HELLO AFRICA: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and his wife Cheng Hong wave after arriving in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on May 4 (LI TAO)
About 2,500 years ago, Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." Now this ancient wisdom is being implemented to strengthen the China-Africa friendship in a modern context.
In early May, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made his first state visit to Africa after taking office in March last year. Li's trip upgraded China-Africa relations into "version 2.0," in which traditional assistance programs will be supplemented by economic cooperation and cultural exchange.
Premier Li visited Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola, Kenya and the African Union (AU) headquarters from May 4 to 11, marking his first overseas visits this year and his first voyage to Africa since March 2013.
The global situation is far from what it was 50 years ago, when late Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai made his landmark visit to Africa. Li's tour sought to further advance the traditional friendship, promote practical cooperation, and boost the bilateral strategic partnership.
This voyage demonstrates the new leadership's commitment to the China-Africa relationship, said professor Huang Zequan with the African Studies Department at Peking University. "The friendly cooperation between the two sides will be continuously pushed forward, and generally be enriched with new concepts," said Huang.
"Premier Li's visit cements Africa's significant, fundamental and strategic status in China's overall diplomacy," said professor Ji Mingkui with the National Defense University.
Li Zhibiao, a researcher on African studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), explained that the four African countries are either politically influential powers or major economies in Africa. Nigeria has the biggest population in Africa, and it has replaced South Africa as the continent's top economy as its GDP in 2013 exceeded South Africa's. Ethiopia, where the AU headquarters is located, has attracted many Chinese investors in recent years. Kenya has become one of the favorite tourist destinations in Africa for Chinese travelers. And Angola, an influential state in Southern Africa and also an oil producer, has been in close cooperation with China.
In his speech at the AU headquarters, Premier Li came up with a suggestion of developing bilateral relations in a 4-6-1 mode, which is considered the new leadership's practical implementation of China's new Africa policy. Unlike the simple mode of providing direct assistance to African nations in the past, China has worked harder to improve Africa's competence in economic and cultural development, shifting its role from that of a giver to a partner. Moreover, China has enhanced its political relationship with these countries and bolstered economic cooperation with them.
Professor Yuan Gangming with Tsinghua University explained that the mode has been developed on the basis of long-term friendship and cooperation between China and Africa. "There will be a completely new outlook on bilateral cooperation leading to win-win outcomes and reciprocity," Yuan said. He stressed that the platform of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation is significant in that it represents an upgrading of bilateral cooperation on both a mechanical and operative level.
Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Africa in 2013, during which he expounded on China's Africa policy and stressed China's commitment to cooperation with sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith.
Li Zhibiao believed that President Xi's commitment pointed the way to China-Africa relations, and the four principles Premier Li suggested is a further step confirming China's determination to realize Xi's pledge.