How to build a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era
ON November 29, President Xi Jinping attended the opening ceremony of the FOCAC meeting in Dakar, Senegal together with President Ramaphosa and other African Heads of State virtually.
This meeting is another gathering of the China-Africa family of friendship since the Beijing Summit in 2018 and last year’s Extraordinary Summit Against COVID-19. It is of great significance as we strive to usher in the future development of China-Africa relations, deepen China-Africa comprehensive strategic partnership, promote solidarity and cooperation among developing countries and global cooperation against COVID-19.
It is also essential for steering the international order and global governance system toward a more just and reasonable direction. In his keynote speech, President Xi Jinping, with broad historical perspective and profound historical vision, spoke highly of the fruitful results achieved during China-Africa diplomatic relations in the past 65 years.
For the first time, President Xi Jinping put forward the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation, which features sincere friendship and equality, win-win for mutual benefit and common development, fairness and justice, and progress with the times and openness and inclusiveness.
This spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation was elaborated in the speech as the very reason why China and Africa have such a close relationship and so deep a bond of friendship.
As changes unseen in a century are compounded by the major pandemic, President Xi Jinping put forward four proposals for building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era.
They include efforts to fight COVID-19 with solidarity, deepen pragmatic cooperation, promote green development and uphold fairness and justice. President Xi Jinping announced a series of major new initiatives for China-Africa cooperation aimed at benefiting the Chinese and African peoples and safeguarding the common interests of developing countries.
President Xi Jinping also announced a series of new significant initiatives for China-Africa cooperation, including the nine programs on health, poverty reduction and agriculture, trade promotion, investment promotion, digital innovation, green development, capacity building, cultural and people-to-people exchange, as well as peace and security.
The Conference also adopted four outcome documents, namely the Dakar Declaration, the Dakar Action Plan 2022-2024, the China-Africa Cooperation Vision 2035 and the Declaration on China-Africa Cooperation on Combatting Climate Change.
Document Four fully reflects the high quality and level of China-Africa cooperation. It reflects a firm determination of the two sides to meet challenges and share opportunities in the new era, and shows the great potential and broad prospects of China-Africa cooperation.
President Xi Jinping drew a blueprint aimed at building consensus for the stability of China-Africa relations, the upgrading of China-Africa cooperation, and the friendship between Chinese and African peoples for generations. His proposals were highly appreciated by the African side. President Ramaphosa, President Sall of Senegal and other participating African leaders thanked President Xi Jinping for his ideas and initiatives. African leaders lauded FOCAC as an important platform for cooperation between the two sides for the realization of a fair and just international order and for enhancing Africa’s voice.
The leaders said Chinese enterprises are welcome to invest in Africa and that they are ready to continue to strengthen Africa-China collaboration, especially through Belt and Road cooperation, so as to promote the sustained development and prosperity of all countries.
President Ramaphosa stressed that FOCAC is an engine for China-Africa relations and a beacon of hope in these turbulent times, and that Africa looks forward to deepening win-win cooperation with China under FOCAC to jointly overcome challenges including COVID-19, poverty, inequality and to achieve common prosperity for all countries.
Ever since 2000, FOCAC has developed into an important platform for collective dialogue and for practical cooperation between China and Africa. FOCAC reflects the common aspirations of the Chinese and African peoples for peace, development and cooperation.
For more than 20 years, the FOCAC mechanism, guided by the spirit of friendship and cooperation between China and Africa, has become an important banner leading international cooperation with Africa. At this important moment of global response to COVID-19 and efforts for economic recovery, the major initiatives and fruitful results announced at this year’s Conference reflect the strategic, systematic, continuous and significant nature of China-Africa cooperation.
These initiatives bring tangible benefits to Chinese and African peoples and send a positive signal to the world that China and Africa are working together to build a community with a shared future in the new era.
First, commitment to mutual help and efforts to build a health defense line together. COVID-19 poses a severe threat to the lives and health of people in all countries. It is a difficult test for international relations and international cooperation. The friendship between China and Africa has shown its true colors in these difficult times, and the two sides have interpreted, with concrete actions, the true meaning of China-Africa community with a shared future by looking out for each other and overcoming difficulties together during this time.
At the earlier stages of COVID-19 in China, African countries, the AU and other regional organizations presented strong solidarity with and valuable support for China in different ways. When the virus hit Africa, China took the lead in providing 120 batches of emergency response supplies as aid and 180 million doses of vaccines to 53 African countries as well as the AU.
Despite our own difficulties, the Chinese side dispatched medical experts or short-term medical response teams to 17 African countries.
