Opinion / Web Comments

The 'secrets' behind the success of China-Africa relations

By Qi Li (chinadaily.com.cn) Updated: 2012-07-20 12:37

The close ties and strong partnership between China and African countries are attracting international attention. China is now the largest trading partner of Africa with a record high trade volume of USD166.3 billion in 2011. The Chinese “footprints” in the African continent are so visible and so welcomed that some people find it utterly unexpected and surprising. Those who have traditional relations with Africa but are now seen lagging behind are more eager to know the reasons. In fact, the successful and fruitful relations between China and Africa are not just the result of trade, but rather a combination of many important elements.

Mutual respect provides a solid base for mutual trust

China and African countries may have different political systems and cultural backgrounds, but that has not prevented them from respecting each other’s values and interests. China has never preached African countries on what paths they should choose and how they should run their state business, while African countries do not interfere with China’s internal affairs. They respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity which the Chinese holds dearly. The two sides can exchange views and may differ on certain issues, but they are still equal partners who should fully respect the other side. That makes them trust-worthy of each other. In country to country relationships, just like people to people relationships, trust is a must, China and African countries enjoy that mutual trust.

Sincere support and assistance win the heart

“A friend in need is a friend indeed”. China has long been standing by the side of the African people, beginning with their struggle for national independence and till this very day when they fight to avoid marginalization in a globalizing world. Many senior African politicians like former President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and former President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia witnessed of the political and economic support to their respective countries by China at critical moments. In the landmark project of Tanzara railway, many Chinese engineers and workers had sacrificed their lives on the land of Africa. Julius Nyerere had visited China 13 times both as Head of State and in other capacities. Kenneth Kaunda had visited China for 4 times during his tenures as President and had deemed China as “an all-round friend”. China had also enjoyed strong and crucial support from African brothers including the successful restoration of its membership in the United Nations. Chairman Mao Zedong was quoted as saying at the time that “it is our African brothers who have carried us into the UN”. Entering the 21st century, a new chapter of mutual support is being added. President Hu Jintao announced in the 2006 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation that China had decided to write off RMB 10 billion worth of debt for African countries along with many other favorable measures. On the other hand, in the aftermath of the 2008 disastrous Wenchuan earthquake, the African countries had donated more than USD 60 million for the earthquake-hit people, despite their own economic difficulties, demonstrating solidarity and brotherly compassion, which the Chinese people will always bear in mind.

Win-win cooperation makes the partnership sustainable and stronger

It is fair to say that with the joint efforts, huge success has been achieved in the economic cooperation and people-to-people exchanges, and both China and African countries have benefited from it. The closer relations with China have boosted the local economies of African countries as well as the stakes of Africa in the international arena. At the times of world economic downturn, many African countries are experiencing economic booms, making the world jealous in terms of economic performance and growth. Africa needs money and China is investing. According to China’s official estimates, direct investment from China to Africa has reached USD 14.7 billion, and it is expected to increase, and fast. Now China provides approximately 5000 scholarships annually to African students, and about 10,000 more African students come to China to study at their own expenses. It is common to see some young Africans speaking fluent Chinese and even appear in TV programs in China.

Rome was not built overnight, and the China-Africa relations have been an all-round partnership developed over the time of more than half a century. We have all the reasons to believe that the 5th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will be a success and we expect a continued and accelerated enhancement of China-Africa cooperation which opens new horizons for China and Africa, and for the whole world at large.

(The author is a Beijing-based observer of international affairs.)

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