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative. Senegal thus became the first West African country to sign a Belt and Road cooperation document with China. Mauritius also indicated it will sign a cooperation accord with China on the initiative at an early date. This shows that the Belt and Road Initiative is warmly welcomed and earnestly expected by African countries as it will provide an important platform for China-Africa cooperation.
In their talks, Chinese and African leaders expressed their strong desire to build an even stronger China-Africa community with a shared future through win-win cooperation. They all agreed to uphold multilateralism and oppose unilateralism and protectionism, and stood for greater solidarity among developing countries for a more peaceful, just and equitable world.
President Xi visits received the highest level of welcome in these countries. In Senegal, he was warmly greeted by thousands of people holding Chinese and Senegalese national flags along the route. Senegalese President Macky Sall used the Protocol Horse Squadron to welcome President Xi, the first time this honor has been bestowed on a visiting head of state in many years. In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame and his wife personally went to the airport to welcome President Xi and his wife and see them off. In South Africa, President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa arranged a day off from his tight schedule of preparing for the BRICS Summit to meet with President Xi. In Mauritius, Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth and his wife, as well as his parents (his father is the former prime minister of the country) and nearly all the ministers attended the welcoming banquet held for President Xi.
President Xi's Africa visit and the upcoming FOCAC Beijing Summit are the two most important events of this year in China-Africa relations. Leaders of these four African countries confirmed their attendance in the Beijing Summit. We look forward to seeing Chinese and African leaders meet in Beijing to draw a new blueprint for China-Africa friendship and cooperation. President Ramaphosa of South Africa will co-chair the summit with President Xi, and Kagame will attend the summit in the capacity of both Rwandan president and chairperson of the African Union. Senegal and Mauritius also said they hoped to play bigger roles in FOCAC.
President Xi's successful Africa visit achieved fruitful results. It was a historic visit for China to strengthen solidarity and cooperation with African countries, as well as all other developing countries as a whole.
Africa as an important priority
Five years ago, President Xi visited three African countries - Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of the Congo - in his first outbound trip after taking office in 2013. During this trip, he proposed the principles of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith, and the approach of upholding justice and pursuing shared interests. These have become the guiding principles for China's relationship with Africa. At the 19th CPC National Congress, they became the principles guiding China's engagement with other developing countries.
After being reelected this year, President Xi again chose African countries for his first outbound trip, which shows that Africa is an important priority of China's diplomacy. As developing countries form the cornerstone of China's diplomatic work, it is China's long-term and firm strategic choice to consolidate China-Africa friendship. In the past five years, under the outstanding leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, and with concerted efforts of China and African countries, China-Africa relations have made tremendous progress in the following five areas:
First, China-Africa strategic mutual trust has reached new heights. In the past five years, the high-level exchanges between China and Africa have been unprecedentedly frequent and political guidance has been strengthened. More than 30 leaders of the CPC and the state visited African countries and more than 60 African leaders also came to China for visits or for international conferences. To date, China has established strategic partnership or comprehensive cooperative partnership with 24 African countries. The Gambia, São Tomé and Príncipe and Burkina Faso have resumed diplomatic relations with China.
Second, China-Africa practical cooperation has taken on a new look. China has been the largest trading partner of Africa for nine years in a row, with the trade volume reaching $170 billion in 2017. Meanwhile, China's investment in African countries exceeded $100 billion, up 100-fold compared with 2000. Currently, more than 3,200 Chinese enterprises are operating on the continent. A large number of strategic projects related to energy and resource development, infrastructure construction, and the building of industrial parks and special economic zones are now making smooth progress. These include the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and the Hisense Industrial Park in South Africa. As the largest infrastructure construction project in Kenya after independence, the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR has created more than 46,000 jobs, contributed 1.5 percent to the country's GDP growth and reduced the logistics cost of the region by up to 40 percent. Three encouraging shifts are taking place in our economic cooperation: from government-driven to market-driven, from trade in goods to also include manufacturing cooperation, and from engineering contracts to capital investment and operations.
China has been supporting Africa's efforts in improving people's livelihood to the best of its ability. When the Ebola epidemic broke out in West Africa in 2014, China was the first to help by providing assistance worth 750 million yuan ($110 million). So far, Chinese medical teams with more than 25,000 members have been sent to Africa, where they have treated more than 300 million patients. The Brightness Action program launched by China has helped more than 7,000 African cataract patients recover their eyesight. China also dispatched medical groups to some African countries to help prevent and control pestilence and cholera. Since 2016, China has provided urgent food aid to 18 African countries suffering from drought or flood disasters.
Third, China-Africa cultural exchanges and cooperation on peace and security have made new progress. Cultural and people-to-people exchanges between China and Africa have become more active and the bond between our people has been closer. Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, more than 100 cultural exchange activities have been held and more than 200 cultural cooperation projects launched. To date, China has established 54 Confucius Institutes and 27 Confucius Classrooms in 41 African countries. In 2017, a total of 628,300 African tourists visited China, up 4.4 percent year on year; and more than 1 million Chinese tourists paid visits to African countries.
China actively participates in peace and security affairs in Africa and supports African countries in addressing African issues by themselves. It has made some unprecedented moves in this aspect. In 2015, President Xi announced $100 million of free military assistance to the African Union in the following five years at the UN Peacekeeping Summit, the first of its kind. In 2013, China deployed its first security troops overseas for the UN's peacekeeping mission in Mali; and two years later, it sent its first infantry battalion for a UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. China initiated the convening of the Special Consultation in Support of the IGAD-Led South Sudan Peace Process. In 2017, the Chinese naval hospital ship Peace Ark visited seven African countries, reaching different parts of the continent on one mission for the first time, on the "Harmonious Mission 2017" to provide free medical services for local people. In addition, of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, China is the largest contributor of peacekeepers in Africa and the second-largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget. Since it began participating in escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters in 2009, China has sent 30 fleets, escorting more than 6,000 Chinese and foreign vessels.
