Seizing the opportunity to jointly build an even stronger China-Africa community with a shared future
By HE Ambassador Lin Songtian of China to SA
The year 2018 is an important year for China, as well as for China-South Africa and China-Africa relations. This year marks the 69th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up, and the 5th anniversary of the launching of Belt and Road Initiative. This year, the Chinese President Xi Jinping paid his third state visit to South Africa and attended the 10th BRICS Johannesburg Summit. This year, President Cyril Ramaphosa paid his first state visit to China where he co-chaired with President Xi Jinping the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Beijing Summit.
1. The reform and opening up has brought prosperity to China, and also new hope and greater opportunities for the world.
China used to be a victim of closing doors and false pride. During the Tang, Song and Ming dynasties, which span across a millennium from 600-1600 AD, China had maintained from now and then an economy of over 60% of the world total GDP. But as the later Qing dynasty moved down the path of closing doors and seclusion, China went into steep decline and eventually fell into semi-colony by the West with their naval fleets and cannons, which relied on the ancient Chinese inventions of the compass and gunpowder. After untold sufferings and barbaric economic looting from the two Opium Wars of 1840 and 1856, the Sino-Japanese War of 1894, and Japanese Aggression War during the World War 2, China was left in an extremely weak and dire state with its sovereignty gravely encroached, and people’s lives in complete ruin. In 1949, the People’s Republic of China was founded. But due to the complete blockade instituted by the West, in the first 30 years of the People’s Republic, China’s GDP per capita has only increased to merely 227 dollars from less than 100 dollars. Fortunately, in 1978, the Communist Party of China with Comrade Deng Xiaoping at the core led the Chinese people to the great cause of reform and opening up, embarking on a path of remarkable national transformation.
Over the past four decades, China has achieved over 30 times GDP growth, averaging an annual growth rate of 9.5%. Foreign trade volume has been growing at 14.5% per year. The livelihood of the Chinese people has improved significantly. Basic medical care and social endowment insurance coverage has gone from zero to 1.35-billion and more than 900-million people respectively. Nine-year free compulsory education is offered across the whole country. More than 700-million people were lifted out of poverty, contributing over 70% to global poverty reduction efforts.
Today, China has become the world’s second-largest economy, largest manufacturer, the largest trading power of goods, the holder of the biggest foreign exchange reserve, and a major source of global foreign investment and tourism. China is the No 1 trading partner with over 100 countries worldwide, including the United States, Russia, Japan, South Africa and most of the European countries. With a contribution of over 30% to global growth, China has surely become the major source of strength and stability for the world economy.
As a country that has benefited deeply from reform and opening up, China is naturally a firm supporter of an open world economy. But today, globalisation is at risk. Certain countries, in pursuit of self-interest, are moving against the trend of economic globalisation and trade liberalisation. From a position of economic hegemony, they have launched reckless protectionist attacks against the weak in trade and investment, gravely undermining the shared interests of the international community, especially that of the developing countries, causing unprecedented challenges against the rule-based global governance and the open world economy.
China strongly believes that, to jointly build a community with a shared future for mankind is the only right choice and the common pursuit of the international community, as no country in today’s world could alone tackle the common challenges faced by the humanity. As President Xi Jinping rightly remarked, “A trade war should be rejected because there will be no winner. Economic hegemony is even more objectionable, as it will undermine the collective interests of the international community; those who pursue this course will only end up hurting themselves. Whether you like it or not, the global economy is the big ocean that you cannot escape from. Any attempt to cut off the flow of capital, technologies, products, industries and people between economies, and channel the waters in the ocean back into isolated lakes and creeks is simply not possible. Indeed, it runs counter to the historical trend.”
For China, reform and opening up is both a strategic commitment and a basic state policy. We are strongly convinced that, only by pursuing an open world economy and by sharing opportunities for win-win development, could we lead the world economy out of difficulty, and realise inclusive growth and common prosperity. The door of China’s opening up will not close. It will only open wider. A more open and prosperous China will certainly bring greater opportunities for the whole world.
2. China and Africa are embracing new opportunities to build an even stronger community with a shared future.
In 2015, the FOCAC Johannesburg Summit ushered China-Africa relations into a new era of win-win cooperation for common development. Over the past three years, China has earnestly implemented the Ten Major Plans announced by President Xi Jinping during the Summit. The fruition of numerous projects across the continent has benefited African people enormously, greatly facilitating African industrialisation and modernisation, demonstrating the vigour and vitality of China-Africa comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.
