Prospects of China-Africa cooperation in 2024 bright and promising
Published: Jan 08, 2024 05:27 PM
A view of the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Photo: VCG

A view of the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Photo: VCG

Editor's Note:

In 2023, the world witnessed significant changes and turbulence. As we have entered 2024, we conducted in-depth interviews with leading strategists from various countries and regions to gather their perspectives on the prominent global issues of 2023 and China's role in addressing them as well as their expectations for China in 2024.

In the fifth and final piece of the series, Erastus Mwencha (Mwencha), former deputy chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, shared his thoughts with Global Times (GT) reporter Xia Wenxin on China's diplomacy, the AU's role in global governance as well as his hopes for China-Africa relations for the new year.

GT: Looking back at 2023, what diplomatic achievements of China have impressed you the most?

China has made several notable diplomatic achievements in 2023. For example, China has brokered significant diplomatic breakthroughs, including a peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran. This move has been seen as a demonstration of China's growing influence on the global stage. In 2023, China has continued to reject bloc confrontation and zero-sum competition, maintaining strategic stability in relations with other major countries. The meeting between President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden in San Francisco was highly successful, as was the hosting of the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation and China's participation in the BRICS Summit in South Africa.

Additionally, in 2023, President Xi proposed the Global Civilization Initiative which was warmly welcomed by the international community, as it advocates respect for the diversity of civilizations, the common values of humanity and robust people-to-people cooperation. In general, China's three initiatives - Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative and Global Civilization Initiative - have gained traction among the states involved, and they also underpin China's soft foreign policy. Regionally, China initiated a series of plans in 2023 aimed at supporting Africa's industrialization and agricultural development strategies. These achievements reflect China's active role in global diplomacy and its efforts to maintain strategic stability in its international relations.

GT: How do you see China's role in helping resolve the Russia-Ukraine and Palestine-Israel conflicts?

For the Russia-Ukraine conflict, early in 2022 China issued a position paper for ending the war and brokering peace. China's special envoy Li Hui conducted a 12-day tour through Europe, meeting with officials in Ukraine, Poland, France, Germany and the European Union headquarters in Brussels. China has stated its interest in promoting communication toward resolving the conflict.

As for the Israel-Palestine conflict, China's stance on it is quite clear: It advocates a two-state solution and argues that the Palestinian people are fighting for national rights. It has repeatedly stated that the question of Palestine needs to be resolved as soon as possible, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state is the only way to solve the question. This is very much in line with the AU's position.

GT: The Palestine-Israel conflict can be considered a "black swan event" in 2023. What event do you predict to be a "black swan" or "grey rhino" in 2024? Where do you predict the next hotspot to be that deserves our attention?

Predicting such events is not easy, as they are often influenced by many factors and uncertainties. But the results of the US elections, especially if Donald Trump wins the presidential election, could be a black swan event. His stand on major global topics, including climate change, protectionism and democracy, is at variance with almost all regions in the world.

GT: How have the three global initiatives proposed by China contributed to global governance? 

Global governance faces many challenges in the 21st century. These three initiatives have contributed to global governance by providing China's perspectives and solutions and demonstrating China's willingness and responsibility to play a constructive role in the world. They also aim to enhance cooperation and dialogue among different countries and regions and build mutual trust and understanding among different cultures and civilizations. Moreover, they support the multilateral system and the role of the UN and uphold the principles of equality, openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation.

There is a need to continue to promote the implementation of these three initiatives, because they are consistent with the common interests and aspirations of the international community, and reflect the trend of the times and the direction of history. They are conducive to the improvement and reform of the global governance system and the creation of a more just and equitable international order. Also, they are beneficial to the advancement of human civilization and the well-being of all people, and the realization of the vision of a global community of shared future. 

GT: Achieving modernization is an important goal of national governance in developing countries. What aspects of Chinese modernization can inspire African countries?

I think Chinese modernization can inspire African countries in, first of all, finding a suitable development path. Chinese modernization shows that there is no one-size-fits-all model for development, and each country should choose a path that suits its own national conditions and realities. African countries can learn from China's experience, but also explore their own ways of development based on their own history, culture and aspirations.

Second, Chinese modernization aims for the well-being of all Chinese people and pursues common prosperity for all. African countries should also prioritize the needs and interests of their people, and strive to improve their living standards and social welfare.

Third, just like Chinese modernization, African countries can also enhance their self-reliance and innovation and diversify their economies and markets while promoting green and sustainable development and balancing their economic growth and environmental protection.

Finally, Chinese modernization adheres to the vision of a global community of shared future and promotes open and inclusive cooperation with other countries, which is something African countries should pursue too.

GT: The AU became a full member of the G20 in 2023. What role do you think the cooperation between China and the AU will play in global governance?

The AU is a continental body that represents the interests and aspirations of the 55 African countries. The G20 membership gives the AU the same status as the European Union and allows it to have a voice and influence on key global issues.

China has a comprehensive strategic partnership with the AU and supports the AU's Agenda 2063, a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent. China is also the largest trading partner, investor and infrastructure financier in Africa. The cooperation between China and the AU will play an important role in global governance, as both sides share common interests and visions for a more just and equitable international order.

Globally, China and the AU can uphold the principles of multilateralism, and support the role of the UN and other international organizations. China and the AU can also advocate for the reform and improvement of the global governance system, and the representation and voice of developing countries.

GT: Some Western media and politicians have smeared China's investment in Africa as a "debt trap" and have even claimed that China has plundered Africa's natural resources. What do you think of these voices? What is the biggest difference between China's investment in Africa and the West's in Africa?

I think these voices are not based on facts. They are based on biases and misunderstandings. China's investment in Africa is not a debt trap, nor a plunder of natural resources, but a win-win cooperation that benefits both sides. China's investment in Africa is not concentrated in natural resource-rich countries, but covers a wide range of sectors and regions. China's investment is not driven by a deliberate strategy to induce debt, but by market opportunities and mutual interests. China has provided debt relief and concessional loans to African countries and has supported their development resilience and green transition.

The biggest difference between China's investment in Africa and the West's in Africa is that China respects the sovereignty and choice of African countries, and does not impose political or ideological conditions on its economic cooperation. China also follows the principle of equality, openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, and seeks to build a global community of shared future with Africa. For all intents and purposes, the narrative that China is lending to Africa a "debt trap" is a diversionary tactic. If anything, most of the lending from Western bilateral and multilateral creditors can hardly be accounted for.

GT: How do you predict the prospects of cooperation between China and Africa in 2024? In what areas do you expect China and Africa to further deepen cooperation?

I think the prospects of cooperation between China and Africa in 2024 are bright and promising. China and Africa have a long history of friendship and solidarity and have built an even stronger community of shared future in the new era. China and Africa have supported each other in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and now they are working together to promote the recovery and development of both sides.

I expect China and Africa to further deepen their cooperation in many areas. In terms of economic and trade cooperation, China and Africa should continue to expand their trade and investment ties, and support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). They should cooperate on new business forms such as digital economy, smart city, clean energy and 5G.

They should also enhance their cooperation on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and support the development resilience and green transition of African countries. They should strengthen their cooperation on climate change, and support the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the Glasgow Pact.

Peace and security are other areas in which China and Africa should step up cooperation. The two sides should reinforce their cooperation on peace and security, and China should continue to support the AU's efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts and promote peacekeeping and peacebuilding in Africa.