Participants attend the Seventh Meeting of China-Africa Think Tanks Forum in Beijing on July 4 (XIA YUANYUAN)
What does China's reform and opening up mean to African countries? What lessons can African countries draw from China's path to development? These were some of the topics Chinese and African scholars discussed at the Seventh Meeting of China-Africa Think Tanks Forum convened in Beijing on July 4.
Over the past 40 years, China-Africa economic and trade cooperation has achieved a great leap in development, with the trade volume increasing more than 200 times since the start of China's reform and opening up in late 1978. China has maintained its position as Africa's largest trading partner for nine years in a row, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce.
Also in these 40 years, China has achieved its own rapid development with a commitment to building a community with a shared future for mankind. Reform and opening up has been a great process where China and the world—especially China and African countries—have achieved development and progressed together, according to experts at the meeting.
At the forum, government officials, think tank scholars and media representatives from throughout China and Africa expressed their opinions on China-Africa mutual development in the past four decades and how the relationship could be further strengthened in the future. The following is an edited excerpt of their views:
Mohamed Fayez Farahat Mahmoud,
Senior Researcher at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Egypt
China's 40 years of reform and opening up have made remarkable achievements that have attracted the attention of the world. The experience proved to be invaluable to developing countries, especially African countries.
Justin Yifu Lin,
Counselor of the State Council of China and Dean of the Institute of New Structural Economics at Peking University
When China's reform and opening up started in late 1978, Sub-Saharan Africa's GDP per capita was more than three times that of China. At that time, 84 percent of Chinese lived on less than $1.25 per day, the international poverty standard.
The reason why China has achieved such great success since 1978 is its changing thoughts on development. In the past, in pursuing modernization, African countries usually acquired experience and theory from developed countries. The current situation in developed countries and that in African countries are totally different.
In fact, the preconditions for development in Africa are similar to those in China. Therefore, the experience accumulated during the 40 years of China's reform and opening up and the theory it has formed will have greater value for African countries and other developing countries.
At present, infrastructure in most African countries is relatively poor, making it a bottleneck to economic development. Labor-intensive industrialization is a key path to prosperity and the Belt and Road Initiative will now be an important opportunity for African countries to solve obstacles and achieve industrialization.
Director of the Center for China Studies of Nigeria
China's reform and opening up allows Africa to see the future and have hope. In addition, China's success is an important inspiration for African countries to see that modernization has more than one path.
China-Africa cooperation is a mutual learning process. The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China has made relations more dynamic. China and Africa will take a candid approach to dealing with their challenges. They will have positive influence in changing the rules of the game.
Dean of the Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University
The rapid development of China-Africa relations is a special window to China's reform and opening up. In some respects, bilateral relations have boosted China's opening up to the world, while African countries are also preparing for a new step toward opening up.
Both China and Africa have unique historical and cultural traditions. It is of great importance for them to understand each other and to follow the paths that suit their own development. At the same time, the media, scholars, academics and think tanks are showing a trend toward integration. How the Chinese and African media can play more of a role in China-Africa cooperation is an important issue worthy of discussion.
President of Beijing Review
Chinese and African media should seek common ground and put aside differences while respecting cultural diversity. They should increase cooperation and exchanges so as to promote mutual understanding between China and Africa.
President of the African Policy Institute in Kenya
China and Africa are following their separate non-hegemonic and win-win path to development. However, infrastructure investment must be profitable and productive to avoid an unsustainable debt burden. The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Summit, to be held in Beijing in September, should emphasize the need for industrial parks and also examine ways to avoid corruption and political patronage in African projects.
Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs
The debt problem in some African countries is due to many factors. It is a common issue faced by developing countries and has become part of the growing pains in the development process. The fundamental solution still depends on economic growth. We often say that it is better to teach people to fish than to give people fish. China is cooperating with African countries to promote their independent development capabilities and is building a large number of projects on the continent that could benefit its economies and people's livelihood.
Vice Dean of the Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University
Relations between China and African countries in many fields—including economy, culture, education and diplomacy—are currently experiencing rapid development.
Africa will not follow the Chinese development model directly, but we can learn from each other. We should let more Chinese know the real Africa and also let African people know China and how China has developed over the past 40 years.
Vice President of Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia
Although African countries will not pursue China's development style exactly, China is an inspiration. China shows that development can be achieved.
Think tanks and the media in China and Africa need to find a common voice and tell about the true China-Africa relationship to enhance the image of bilateral relations. Both sides need to improve key skills and capacities, as well as develop common international ethical standards.
Copyedited by Francisco Little and Rebeca Toledo
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