How to Promote “All-round Cooperation” between China and Africa

Published on 20th May 2008

The African Policy Paper devotes much space to elaborate how China will strengthen “all-round cooperation” with Africa in politics, economics, education, science, culture, health, peace and security. To cope with the new problems and challenges emerging from the China-Africa relations, attention should be given to the following points:

1. Commercial interests should be combined with social interests and environmental protection.

The China-Africa energy cooperation is different in approach from the Western oil companies’ mode. It is clearly spelt out in the African Policy Paper that “China will cooperate with African nations in various ways on the basis of the principle of mutual benefit and common development, develop and exploit rationally their resources, with a view to helping African countries to translate their advantages in resources to competitive strength, and realize sustainable development in their own countries and the continent as a whole.” For example, Chinese companies in Sudan began to be involved in energy exploitation since the mid 1990’s. By the end of 2003, Chinese oil companies had invested $2.7 billion in Sudan, built 1506 km of pipelines and set up petrol stations as well as a crude oil refinery with an output of 2.5 million tons per year. This has not only changed Sudan from the position of an oil-importing country to an oil-exporting country, but also enabled it to have a comprehensive industrial system of oil prospecting, production, oil-refining, transportation and sales.By contrast, Shell has been exploiting oil for over five decades in Nigeria, a country with rich oil resources in Africa, but the country still remains an exporter of crude oil and an importer of petrol without its own oil producing and processing system.

In helping Africa promote its economic development, attention should be given to social benefits. Chinese enterprises devote part of their profits to environmental protection, education, hospitals and other social projects. China should combine its traditional foreign aid of sending medical teams, digging of wells, cooperation in education as well as the “volunteers” service, which has existed for several years, with work related to energy exploitation. China should also consider the drafting and, when conditions are ripe, the promulgation of a Law on Overseas Investment, in a bid to use law to set compulsory provisions that enterprises should devote a certain percentage of their profit to improve the livelihood of the people in the resource bases.

2. China should help African countries readjust their textile industry

Trade frictions with African countries should be solved within the framework of“all-round cooperation”. After all, Africa has the largest number of least developed countries as well as a diplomatic cornerstone of traditional friendship with China. China must be far-sighted and transcend the market rules of competition and “survival of the fittest”. China should adopt some protective and compromising measures for the textile industry and other related pillar industries in Africa. In June 2006, during his visit to South Africa, Premier Wen Jiabao declared that China would restrict its export quotas of textile products so as to help relevant African countries in restructuring their textile industry and improving their product competitiveness. This was warmly received by South Africa and other African countries.

The Chinese government should guide the development orientation of Chinese industries that have relative advantages by promoting its transformation from extensive growth to intensive growth featuring high added-value and high technological content. It encourage a path of market diversification, thus leaving some time and space for the restructuring of relevant sectors and industries in Africa. To change the structure of commodity trade and resolve trade imbalances between China and Africa, the two sides should coordinate their strategies for future economic development with an eye to setting up more Chinese firms in Africa, improving African capacity of processing and product development, and diversifying their export varieties.

3. Supervised aid projects

In the 1960s and 1970s, despite its own economic difficulties, China devoted huge amounts of human and physical resources to help build the Tanzania Zambia Railway. China has provided a total sum of 44.4 billion yuan in aid to Africa and assisted 900 infrastructure and public welfare projects.

In September, 2005, at the summit celebrating 60th anniversary of the United Nations, President Hu Jintao, on behalf of the Chinese government, made five solemn pledges to the least developed countries: granting zero tariff to some products from 39 least developed countries which have diplomatic relations with China; exempting all the heavily indebted poor countries that have diplomatic relations with China of their debt; providing $10 billion of preferential loans to developing countries; increasing relevant aid to developing countries and helping developing countries train human resources in various fields. These pledges are not only a concrete demonstration of China as a big responsible country but also an important guarantee to further development of China-Africa relations and the strengthening of China-Africa “all-round cooperation”.

Besides, supervision and management should be strengthened on the capital flow and progress of all assistance projects to avoid misuse and embezzlement of capital. In view of the implementation, projects can be categorized according to the amount of capital involved. For example, projects involving over $100 million should be implemented by state-owned enterprises. Medium development projects involving less than 10 million dollars can be open for bid among state-owned enterprises, qualified collective enterprises and private enterprises. Small projects under $ 100,000 can be well open to private enterprises in the form of bidding. Diversified participation constitutes a new path for us to improve the efficiency of foreign aid projects.

4. Strengthening communications and dialogue on democracy 

In this era of globalization, it is natural for countries with different historical processes to have differences in political understanding and values.These differences should be tackled through periodical communication and dialogue at various levels. China’s “bottom up” mode of democratic development which is determined by its national conditions ought to be explained. It aims at the same goal as the “top down” model.

Diplomacy is the behavior of both the government leaders and the whole society. Citizens ought to cultivate an atmosphere of  “grand diplomacy” so as to integrate China-Africa friendly exchanges and cooperation. At present, there are multi-layered exchanges between China and Africa through various channels. In addition to political and economic arenas, exchanges are also conducted in military affairs, education, health, medical care, culture and among youth, women, technical personnel and scholars. Currently, over 50 provinces and cities in China have established sisterhood with their counterparts in Africa. Therefore, it is necessary for people from different trades to have full understanding about our national conditions and Africa’s development so that they can serve as “non-governmental envoys” in promoting China-Africa friendship in the new era.

5. Strengthening African studies

China and Africa have had over half a century’s relations of traditional friendship. In the past, we used to say that China-Africa economic relations (relatively small trade and investment volume) did not match our friendly political relations. At present, after over a decade’s development, China-Africa economic relations have been strongly strengthened. However, another thing that does not match has not aroused people’s awareness, namely, the forces for African studies does not match the tremendous demand of China-Africa relations.

Great changes have happened in African politics and society. Our research on Africa is far from enabling us “to know ourselves and others perfectly”. Currently, in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the largest research institution on African studies, there are only around 20 researchers on Africa (nationwide the number of people engaged in studying and teaching of African affairs is less than 300). Facing 53 African countries, it is unavoidable that they cannot cover all and their research may be not deep-going. Therefore, the research forces on African studies should be further strengthened.

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