Broad Prospects for the New Type of China-Africa Strategic Partnership
Remarks by Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun at the Seventh Lanting Forum
2012-07-12 14:33

(Beijing, 12 July 2012)

Diplomatic envoys,
Friends from the academic, business and media circles,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon. It is a great pleasure to speak at the Lanting Forum. The Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) will be held in just a week, and mid-summer Beijing will embrace an exciting "African time". I am sure all those who care about and support China-Africa relations are eagerly looking forward to it. And I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss China-Africa relations with you in advance of the Ministerial Conference.

FOCAC was launched in October 2000. Since then, thanks to the strong commitment and careful nurturing of both sides, it has become an important platform for collective dialogue and effective mechanism for practical cooperation between China and Africa, and has greatly helped advance China-Africa relations. In particular, at the 2006 Beijing Summit, China and Africa decided to establish a new type of strategic partnership featuring political equality and mutual trust, win-win economic cooperation and cultural exchanges, thus turning a new page in China-Africa friendly cooperation.

The upcoming Ministerial Conference will be the first such conference in the second decade of FOCAC. It is of great significance for the continuation and further development of China-Africa relations, and has received high attention from both sides.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and several African leaders will attend the opening ceremony. Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Commerce Minister Chen Deming, the foreign and economic ministers of 50 African countries, and the Chairperson of the AU Commission will participate in the Conference.

Under the theme of "building on past achievements and opening up new prospects for the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership", the two sides aim to achieve the following objectives at the conference: first, to take stock of the implementation of the follow-up actions of the Fourth Ministerial Conference; second, to explore ways and means to deepen the new type of strategic partnership and further develop FOCAC; third, to identify the priority areas of and main measures for China-Africa cooperation in the next three years and formulate an action plan accordingly; and fourth, to exchange views on major regional and international issues to better safeguard and expand common interests.

In terms of conference outcomes, two documents will be released, i.e. the Beijing Declaration of the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Beijing Action Plan (2013-2015).

At the opening ceremony of the conference, President Hu Jintao will announce, on behalf of the Chinese government, China's new measures to strengthen cooperation with Africa, which will cover such areas as investment, finance, assistance, African integration, peace and security, and people-to-people exchanges.

I am confident that with joint efforts from both sides, the conference will be a full success and will take the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership to a new level.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Since the beginning of the new century, especially after the establishment of the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership, China-Africa relations have been growing at an unprecedented pace and become a highlight in China's diplomacy. The relationship has demonstrated the following features.

First, China-Africa political relations have enjoyed all-round development. The past few years has been the most robust period for China-Africa high-level exchanges. President Hu Jintao visited Africa four times, which took him to 18 African countries. NPC Chairman Wu Bangguo, Premier Wen Jiabao, CPPCC Chairman Jia Qinglin, Comrade Li Changchun, Vice President Xi Jinping, Comrade He Guoqiang and Comrade Zhou Yongkang have all visited Africa. Many African leaders have come to visit China. From 2007 to 2011, about 30 African heads of state or government and 20 speakers of parliament paid visits to or attended important activities in China. Comprehensiveness is an important feature of China's relationship with Africa compared with some other countries. China never treats countries differently according to their sizes or wealth. The development of China-Africa relations in recent years is not the development of relations with just one, two or a few African countries. Rather, it has been the comprehensive development of our relations with all friendly African countries. In addition to the all-round growth of bilateral ties, China's relations with African regional organizations, the African Union in particular, have become a new bright spot in China-Africa relations. The AU Conference Center and Office Complex built by China was successfully completed at the beginning of the year. It demonstrates China's firm support to Africa in seeking strength through unity and stands as a symbol of China-Africa friendship in the new era.

Second, China-Africa practical cooperation has yielded fruitful results. Mutual benefit and common development is the most outstanding feature of China-Africa relations in the new era. At the FOCAC Beijing Summit, China announced eight measures to enhance practical cooperation with Africa. They were followed by eight additional measures announced at the Fourth Ministerial Conference. Thanks to the joint efforts from both sides, all these measures have been fully implemented. Since 2006, China's grant assistance, interest-free loans and preferential loans to Africa have increased steadily. It has trained more than 30,000 professionals in various sectors for Africa and offers 5,000-plus government scholarships annually. For three consecutive years since 2009, China has remained Africa's largest trading partner. In 2011, trade between China and Africa reached US$166.3 billion, an increase of 16 times from the 2000 level, with Africa running a trade surplus of US$20.1 billion. Tariff exemption and other measures adopted by China to boost African exports have begun to show effect. In 2010, 49 African countries saw increase in their exports to China. And between 2000 and 2011, African exports to China have been growing rapidly, from US$5.6 billion to US$93.2 billion. As of April this year, China's total direct investment in Africa reached US$15.3 billion, compared with less than US$500 million 10 years ago. More than 2,000 Chinese enterprises have invested or started businesses in 50 African countries. Despite the negative impact of the global financial crisis, China-Africa cooperation has shown robust growth. This has contributed to the recovery and development of not only the Chinese and African economies, but also the world economy as a whole.

