Shared future beckons China-Africa relations

By Bao Chuanjian Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/30 19:13:41

Following the successful visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to four African countries in July, the Beijing summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), under the theme of China and Africa: Toward an Even Stronger Community with a Shared Future through Win-win Cooperation, will be held on September 3-4.

The third summit convened under the auspices of the forum is one of the four major events featuring China's home-ground diplomacy this year. The Chinese side is fully prepared, as President Xi will host the summit and hold relevant activities. The summit will adopt the Beijing Declaration on Building an Even Stronger Community with a Shared Future between China and Africa and the FOCAC-Beijing Action Plan (2019-21), which will help set the macro-policy context for China-Africa cooperation in the next three years.

China and Africa have always belonged to a community of shared future. During his visit to Africa in 2013, Xi first proposed the principles of China's Africa policy - sincerity, practical results, affinity and good faith. At the Johannesburg Summit of the FOCAC in 2015, Xi's proposal of upgrading China-Africa relations to the comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership was unanimously endorsed by the leaders present.

Since the establishment of the forum, the nominal trade volume between China and Africa has increased from $10 billion in 2000 to $170 billion in 2017, noting the number peaked in 2014 at $222 billion and hopefully will reach $400 billion in 2020. China's growing foreign direct investment, official development assistance and infrastructure investment in Africa have empowered African economies to utilize their demographic and resource endowments in the market, while China's aid in areas spanning personnel training, health assistance and clean energy has contributed to the provision of public goods for the people on the bottom rungs.

The positive impact of China-Africa cooperation on local economic development and social progress has been praised not only by governmental officials, business partners and academics in African countries, but also covered by Western media outlets and appreciated by scholars.

According to a 2017 McKinsey report, the proportion of African employees in local Chinese invested firms has reached an average of 89 percent, making an important contribution to local workers' pursuit of decent lives. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center in the US showed that China's public medical assistance has greatly improved its image in African countries. In response to the claim that China practices neo-colonialism in Africa, Professor Deborah Bräutigam of the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University fact-checked China's investment and strongly criticized the so-called predatory loan allegations by US politicians against Beijing. Her research shows that China's agricultural policies and development practices can provide valuable lessons for African economies.

The cooperation between China and African nations has proved to be successful and mutually beneficial by practice, and set a good example for South-South relations. As an important trading partner, investor and donor of Africa, China will continue to play an instrumental role for sustainable economic growth in the continent.

At the FOCAC level, a political consensus has been reached in terms of integrating or combining the respective development strategies of China and Africa. China's Belt and Road initiative is highly compatible with the Africa homegrown development plan Agenda 2063 when it comes to their vision for win-win development. The functional logic will be that China and individual African economies should devise concrete bilateral development arrangement.

In fact, many African countries have established their own medium- or long-term national development plans. The mechanism of integrating development strategies at the macro-, meso- and micro-level is of vital importance.

China's talent programs for Africa, such as education scholarships and civil servants' training, will provide a driving force for transforming the potential human capital advantages into demographic dividends. Given that China is a leader in e-commerce and financial technology, the two have great potential for cooperation in supply chain and finance. The industrialization of Africa will also provide valuable opportunities for Chinese companies to thrive. It bears repeating that African countries need to recognize the priority of their development, thus gaining greater autonomy in China-Africa cooperation and improving the resilience of their development. The 54 countries in Africa have different governance systems and resource endowments, thus facing varied development opportunities and constraints.

Some observers expect the China-Africa Development Fund to further increase in size. Practically, African countries' more concrete development priorities and their implementation proposals will help avoid one-size-fits-all thinking and achieve dynamic improvements and a win-win aspiration.

Given that Africa's economic dynamics are attracting more and more stakeholders to enter, it is necessary to identify investment challenges facing China and develop sustainable measures.

We share the belief stressed in Africa Union's Agenda 2063 that the dream of an Africa that is integrated, peaceful and prosperous is achievable. The ensuing summit will surely help shape a more enabling and empowering win-win pattern of Sino-African cooperation and an even stronger community with a shared future.

The author is an assistant research fellow with the Central Institute of Party History and Literature.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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