The Chinese Government will make eight major moves in the coming three years in a bid to promote the new China-Africa strategic partnership and facilitate the bilateral cooperation in a wider scope and on a higher level.
Chinese President Hu Jintao unveiled the initiatives at the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. These eight measures involve:
Expanding aid to Africa; offering preferential loans; encouraging Chinese firms to make investments in Africa; constructing the conference centre of the African Union; eliminating debts of some least developed African nations; extending the zero-tariff treatment on 190 products from some poorest African countries to cover 440 products; setting up three to five off-shore economic and trade co-operative zones in Africa and training professionals for African countries, and constructing 30 local hospitals.
These moves, covering an unprecedented wide scope, show that China cares about Africa's development. The measures, quantified and having very particular content, are easier to implement and fulfill than generally stated goals.
The experience and practice of the China-Africa Forum over the past six years since its founding indicate that it is not an empty-talk club. It is an important platform and effective mechanism conducting collective dialogue between China and African nations and exchanges in governance, promoting mutual trust and carrying out pragmatic cooperation.
President Hu Jintao's announcement indicates the Chinese Government gives top priority to the promotion of China-Africa mutual investment. In contrast with the fast expanding Chinese-African trade in recent years, the mutual investment rate between the two sides still remains low. Mutual investment, however, is a vitally important factor benefiting both and assuring their sustainable development.
African countries prefer mechanisms which help tap their internal potentials to one-way aid, which is like a blood transfusion. Only after they acquire the capability of supplying their own blood can they shake off poverty altogether.
Obtaining investment to start businesses and industries is pivotal to Africa's industrialization and revival as well as increasing employment, quickening up technical know-how transfer to the continent and facilitates the training of its own professionals.
As a result, the Chinese Government intends to set up a US$5 billion China-Africa development foundation in the hope of helping Chinese companies make investments in the African Continent.
At the same time, a number of economic and trade cooperative zones in Africa and a China-Africa commerce chamber are expected to be set up. All this is bound to bring Chinese investment in the African Continent to a new height.Also, the Chinese and African leaders have reached consensus on bringing about a new type of China-Africa strategic partnership.
This is evidenced in Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's remarks that the convening of the Beijing Summit shows to the world the staunchest determination of China and Africa to build up a new strategic partnership and that Africa is fully prepared for this relationship. As a matter of fact, the strategic partnership between China and Africa, home to the largest concentration of developing countries, takes on global significance, not just meaningful to their bilateral relations.
From the perspective of South-South cooperation, this kind of strategic partnership facilitates bringing about the widely shared prosperity among the developing countries, while taking care of the interests of China and Africa.
From the geopolitical point of view, unity between China and Africa and their better orchestrated actions on the world stage help boost the influence of the developing world as a whole and is, in turn, conducive to bringing about a more just political and economic order of the world. After the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, the developing countries found themselves more estranged and distanced from one another, which weakened their global influence as a whole. In recent years, however, their shared interests in seeking a fairer and more just economic order have brought them closer to each other, in the context that protectionism is raising its head in developed countries and that hegemonic mentality goes unchecked in the world's political arena.
With their ties strengthened, the developing countries have more say in world affairs. In World Trade Organization negotiations on agriculture, for example, the developed countries had to make concessions on the issue of farm produce subsidies, thanks to the orchestrated actions on the part of the developing world, including China and African countries. In addition, China and African nations adopt the same or similar stances on important international issues such as opposing unilateralism, upholding the authority of the United Nations and increasing the representation of the developing world in the UN Security Council.
Working together in international affairs is of great significance to boosting developing countries' influence on world affairs. Economically, China-Africa cooperation will bring each other's advantages into full play. There are 53 countries on the African Continent, which has a total population of 850 million and abounds in natural and human resources, has great market potential and boasts huge potential for development. However, owing to long-time colonialist plundering and local tumults, the continent remains backward economically, lacking capital, technology and expertise.
On the other hand, China has acquired much economic strength and expertise over the past three decades since the country embarked on the road of reform and opening up in the late 1970s. It is however confronted with the problems of short resource supplies and ever-fiercer competition in the domestic economic arena.
Taking all this into account, China and Africa complement one another in resources, market, capital, technology and expertise. From the perspective of mankind's progress and against the background of the widening gap between North and South and the unabated rise of global terrorism, helping African countries help themselves is vital. The common prosperity of these developing countries and their deep involvement in economic globalization are of far-reaching significance to the world's lasting peace and harmonious development.
By He Wenping
Director, Division of African Studies of the Institute of West Asian and African Studies Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The Article first appeared in China Daily 0n 11/06/2006