Third, China-Africa cooperation on international and regional affairs has kept expanding.

For all its development, China has not forgotten where it has come from and always regards itself as a developing country. We stand firmly with African countries in their efforts to uphold sovereignty and dignity, explore development path independently and pursue strength through unity. China has intensified its engagement in Africa's peace and security affairs. We have maintained close communication and coordination with African countries at the UN Security Council, increased the number of Chinese peace-keepers to Africa, carried out escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia, appointed a Special Representative of the Chinese Government on African Affairs, and actively engaged in the mediation of African hot-spot issues. On global issues such as the international financial crisis, climate change and WTO Doha Round negotiations, China and Africa have maintained close communication and coordination, and effectively safeguarded the common interests of developing countries. We deeply appreciate and are grateful for the continued, firm support from African countries on issues concerning China's core and major interests.

Fourth, cultural and people-to-people exchanges between China and Africa have intensified. Thanks to the overall development of China-Africa relations, people-to-people and cultural exchanges between the two sides have gone from strength to strength. Together, China and Africa have built a number of platforms to facilitate such exchanges, including the Chinese/African "Culture in Focus", Joint Research and Exchange Program, People's Forum and Think Tanks Forum. Each year, in addition to over 5,000 Chinese government scholarships, more than 10,000 African students are coming to study in China on their own. In 2000, there was only one regular flight between China and Africa every week. Today there are more than twenty. Eight African airline companies now operate direct fights to China. Some African friends have chosen to settle down or pursue their career in China. Some have even become sports or entertainment stars popular among the Chinese audience. Small and touching stories such as these enable us to feel the pulse of the growth of China-Africa relations, and constitute the real driving force behind the growth of our relationship.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The rapid growth of China-Africa relations has aroused wide international attention and become a hot topic in international relations. I have noted that there are now more and more objective media comments on China-Africa relations. Nonetheless, there are also voices in some quarters questioning and criticizing China's policy towards Africa. Let me take this opportunity to respond to some of the views:

- Some people say that China is plundering Africa's energy and resources and pursuing "neo-colonialism".

The structure of trade between China and Africa that is based on energy and resources should indeed be improved. Meanwhile, the same situation exists between Africa and all its major trading partners. To change their economic structure that relies too heavily on energy and resources, it is essential that African countries improve their capability for self-generated development and realize diversification of economic development. The Chinese side has made active efforts and adopted a number of cooperation initiatives to this end. What should also be recognized is that despite its fast growth in recent years, China-Africa cooperation does not match that between Africa and its traditional partners in either scope or depth. To help African countries to increase capability for self-generated development, other countries should step up their efforts as well. One should also recognize that the unfair and unreasonable international political and economic order is still a major obstacle hindering Africa's development. To reverse the situation, it is crucial that those countries leading international relations make an effort.

- Some people say that China's commitment to the principle of non-interference in domestic affairs impedes Africa's efforts to promote democracy and good governance.

Let me point out that as an important principle governing international relations, non-interference in domestic affairs has not gone outdated. For developing countries in particular, it remains an important tool for defending their rights and interests. In recent years, some countries ignored opposition from regional countries to intervene militarily in some regional hot-spot issues and press for regime change. This has disrupted regional and world peace and stability. The lessons learnt should all be remembered. Support for democracy and good governance in Africa is not the "monopoly" of certain countries. Improved democracy, legal system and governance in Africa are essential to the sound and steady growth of China-Africa cooperation. China firmly supports such efforts. We see African countries as equals as we share more governance experience with them. This has been welcomed by African countries.

- Some say that China should take up more responsibilities in Africa, particularly regarding peace and security.

My response to this view is that on the one hand, as China grows, African countries expect to receive more assistance from China and look to China to play a bigger role in African affairs. This shows how much they trust us and we are willing to help. In recent years, we substantially increased support and help for Africa's development. We have also steadily increased participation in Africa's peace and security affairs. We will continue to do so in order to contribute more to Africa's peace, stability and development. On the other hand, China is a developing country. We must consider our own capacity when providing assistance to others. We are ready to actively participate in resolving various hotspot issues in Africa. We hope to receive greater understanding and support from others for China's policy and position.