As COVID-19 is still ravaging across the world and the Omicron variant is on the rise, there is still a big immunity divide between Africa and the rest of the world. Africa’s vaccination rate is less than one-fifth of world average. This is extremely unfair and unreasonable for Africa.
It is imperative to speed up the acquisition, vaccination and independent production of vaccines on the continent. President Xi Jinping announced that China will supply another 1 billion doses of vaccines to Africa, of which 600 million doses will be provided for free and the rest 400 million doses will be supplied through joint production between Chinese enterprises and the African countries concerned.
China will also provide assistance to African countries to implement 10 medical and health projects and dispatch 1,500 medical team members and public health experts to Africa.
China supports the call for waiving intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines by Africa.
We are ready to jointly produce vaccines with African countries to guarantee the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in Africa. Under the guidance of the Chinese government, Chinese companies have cooperated with 19 countries to produce vaccines, including Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and other African countries. Chinese vaccines can be manufactured not only in China, but also in Africa.
They can be jointly manufactured by China and Africa to enhance Africa’s local production capacity. It is believed that with the joint efforts of both sides, Chinese vaccines will be shipped to every place in need in Africa in time and delivered to every person in need in Africa.
Secondly, commitment to mutual benefit and shared economic recovery. China and Africa have been working hard to overcome the impact of COVID-19 and to move China-Africa practical cooperation forward.
From January to October this year, China-Africa trade and China’s direct investment in Africa both bucked the trend, reaching over 207 billion US dollars and more than 2.6 billion US dollars respectively, up 37.5 percent and 10 percent year-on-year. These outcomes made outstanding contributions for the African economy to withstand the impact of COVID-19.
China-South Africa trade delivered a more robust performance. Our total trade reached nearly 50 billion US dollars from January to November this year, up nearly 55 percent year-on-year. China imported from South Africa over 30.7 billion US dollars worth of goods, up over 65 percent year-on-year.
China will also continue to be Africa’s largest trading partner for 13 consecutive years. Also, the proportion of China-Africa trade in Africa’s total foreign trade has been on the rise.
At present, African countries are facing economic difficulties, and their economic recovery is not as fast as expected and is uneven. The African side has high expectations for China-Africa cooperation to boost economic recovery and is eager to expand cooperation and exports to China.
President Xi Jinping attaches great importance to these major concerns and urgent demands of the African side and announced a series of new initiatives for practical cooperation.
In terms of trade promotion, China will open “green lanes” for African agricultural exports to China and work to reach $300-billion in total imports from Africa in the next three years. China will provide $10-billion of trade finance to support African exports.
We will build in China a pioneering zone for in-depth China-Africa trade and economic cooperation and a China-Africa industrial park for Belt and Road cooperation. China will undertake 10 connectivity projects for Africa, form an expert group on economic cooperation with the secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and give continued support to the development of the AfCFTA.
In terms of investment promotion, China will encourage its businesses to invest no less than 10 billion US dollars in Africa in the next three years, and will establish a platform for China-Africa private investment promotion.
China will undertake 10 industrialization and employment promotion projects for Africa, provide credit facilities of 10 billion US dollars to African financial institutions, and establish a China-Africa cross-border RMB center.
China will exempt African LDCs from debt incurred in the form of interest-free Chinese government loans due by the end of 2021. China is ready to channel to African countries 10 billion US dollars from its share of the IMF’s new allocation of Special Drawing Rights.
In terms of poverty reduction and agricultural development, China will undertake 10 poverty reduction and agricultural projects for Africa, and send 500 agricultural experts to Africa. China will set up a number of China-Africa joint centers for modern agrotechnology exchange, demonstration and training in China.
We will encourage Chinese institutions and companies to build in Africa demonstration villages for China-Africa cooperation on agricultural development and poverty reduction, and support the Alliance of Chinese Companies in Africa for Corporate Social Responsibilities in launching the initiative of “100 Companies in 1,000 Villages”.
In terms of digital innovation, China will undertake 10 digital economy projects for Africa, set up centers for China-Africa cooperation on satellite remote-sensing application, and support the development of China-Africa joint laboratories, partner institutes, and scientific and technological innovation cooperation bases.
China will work with African countries to expand Silk Road e-commerce cooperation, hold online shopping festivals featuring quality African products and tourism e-commerce promotion activities, and launch a campaign to market 100 African stores and 1,000 African products on e-commerce platforms.
These practical initiatives are in line with the most urgent development needs of African countries, and in particular the need to accelerate industrialization. They demonstrate convincingly that China is keeping up input into Africa and the momentum of China-Africa cooperation, which will give new impetus to Africa’s post-COVID economic recovery.
