China to chart path for stronger ties with Africa for next 3 years at upcoming forum
Trade, climate, epidemic fight top agenda at forum
Published: Nov 26, 2021 10:23 PM
China-Africa cooperation Photo:VCG


Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend a forum on China-Africa cooperation via video link next week and China will put forward new measures for cooperation with Africa for the next three years and even longer term in key areas including trade, investment and climate change as well as measures to help the continent fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, senior officials from the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday when the country's first white paper on cooperation between the two sides in the past decades was issued.    

The US factor was not China's consideration in cooperating with Africa, and the expansion of China-Africa cooperation is based on their own logic and practical needs, experts said, noting it is in sharp contrast with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's previous visit, which was aimed at competing with China's influence. 

On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that President Xi will attend the opening ceremony of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and deliver a keynote speech by video link in Beijing on November 29.

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao will attend the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the FOCAC in Senegal. Ahead of the conference, Wang will visit Senegal at the invitation of Senegalese Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall. 

This year's FOCAC in Dakar, capital of Senegal, will be another gathering of the friendly China-African family since the last one in Beijing in 2018, and is also the largest-scale diplomatic event jointly held by China overseas since the outbreak of the COVID-19, aiming to deepen China-Africa relations, further carry out the consensus reached at the Beijing forum, and project the future direction of bilateral cooperation for the next three years and even longer term, Director-General of the Department of African Affairs of the Foreign Ministry Wu Peng told a press conference on Friday.

The Chinese President will announce new major measures on cooperation with Africa and China's new moves to help Africa fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ahead of the FOCAC, the State Information Office on Friday also released the country's first white paper to document the successes of China-Africa cooperation in the new era and offer a perspective on future cooperation between the two sides. 

The white paper, titled 'China and Africa in the New Era - A Partnership of Equals," is also the first white paper released by the Chinese government that comprehensively introduces China-Africa cooperation and also the first white paper outlining China's achievements on cooperation with a specific region since the Party's 18th National Congress in 2012,Wu Jianghao, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, told a press conference on Friday. 

He said that aside from increasing international understanding of China-Africa cooperation, the white paper will also offer China's experience and approach to cooperation with Africa and global cooperation.

China-Africa cooperation on trade, fighting COVID-19. Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT

China-Africa cooperation on trade, fighting COVID-19. Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT

Not arena for competition 

"China-Africa cooperation has become a banner for South-South Cooperation and international cooperation with Africa. In the new century, especially after FOCAC was established in 2000, the practical cooperation of the two sides have developed rapidly," Wu Jianghao said, noting that China has built more than 80 large-scale electricity infrastructure in Africa, more than 130 medical facilities, 45 stadiums, and more than 170 schools, and helped train more than 160,000 people in Africa. 

China-Africa cooperation is expanding with extraordinary achievements, which also "motivated" other countries to turn their eyes to Africa. Wu Jianghao noted that "increasing investment in Africa is a good thing, and as a friend, we are happy for this."

The white paper and information on Wang Yi's visit to Senegal was released just days after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped up his Africa tour and amid Western media's hype of China-US competition in the continent. But Liu Haifang, executive director of the Beijing-based Center for African Studies and associate professor at the School of International Studies of Peking University, said that China's move does not target any third party. 

"The US factor was not our consideration in cooperating with Africa, and expansion of China--Africa cooperation is based on their own logic and practical needs. Even if the US did not step into the continent, China would continue cooperating with African countries, which is complementary," Liu said, noting "such complementary cooperation cannot be simply taken away by any third country."

From November 15 to 20, Blinken visited Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal - the highest-ranking official from the Biden administration to visit sub-Saharan Africa in a trip that was interpreted by global media as a move to compete with China for influence in Africa. 

China is open and welcomes other countries' efforts to strengthen cooperation with Africa. We believe Africa should be a big stage for international cooperation rather than an arena for major countries' competition, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Wu Jianghao told Friday's press conference. 

"We also believe we should cooperate with Africa on the basis of respect for Africa's sovereignty and practical needs, listening closely to the voices of African countries," he said.

China-Africa cooperation on trade, fighting COVID-19. Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT

China-Africa cooperation on trade, fighting COVID-19. Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT

The development of African countries has never been the core concern of the US and its strategies in Africa serve its global competition strategy. The US views China's broader and deeper cooperation with Africa as a threat and this is the real reason why it has turned its eye to Africa, Song Wei, Deputy Director of World Economy Research Institute at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation who focuses on the study of Africa, told the Global Times on Friday. 

Song noted that it would be a good thing if the US can truly honor its promise to work out its plan in helping Africa's poverty alleviation work and sustainable development. But the goal is far more ideal than the reality, given the long domestic procedure and possible twists for related funds and bills. 

With a focus on infrastructure, clean energy and healthcare, the White House said in recent weeks that it would start a new Prosper Africa Build Together Campaign, requesting $80m from Congress in additional funding.

Song also warned that US assistance to Africa also comes with additional conditions. For example, pressuring African countries to choose between China and the US, which harms the development of the region. 

At the last stop of his three-nation trip to Africa, Blinken claimed that there will be fresh investment in Senegal without "saddling countries with unmanageable debt." Though Blinken didn't directly point his finger at China, US media said his statement is clearly aimed at the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Wu Jianghao on Friday also lashed out at the so-called Chinese debt trap, saying that the narrative is being made by Western countries and media, but they cannot give one example of a developing country accusing China of setting a "debt trap." 

China-Africa cooperation on trade, fighting COVID-19. Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT

China-Africa cooperation on trade, fighting COVID-19. Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT

Assisting key areas

China and African countries have forged deep trust over decades of communication and cooperation, which is in sharp contrast to the great trauma African countries received from imperialistic Western countries, experts said. 

Even today, the US has still failed to win much trust from African countries, as one of the major purposes of Blinken's African trip was to get rid of the traumatic effect former US President Donald Trump made to the continent during his term, Liu said. 

A recent report by well-known African pollster Afrobarometer shows that China ranks first in terms of external influence in Africa, with 63 percent of Africans saying the economic and political influence of China in their country is "somewhat positive" or "very positive," and 66 percent perceiving China's economic and political influence in Africa as positive. 

China and Africa have been expressing great support on the international stage in terms of each other's core interests. For example, China has been assisting Africa with its core needs, which is currently in vaccine manufacturing, Liu said, noting that Blinken also highlighted vaccine production during his visit to Senegal. But due to the high cost, it is difficult for the US to promote its vaccine manufacturing techniques in Africa.  

On the contrary, China's cost effective manufacturing techniques are most suitable to Africa, and China would also help countries there establish their own industrial systems, she said. 

In facing new challenges and opportunity, China will work with Africa to deepen the traditional friendship and firmly promote mutual cooperation to speed up the building of China-Africa community of shared future and to make greater contributions to Chinese and American people, as well as the community of shared future of human kind, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Wu Jianghao said. 

China-Africa cooperation on trade, fighting COVID-19. Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT

China-Africa cooperation on trade, fighting COVID-19. Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT