Sino-African relations symbiotic: former envoy

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/29 18:18:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT





Editor's Note:

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Mauritius on July 27-28 on the last leg of his African tour. The last Chinese president to visit this African nation in the Indian Ocean was Hu Jintao in 2009. What significance does Xi's visit have for China-Mauritius relations? Where do Sino-African relations stand? Global Times (GT) reporter Sun Xiaobo talked with Gao Yuchen (Gao), former Chinese ambassador to Mauritius, about these questions.

GT: Where do China-Mauritius relations stand? What significance does Xi's visit to Mauritius have for bilateral relations?

Gao:
China and Mauritius have a long history of friendship. Over the 46 years since the two sides established diplomatic ties, they have developed sound and stable relations with cooperation advancing in all fields. The successive governments of Mauritius have adhered to a friendly policy on China. Xi's trip to Mauritius carries much significance for relations and demonstrates how much China values the relationship. It shows that Sino-Mauritian relations have broad prospect and huge potential, and it will elevate relations to a new level.

There have been fruitful results from the mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Mauritius. China has funded various projects in Mauritius, including the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport and its new terminal, the health facilities at the Victoria Hospital and the Bagatelle Dam. And a Chinese company is constructing under a very tight schedule Mauritius' multi-sports complex where the Indian Ocean Island Games will be hosted in July 2019.

Mauritius has an enabling business environment, abundant tourism and ocean resources, and advantages in finance, trade and services. China is strong in sectors like funds, equipment manufacturing, infrastructure construction, technology, productivity and market. Economically complementary, the two sides have good opportunities for cooperation.

Mauritius is one of the African countries with close cultural and people-to-people contacts with China. Beijing built its first overseas Chinese cultural center in Mauritius in 1988. In 2016 the first Confucius Institute of Mauritius was established. Besides, China helps train more than 500 persons from Mauritius each year and provides scores of scholarships for Mauritian students.

Mauritius is also the first African country that launched the FTA negotiations with China, and the two sides are negotiating to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) over the Belt and Road cooperation. Xi's visit to Mauritius will strongly push ahead bilateral relations and deepen cooperation in all fields. China-Mauritius relations are not exclusive, and China is happy to see Mauritius develop relations with other countries.

GT: What role can sound Sino-Mauritian relations play in China's ties with Africa as a continent?

Gao:
China and African nations are committed to building a comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership that features political equality and mutual trust, win-win economic cooperation, mutually enriching cultural exchanges, mutual assistance in security, and solidarity and coordination in international affairs. Mauritius is a gateway from Asia to Africa. I believe that a well-developed Sino-Mauritian relationship can promote China's political and economic cooperation with other African countries and strengthen the five major pillars of China-Africa ties. Africa was historically the far end of westward extension of the ancient maritime Silk Road and an important destination. The China-Mauritius MoU on Belt and Road cooperation that is to be signed will set an example to emulate for other African countries.

In fact, Xi made African nations the destination of his maiden overseas trip after he was elected president in 2013 and this time he also picked Africa in his first tour after re-election. This shows how much significance the Chinese government and leaders attach to the continent.

China and Africa are a community with a shared future and common interests. This year is particularly important. The Beijing summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), to be convened in September, will be attended by most African leaders including from Mauritius and is a major diplomatic event of China. This is a grand gathering in Sino-African relations.

China and African countries are natural allies and our relations will develop further. This year's FOCAC summit is themed "win-win cooperation and join hands to build a closer community with a shared future for China and Africa." As it shows, China wants to better connect Xi-proposed Belt and Road initiative with the development strategies of African countries, the Agenda 2063 of the African Union and the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development so as to enhance Sino-African cooperation and promote African development.

GT: Western countries have accused China of luring African nations into a debt trap and of neo-colonizing Africa. What's your take on this?

Gao:
It's necessary to clarify that the debts of many African countries are not due to Chinese loans. African nations have to overcome bottlenecks in infrastructure, funds and personnel to seek development and improve people's living standards. It's beyond reproach that China has been making efforts to help improve the infrastructure and enhance people's well-being in these countries. China also helps them build supporting facilities to enhance their "blood-making" capabilities. For instance, we not only built the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway, but in the process trained local employees, built training schools and ports, and set up economic zones to promote their development.

China itself is a developing country. It funds projects and also provides concessional loans at low rates within its capacity. It's not that China doesn't care about the debts of African nations. On the contrary, we take into account a multitude of factors when providing loans, such as the reality of recipients and their debts and ability to repay the loan. Some people find fault with China out of jealousy. But if we don't help African countries, they won't develop.

Incentivized by the Chinese government, an increasing number of Chinese firms now invest in the continent in various areas and their investment has been growing, significantly promoting African development.

Neo-colonialism is actually a platitude, but it's not China that should be accused of. Africans know well who the real colonialist is. Sino-African relations are mutually beneficial. China has never interfered in the internal affairs of others or plundered others' resources. We help African countries convert their natural resources into energy for development, and conduct economic and trade exchanges in compliance with international rules, which is a perfectly normal thing.

China and African countries have no fundamental conflicts, but share similar destiny and thus are naturally close. The development of Sino-African friendly ties will be stopped by no one. We are happy to see that our help with Africa development prompts others to give more attention and aid to Africa. 

GT: What else can we do to facilitate peace and development in Africa?

Gao:
Interconnectivity is a big problem that impedes African development. We will synergize the Belt and Road initiative with African nations' development strategies and enhance connectivity on the sea, land and in the air as well as telecommunications. We will help improve infrastructure and focus on projects that relate to people's well-being.

The Communist Party of China has its governance ideas and experiences on reform and economic development. China doesn't intend to export any model, but is introducing its practices and experiences for Africans to draw upon according to their reality. Many African nations have such demand.

Despite the overall stability in Africa, China and Africa have massive room for stepped-up security cooperation since some African countries are still haunted by security threats like terror attacks and regional insurgencies. The two sides also need more cooperation on personnel training in technology, governance and political management. In particular, cultural and people-to-people exchanges need to be further strengthened.



Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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