Fourth, the joint development between China and Africa is facing a new opportunity. African countries regard the Belt and Road Initiative as a new opportunity for expanding China-Africa cooperation, showing a strong desire to participate in the initiative. Kenyan and Ethiopian leaders came to China for the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. China has signed Belt and Road cooperation agreements with nine African countries such as South Africa, Egypt, Madagascar, Sudan and Morocco and is negotiating with more than 20 other countries on the continent on signing the agreements. China-Africa cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative has seen initial progress with a batch of important projects such as the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway and the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR completed or under construction. The Belt and Road Initiative will provide broader vision and stronger impetus for the development of China-Africa cooperation, creating better conditions and offering more impetus for policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity between China and Africa.
Fifth, China-Africa solidarity and coordination are making new contributions. China always supports African countries in multilateral occasions, especially when the UN Security Council deliberates Africa-related issues. African countries also provide firm support for China on issues concerning China's core interests and major concerns such as the Taiwan question and the South China Sea issue. In 2016, 39 African countries and regional organizations announced support for China's stance on the South China Sea. China invited African countries to important international conferences held in China such as the G20 Hangzhou Summit, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation and the BRICS Xiamen Summit, and called for international support for African development. China and African countries cooperate closely on important international issues such as climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development so as to firmly uphold the common interests of China and Africa, and all other developing countries, defend international equity and justice and promote world development and progress.
China-Africa cooperation is in line with the development trend of the era and people's aspirations. It is spearheading South-South cooperation and international cooperation with Africa, and is welcomed by the people in both China and African countries, and by the international community. Evidence shows that China's development will bring more opportunities for Africa's development, while Africa's development will provide greater impetus for China's development. With win-win cooperation and common development between China and Africa, the relative power of countries will be more balanced.
However, there are some different voices on China-Africa cooperation, including those of goodwill and others of ill-intentioned smear attacks. For the former, China always accepts their suggestions with an open mind; but for the latter, they are advised to abandon their prejudice, learn more about the concrete results of China-Africa cooperation and listen more to what African people say.
For example, in recent years, some Western countries ignored the fact that China-Africa cooperation has contributed greatly to African peace and development, and attributed African countries' debt issue to China's loans, hyping up the so-called "China's debt trap." Actually, Africa's debt issue is not caused by China, as historically it is Western countries that should be held accountable. China always follows the principle of mutually-beneficial and win-win cooperation, attaches great importance to the economic and social benefits of cooperation projects, takes into account interests of both parties in investment and financing cooperation, and supports African countries' capacity building to improve their own ability of paying off debts. This way, African countries can improve their capacity of independent development and realize sound economic and social development. This has been fully recognized by African countries.
A great summit expected
The year 2018 is important for the development of China-Africa relations with numerous significant events of China-Africa cooperation. Following President Xi's Africa visit, the FOCAC Beijing Summit will be held in September. Currently, the world is seeing increasing uncertainties and destabilizing factors, the rise of unilateralism and protectionism and the emergence of anti-globalization forces. Against this background, it is the right time for the FOCAC Beijing Summit as it is aimed to promote high-level development of China-Africa relations, and provide an important opportunity to enhanced unity and cooperation among developing countries.
The FOCAC Beijing Summit will be an important event that will take stock of past progress and plan for the future. At the Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs held recently, CPC Central Committee General Secretary Xi Jinping reiterated that efforts will be made to deepen unity and cooperation with other developing countries so as to make joint efforts for common development. The summit is seen as an important event to implement Xi Jinping's thought on diplomacy, as well as important diplomatic activity of China for furthering ties with other developing countries. By hosting the Beijing Summit, China will strengthen communication with African countries for greater vision and strategic synergy, intensify the top-level design for the development of China-Africa relations, and promote China-Africa friendship to new heights, with an aim to make the efforts for an even stronger China-Africa community with a shared future spearhead the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
It will be a summit to further cooperation. The 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit will integrate the joint building of the Belt and Road with African countries, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the AU Agenda 2063 with the development strategies of various African countries, so as to enhance China-Africa strategic synergy and expand common interests. Based on the real needs of Africa's development and the long-term and sound development of
China-Africa cooperation, China will put forward new measures to promote China-Africa cooperation in areas such as industrial capacity cooperation, infrastructure development, trade, environmental protection, people-to-people exchanges, and peace and security, so as to create new opportunities and a new era for the development of the China-Africa comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership.
It will be an important summit that will benefit the Chinese and African people. While continuing to promote cooperation in traditional areas such as infrastructure development, trade, financing and investment, medical care and human resources development, the FOCAC Beijing Summit will place more emphasis on the issues related to people's livelihood. This will be done by guiding China-Africa cooperation to focus more on areas such as poverty alleviation, people-to-people exchanges and environmental protection, so as to deliver more benefits to African people, especially the youth, women and children. China welcomes all the Chinese and African people to join in this great undertaking and support them expanding exchanges for better mutual understanding and enhanced friendship, so that people can participate in, promote and benefit from China-Africa cooperation.
Currently, the preparation work of the FOCAC Beijing Summit is well underway. It is believed that this summit will be a new milestone in the history of the China-Africa relationship through joint efforts of both sides.
(The author is the secretary general of the FOCAC Chinese Follow-up Committee and director general of the Department of African Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China)
(The Chinese version was first published in China Newsweek)
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