BY HE WENPING
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid an official visit to Rwanda, Angola, Gabon, and Sao Tome and Principe at the beginning of 2018, his 13th official visit to the continent since he took office. It has been 28 years that Chinese foreign ministers list Africa as their first destination in the new year. The 28-year tradition shows how important China’s ties with Africa are, making it put forward new goals for Sino-African relations every year.
The states in central, western and southern Africa that Wang visited this year include landlocked, coastal and island countries that speak English, French and Portuguese. This suggests that China develops relations with African countries on an equal basis irrespective of their economic conditions.
Wang’s Africa visit followed the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May and the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in October, and came prior to the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Beijing Summit. His visit, therefore, focused on the Belt and Road development, the 19th CPC National Congress and the FOCAC.
The 19th CPC National Congress has been of great significance to both China and the world. The Belt and Road initiative is an embodiment of China’s wisdom, in which Africa, with abundant resources and huge potential, is a key participant. Just as Wang said, “Africa cannot be absent from the building of the Belt and Road initiative, as well as from the common development of China and the rest of the world.” In fact, Africa is not only a participator, but also a dominant player in the initiative.
The FOCAC came into being 13 years before the Belt and Road initiative, but the two share a lot in common. For instance, the FOCAC’s five cooperative concepts of common, intensive, green, safe and open development correspond to the B&R’s vision of innovative, coordinated, green, open and inclusive development.
The B&R-advocated policy coordination, connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds have already been implemented in the continent. The Belt and Road development can draw experiences from the FOCAC.
With the advancement of the Belt and Road initiative, FOCAC has steadily pushed forward Sino-African cooperation by aiding regional connectivity and enhancing capacity collaborations. The B&R’s infrastructural investments have driven Africa’s industrial development, alleviated poverty, built railways, highway and aviation networks in the region, and promoted Africa’s economic integration.
At the summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2015, Xi Jinping, Chinese president, pledged $60 billion of funding support for 10 major plans to boost cooperation with the continent. This includes a China-Africa production capacity cooperation fund with an initial capital of $10 billion, $5 billion capital for the China-Africa Development Fund and the Special Loan for the Development of African small-and-medium enterprises. China and Africa have signed about 250 deals worth $50 billion since the Johannesburg Summit.
Sino-African industrial capacity cooperation has made significant achievements. The railway connecting Addis Ababa and Djibouti opened in 2016, and the Mombasa-Nairobi railway was put into service in 2017, contributing to construction of industrial parks along the route. This shows African countries are eager to strengthen cooperation with China.
In response to Africa’s strong demand for cooperation, China will hold the FOCAC this year in Beijing, which will be the first multilateral activity since the 19th CPC National Congress. This highlights China’s determination to develop Sino-African ties to new heights in the new era.
(The author is a senior research fellow with the Charhar Institute and researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of West Asian and African Studies.) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
China opens new chapter in Africa relations
BY HE WENPING