China-Africa unity sees friendship of new era
Published: Jan 04, 2021 07:18 PM

China-Africa relations Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday kicked off his official visits to five African countries - Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Botswana, Tanzania, and Seychelles. Since 1991, Africa has been the destination for Chinese foreign ministers' first overseas visit each year.

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage into 2021, Wang's visit to Africa embodies China's deep friendship with Africa. It demonstrates the great significance China attaches to Africa.

China highly values its bilateral ties with Africa because the continent is always a priority for China's diplomacy. Africa always firmly bolsters China on the international stage and supports China when it comes to issues concerning China's core national interests.

In terms of economy, Africa has become one of the key destinations for Chinese firms going global. Many African countries are now participants of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Indeed, Foreign Minister Wang said in a recent interview to the Xinhua News Agency and the China Media Group that the friendship between China and Africa "emerged still stronger from the test of COVID-19 in 2020." At a time when China's fight against the coronavirus was the most critical, many African countries offered help to China. 

When the pandemic gravely hit many African countries, China lent a helping hand and provided support to them with the utmost of its abilities. Their mutual assistance amid the battle over the deadly disease has deepened China-Africa friendship in profound ways.

As it happened, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2020. FOCAC has become a new model of friendship, cooperation and common development among developing countries. Against the backdrop that unilateralism, trade protectionism, power politics have become major obstacles to international cooperation, the new partnership between China and Africa is of great significance to maintaining multilateralism and globalization.

Some Western public opinion-makers led by the US in 2020 continued to drive a wedge between China and Africa, including distorting China's anti-epidemic measures as discriminating against African people. These were groundless rumors. 

In June 2020, when China announced the suspension of debt repayment from 77 developing countries, including many African countries, some Western media outlets said China was launching a charm offensive. These are stereotyped noises. They sound like "debt trap diplomacy" slogans the West uses to tarnish the BRI.

Certain Western political elites and their media outlets see Africa as their sphere of influence - even though they do not really care about the continent. They regard China as moving their cheese when Beijing deepens coordination with African countries. They are jealous and hold a "sour grapes" mentality toward growing ties between China and Africa.

Their malicious slanders against China are intended to hinder China-Africa cooperation, and even drive China out of the African continent. Apart from these malicious public affairs slanders, Western media outlets and politicians intend to curb China's development by demonizing and stigmatizing China. This is an odious bid to continue to take control of international discourses of power in the post-pandemic era. They only spew hate and misinformation about Beijing to obfuscate people from Western pandemic failures.

These slanders toward China seek to influence the coordination between China and Africa. Still, this will not only affect the development of China-Africa ties. However, it holds the potential to impact Chinese firms investing in Africa and for the quality and safety of life for Chinese people living there.

But such influences will be limited. They are not sufficient to shake China-Africa friendships. China will always be Africa's all-weather friend and partner. Their friendship has been tested for over half a century. It will not fall into crisis due to provocations by some Western media outlets and politicians. On the contrary, their friendship will be deepened with these tests.

Wang said that in 2021 China will work with Africa on the three priority areas: vaccine cooperation, economic recovery, and transformative development. These should also be the pivotal domains of China-Africa cooperation this year. 

Furthermore, the two sides will have FOCAC meetings in Senegal in 2021. This will further see the building of a more consolidated community for a shared future between China and Africa in the post-pandemic era.

The author is a senior research fellow of the Charhar Institute and China Africa Institute, and a research fellow of the Institute of West-Asian and African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn