Chinese Premier Li Keqiang set forth on a four-nation African tour during the first half of May, in his first visit to the continent since he took office in March 2013. Not coincidentally, Chinese President Xi Jinping also visited Africa last April as the newly elected head of state. These two visits are seen not only as the continued implementation of China's consistent African policy, but also as a display of the willingness and determination of China and Africa to bring their all-round strategic partnership into a new stage.
China and Africa have maintained close bonds for more than half a century. Since the 1950s, with the founding of New China as well as an increasing number of African states winning independence, the two sides have developed and consolidated their bilateral ties in many areas. China has provided unconditional aid to help African nations in their reconstruction and development programs; and African countries have supported China in safeguarding its national interests and sovereignty in the global arena. In the 1970s, the reputable Tanzania-Zambia Railway emerged as a testimony to the lasting friendship between China and Africa. The sight of African diplomats dancing heartily at the UN Conference Hall in celebration of China's regaining its legitimate seat in October 1971—for which 26 African countries cast affirmative votes, along with 50 other UN member states—left a lasting impression on Chinese people.
Entering the new century, China-Africa relations have expanded amidst the changing tide of global, regional and national conditions. Leaders from both sides have been in frequent communication. Meanwhile, institutional frameworks, such as the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, have been launched to ensure sustainable, effective and mutually beneficial partnerships between the two sides. During the past five years, China has been Africa's biggest trade partner, while Africa has also become one of China's major exporters and investment destinations. The latest official statistics indicate that by the end of last year, direct investment from China had totaled $25 billion, while the number of Chinese companies operating in Africa had risen to some 2,500.
Some Western politicians and media claim that China has carried out "neo-colonialist policies" in Africa. This is a rather inaccurate, misleading assertion. The China-Africa friendship and associated cooperation have been firmly rooted in the spirit of equality, mutual respect and mutual benefits. Having undergone similar experiences of humiliation and oppression in bygone days, they carry a shared desire to make their nations stronger and more prosperous. These commonalities may in part explain why China and Africa have scrupulously abided by their partnerships for so long.