West should cooperate with China in Africa, not carp and criticize

By Yuan Binzhong and Guo Jun Source:Xinhua Published: 2015-4-8 19:43:01

The past decades have witnessed China and Africa accelerating their steps in expanding cooperation in various fields despite headwinds of fantastical theories from some in the West.

The theories on China-Africa engagement over the years like "Neocolonialism," "Resource Diplomacy," "Concrete Diplomacy," to name a few, have actually not been sold well in Africa because these critiques and views apparently did not hit the nail on the head. For example, China has been depicted as a plunderer of Africa's raw materials, especially petroleum. It is true that African oil is an important part of exports to China. But the argument is disingenuous.

The US had been for the past decades the world's biggest consumer of African oil, importing more than a quarter of the continent's total exports until 2010, which saw the US began to boost shale oil production domestically.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), China is importing 22 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa's oil. The US began to cut way back on Sub-Saharan African oil, importing 13 percent in 2012, and Europe gets 28 percent.

As for the claim of "Concrete Diplomacy," it doesn't even merit refutation because poor economic foundation and insufficient construction funds have been factors limiting the development of African countries for so many years.

China's investments are not a threat to the Western interests in Africa.

There are always overlapping interests between countries nowadays. Britain, the conventional Western power, decided in March to join a China-proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and Downing Street believes its decision is "in the UK's national interest." France, Germany and Italy also applied to join the China-backed financing mechanism.

A secure, stable and prosperous Africa is in the interests of China, the West and the world. In Africa, despite the need for healthy competition, there is more room for cooperation than competition between China and the West.

Both need to focus on helping Africa improve its poor infrastructure, narrow wide gap of jobs and skills as its population explodes, and deal with persistent security threats.

Bridges, roads and railways built by Chinese companies are promoting intra-African trade and helping Africa integrate into the global economy. Knowledge transfer is key to sustainable development and poverty alleviation in Africa, where many young people are unemployed.

There is already an example of Sino-Western cooperation in humanitarian aid in Africa. During the fight against the Ebola epidemic in West Africa when three large Chinese chartered airplanes arrived in Liberia on October 26 and 29 last year, the US air troops at the airport offered support by sending a number of forklifts to help unload the supplies.

China's investments in Africa are also facing pressing security risks threatening the physical safety of ongoing projects and people. China has started to increase its fight against piracy and provide more support to UN missions in Africa.

Portraying China as a threat does not necessarily help improve the West's position in Africa. If the West values strong economic relations with a stable, prosperous Africa, it should explore the potential of cooperation with China in a more serious way.

The authors are writers with the Xinhua News Agency. The article first appeared in Xinhua. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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