- Some say that China has moved other people's "cheese" as it strengthens relations with Africa and damaged other countries' interests there.

I wish to point out that Africa belongs to the Africans; it is not anyone's "cheese". Any country that wishes to develop cooperation with Africa must respect the ownership of African countries. In a globalized world, countries' destinies are closely linked. China's relations with Africa are open and inclusive. It is all about cooperation rather than confrontation with any third party. China-Africa relations have delivered tangible benefits to Africa's development. And Africa's development is good for the whole world, including for other countries' cooperation with Africa. To those who view China-Africa cooperation as threatening their own interests, I would say that it is their own mentality and policy that needs to be examined. Of course, China-Africa cooperation is not perfect. New circumstances and new issues are bound to emerge as our cooperation deepens. However, these are not the result of the policy of the Chinese government and they can be resolved through deeper cooperation and friendly consultation. We take these issues very seriously and stand ready to work with Africa to deal with them properly.

Ladies and gentlemen,

China-Africa relations would not have come this far without the dedication and hard work of generations of people from both sides. Such progress has not come easily and should be doubly cherished. In view of the profound and complex changes taking place in the world as well as in China and Africa, we need to devote greater energy and wisdom to keeping the sound momentum of China-Africa relations going. In my view, to grow China-Africa relations under the new circumstances, we need to appreciate the importance of the following efforts.

First, the importance of seizing the opportunities. Right now, developing countries as a whole have shown a stronger growth momentum, and the international architecture is generally evolving in favor of developing countries. Although the world is not a tranquil place, the trend of peace, development and cooperation is unstoppable. Now more than ever, developing countries aspire for independent decision-making and self-development. When Ghana became the world's fastest growing economy with a growth rate of 13% last year, more people began to turn their focus on the "African speed". Meanwhile, the Chinese economy will continue its steady and rapid growth. China's imports in the coming five years are expected to reach US$8 trillion. The Chinese and African economies are highly complementary and constitute an important market for each other. Since China has gone through the development stage Africa is currently in, the experience and technologies it has gained over the years will dovetail with Africa's development needs. It is fair to say that the desire of China and Africa to strengthen cooperation is stronger than ever, and conditions are more favorable than before to translate such desire into reality. It is therefore important for China and Africa to grasp this general trend, bear in mind the larger picture, and reinforce our confidence in and stay firmly committed to China-Africa friendship and cooperation.

Second, the importance of pursuing win-win cooperation. The development of China-Africa relations would not be possible without the efforts from either side. Only through enhanced cooperation can China and Africa achieve win-win progress at a higher level. We should work together to improve the trade mix and quality and deliver a more balanced and sustainable trade partnership. We should work together to facilitate investment, financing and enterprise cooperation, step up technology transfer and experience sharing, and take concrete steps to help African countries build self-development capabilities. We should work together to enhance development cooperation, and increase the scale and efficacy of assistance to Africa so that the benefits of assistance will reach more people in Africa.

Third, the importance of developing all-round cooperation. We should promote all-round progress in China-Africa relations and make sure that cooperation in different fields will reinforce and complement each other. While further deepening our economic cooperation and trade ties, we should develop in breadth and depth China-Africa cooperation on political matters, peace and security, African integration and other issues.

While further cementing our bond of practical interests, we should step up governance experience sharing, promote cultural exchanges, and bring people closer through more heart-to-heart communication. While further advancing official interactions, we should give more emphasis to people-to-people exchanges and vigorously encourage direct, two-way exchanges between Chinese and African scholars, think tanks and media organizations.

Fourth, the importance of being innovative in thinking and action. China-Africa cooperation today is different from that between traditional powers and Africa. And our cooperation has come a long way from what it was years ago. We should adapt to the new circumstances and requirements, promote innovation in theory and practice, and explore a path of cooperation that both suits the reality of China and Africa and accords with the trend of the times. We should stick to our own characteristics, and at the same time intensify exchanges and mutual learning with other parts of the world, so that China-Africa cooperation will always retain its vitality while staying open and inclusive. We should promote healthy interactions among international players in Africa, avoid the trodden path of big-powers confrontation and encourage all parties to work together for Africa's peace, stability and development. We should vigorously advance FOCAC development, and constantly expand and enrich cooperation under its framework so that the growth of China-Africa relations will continue to benefit from its strong stewardship.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Friendship and cooperation is the running theme of China-Africa relations. Our relationship has a memorable past and enjoys constant progress. We have every reason to believe that with efforts from both sides, China-Africa relations will embrace an even brighter future. And with that, I conclude my remarks. Thank you.

Suggest to a Friend