|A past China-Africa summit Photo courtesy|
From China's perspective, Africa has a long history, a vast expanse of land, rich natural resources, and huge potential for development. Though faced with many difficulties and challenges, the continent plays an increasingly important role in international affairs. China, a country that shares similar historical experiences with Africa, attaches great importance to developing "win-win" cooperative relationships with African countries. China's engagement with Africa, in a sense, encourages the international community to pay more attention to the continent.
The guiding principles for China's engagement with Africa are clearly stated in the government's official paper, "China's African Policy," which is based on the five basic principles of sincerity, equality and mutual benefit, solidarity and common development. China means what she says.
On political relations, China follows the five basic principles of peaceful coexistence and refrains from interfering with the internal affairs of African countries. China supports African countries in exploring proper social systems and models of development suitable to their own conditions. China is willing to share her experiences in development but does not recognize the so-called "Beijing Consensus" or try to impose her own ideology and political system on Africa. The explanation might be that the Chinese people have been nurtured by the famous teachings of the ancient philosopher Confucius who, over 2,500 years ago, said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." I remember when Deng Xiaoping (the chief architect of China's reform and opening-up) met a visiting head of state from a West African country; he advised the African leader not to take up the socialist system since socialism was not suitable to his country.
On economic relations, China is reluctant to call herself a donor to African countries but happy to define her role as a partner in Sino-African economic cooperation. China believes that her economic relations with Africa are not a one way handout, but a mutually beneficial endeavor on a reciprocal basis within the framework of the South-South cooperation, which is one of the reasons why China does not attach political conditions to economic assistance. It does not mean that China does not care about human rights, democracy, or good governance in Africa. We believe that they should be home grown, and there is no "one-size-for-all" approach to Africa from the outside because each country has a different level of development, historical background, ethnic structure, and political reality. The African people are mature enough to make their own decisions.
It is indisputable that in recent years China's presence in Africa has become increasingly strong with expanding trade and investment increasing on a large scale. The Chinese government's policy of encouraging its companies to invest in Africa is bearing fruit now. Chinese companies and private merchants have become active actors in African markets in the area of trade, mining, energy, infrastructure, manufacture, agriculture, and services. They contribute positively and tangibly to African economic and social development. Both Africa and China benefit in the process. China's contributions in helping African countries develop their infrastructure has been partly acknowledged by the World Bank report, "Building Bridges: China's Growing Role as Infrastructure Financier for Sub-Saharan Africa," released in July 2008. This report points out that China is a relatively small player in Africa's oil sector. China's US$10 billion oil investment in Africa is barely a tenth of the US$168 billion that other international oil companies have already invested in the region. Any attempt to politicize China's normal involvement in energy or mineral sectors is unfair and a practice of double standards.
At the same time, China will work together with the relevant African governments and institutions to address new challenges and problems that occurred following the expansion of economic ties, such as the existing undesirable trade structure and malpractices of small traders.
On diplomatic relations, China always interacts with African countries on an equal footing. China and Africa hold identical or similar views and support each other on major international issues. China is grateful to Africa for its support on issues involving China's core interests, such as China's peaceful reunification with Taiwan and national security. Many Chinese can vividly recall what the late Chairman Mao Tsetong said with a sense of humor in the 1970s: "It was our African brothers who carried China on their shoulders into the United Nations." Mao was referring to the event when China resumed its legitimate seat in the UN in 1971 with the support of 26 African countries out of the total 76 affirmative votes. I believe that even in this world of materialism that sincere friendship between China and Africa will prevail generation after generation.
On conflict resolution in Africa, China has been requested to shoulder more responsibilities. While adhering to the basic tenets of her fixed policy, China tries to show as much flexibility as she can by cooperating with the international community. Pursuing the principles of dialogue and peaceful negotiation, China remains ready to support various peace initiatives and engage herself as a facilitator, a mediator and a responsible participant. For many years, China has actively taken part in the UN peace keeping operations in Africa, ranking first or the second among the five permanent members of the Security Council in terms of the number of the troops contributed.
To my understanding, China is not trying to seek hegemony, dominance, or privileges in Africa by challenging the established powers. Her endeavor in Africa is by no means designed to target any third country or bloc of countries. China is happy to see African countries developing and strengthening normal bilateral relations with the developed world and the emerging countries. China has no will or power to monopolize the African market. China's Africa policy is an important component of her independent foreign policy of peace; the primary goal is to create and maintain a favorable environment for her own peaceful development. China sincerely wishes to help Africa and in turn, to help herself through "win-win" cooperation based on commonly recognized international norms and practices and, thus to contribute to a better and more harmonious world.
By Ambassador Liu Guijin,
Chinese special envoy to Sudan.