It has become a strong consensus between the two sides to bear in mind what is important for the post-COVID world and accelerate the upgrading of China-Africa cooperation. We will work with our African friends to fully implement the major initiatives announced by President Xi Jinping, continue to improve the quality of China-Africa cooperation, and move forward toward cooperation that is high-quality, people-friendly and sustainable.
Third, commitment to green transformation and shared sustainable development. Climate change has long posed a major challenge to Africa’s environment and social development. There are numerous negative impacts like food crisis, poverty and displacement. Climate change increases the vulnerability of African countries.
To support Africa’s green transformation and sustainable development, President Xi Jinping announced that China will undertake 10 green development, environmental protection and climate action projects for Africa, support the development of the “Great Green Wall”, and build in Africa centers of excellence on low-carbon development and climate change adaptation.
The Conference considered and adopted a declaration on climate change and decided to establish a China-Africa partnership of strategic cooperation of the new era for the fight against climate change.
Under the framework of South-South cooperation and Belt and Road cooperation, China and Africa will hold a high-level forum on addressing climate change to further deepen China-Africa exchanges and cooperation on climate change. Efforts on this front will also include the launch of a three-year China-Africa action plan, a China-Africa Green Envoys Program, round-tables, capacity building training sessions as well as a China-Africa Green Innovation Program.
China and Africa will strengthen coordination and cooperation in multilateral climate change engagements, jointly safeguard the rights and interests of China, Africa and the developing countries, and work toward a fairer and more reasonable global climate governance system that delivers on commitments.
Fourth, commitment to multilateralism, fairness and justice. China and African countries share similar historical experiences and have a strong political consensus and responsibility to safeguard fairness and justice and practice multilateralism.
President Xi Jinping stressed that the world needs genuine multilateralism, and that peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom are common values for mankind which are also common goals that China and Africa strive for. We both advocate a development path in line with our own national conditions. We are both committed to safeguarding the rights and interests of developing countries. And we both oppose interference in others’ internal affairs, racial discrimination and unilateral sanctions.
Human development is facing unprecedented risks and challenges in COVID-19 response, economic recovery and efforts to improve people’s livelihood. It is the common desire of the international community to unite rather than divide, to cooperate rather than confront, and to make progress rather than roll back.
However, a certain country, which has a terrible track record in democracy and human rights, thinks that it is the leader of the democratic world. This country is engaging in “pseudo-multilateralism” and gathering blocs of countries to engage in group politics by convening the so-called Summit for Democracy.
This is in fact an arbitrary interference in the internal affairs of other countries under the pretext of democracy and human rights. This certain country exaggerates ideological confrontation, damages the external environment for the rise of developing countries, including African countries, and undermines the good atmosphere of international cooperation.
It’s so-called diplomatic boycott against the Beijing Winter Olympics runs counter to the principles of the Olympic Charter, It politicizes sports and is firmly opposed by the international community. None of these is beneficial to international solidarity and cooperation. It is not good for world development and needs to be further opposed by the international community including Africa.
President Xi Jinping’s proposals represent the common voice of China and African countries. They demonstrate the legitimate demand of China and Africa to defend sovereignty, security and development interests. They are powerful responses to unilateralism, power politics and hegemonic practices in the world and the proposals have strongly resonated among the majority of developing countries.
China will continue to work with African countries to firmly support each other on issues on core interests and major concerns, jointly safeguard an international system with the United Nations at its core and the international order based on international law. We are ready to work with Africa to make greater contributions to peace and security in Africa as well as fairness and justice in the world.
As an African proverb goes, “One single pillar is not sufficient to build a house.” In China, we have a similar old saying, which reads, “The going is difficult when doing it alone; the going is made easier when doing it with many others.”
The essence of China-Africa cooperation is mutual benefit and common development. Our cooperation has never been and will never be a talking shop. While bringing tangible benefits to the Chinese and African peoples, China-Africa cooperation has also created more favorable conditions for international cooperation with Africa.
The Chinese and African peoples are the ones who have the biggest say in whether China-Africa cooperation is good or not. China has always been the most sincere, reliable and long-term partner for Africa. We will do our best to deliver on what has been promised to our African brothers.
As the former African co-chair of FOCAC and a major African country with good influence, South Africa has actively participated in all FOCAC activities and made important contributions to FOCAC development and stronger cooperation between the two sides. China is ready to work with African countries, including South Africa, to fully implement President Xi Jinping’s commitments and the outcomes of FOCAC meetings to usher in the next “golden two decades” of FOCAC and to build the China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era.
- These are edited remarks by Ambassador Chen Xiaodong at Webinar: “FOCAC: Mapping China-Africa Relations Post-COVID” which was held in Pretoria.