Earlier this month, China hosted the Third FOCAC Beijing Summit. With 40 presidents, 10 prime ministers, one vice-president and 249 African ministers from Africa, the chairman of the African Union (AU) Commission, the UN secretary-general, representatives of 26 international and African regional organizations, and many others, the FOCAC Beijing Summit has become the largest and most high-profile diplomatic event ever hosted by China, opening up a new chapter in China-Africa friendship and cooperation.
– The FOCAC Beijing Summit has reached important consensus. The Summit has adopted two outcome documents, namely the Beijing Declaration: Towards an Even Stronger China-Africa Community with a Shared Future, and the Beijing Action Plan (2019-2021). Chinese and African leaders have agreed to jointly build a China-Africa community with a shared future that assumes joint responsibility, pursues win-win cooperation, shares happiness for all, enjoys cultural prosperity, ensures common security, and promotes harmony between man and nature.
“Joint responsibility” means that China and Africa will strengthen mutual understanding and support on issues of major concerns and core interests, enhance coordination and cooperation on major regional and international issues, and safeguard the shared interests of China, Africa and all the developing countries. “Win-win cooperation” is to leverage the Belt and Road Initiative, and synergise it with the AU 2063 Agenda, the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and the national development strategies of African countries. “Happiness for all” is to ensure the peoples of China and Africa share the benefits of cooperation and make lives better for our people, and that is what we aim to achieve in growing China-Africa relations. “Cultural prosperity” is to enhance China-Africa exchanges, mutual learning and harmonious coexistence of our civilizations, and protect and develop cultural and civilization diversity. “Common security” is to support African countries to strengthen their independent capacity for safeguarding stability and peace, firmly support African countries and the African Union as well as other regional organizations in Africa in solving African issues in the African way, so as to support Africa achieve durable peace and sustainable development. “Harmony between man and nature” is to jointly advocate and implement green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable development, refrain from cooperation at the cost of the environment, and firmly safeguard the harmony between man and nature.
— The FOCAC Beijing Summit has adopted new measures of China-Africa mutually beneficial cooperation. With the view to realising China-Africa win-win cooperation for common development, President Xi Jinping proposed Eight Major Initiatives during the Summit.
The Eight Major Initiatives include an industrial promotion initiative, an infrastructure connectivity initiative, a trade facilitation initiative, a green development initiative, a capacity building initiative, a healthcare initiative, a people-to-people exchange initiative, and a peace and security initiative. To ensure the successful implementation of these initiatives, China has announced to extend $60-billion of financing to Africa in the form of government assistance as well as investment and financing by financial institutions and companies. Furthermore, China has announced to exempt the debt incurred in the form of interest-free Chinese government loans due to mature by the end of 2018 by Africa’s least developed countries, heavily indebted and poor countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing countries that have diplomatic relations with China.
The Eight Major Initiatives aims to closely connect the Belt and Road Initiative with the AU 2063 Agenda, the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and the national development strategies of African countries. The aim is to support Africa upgrade self-development capacity by breaking through the three development bottlenecks of inadequate infrastructure, lack of professional and skilled personnel, and short of financial resources. This proposal resonates strongly with and meets the ardent wish of the African countries and people for self-sustainable development. To date, 37 African countries and the African Union have signed MOUs on the Belt and Road Initiative with China, marking substantive progress on China-Africa cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.
— The FOCAC Beijing Summit has made a strong statement on China’s policy and principle on its relations with Africa. In his keynote address at the opening ceremony of the FOCAC Beijing Summit, President Xi Jinping attributed the success of the time-tested China-Africa friendship to China’s four longstanding commitments in its distinctive win-win cooperation with Africa, namely the values of sincerity, friendship and equality; the pursuit of common interests and putting friendship first; the people-oriented approach in pursuing practical cooperation with efficiency; and the open and inclusive approach to cooperation.
President Xi Jinping remarked that, China always respects Africa, loves Africa, supports Africa, and follows a “five-no” approach in our relations with Africa: no interference in African countries’ pursuit of development paths that fit their national conditions; no interference in African countries’ internal affairs; no imposition of our will on African countries; no attachment of political strings to assistance to Africa; and no seeking of selfish political gains in investment and financing cooperation with Africa. President Xi Jinping also stressed that, no one could undermine the great unity between the Chinese people and the African people; no one could hold back the Chinese people or the African people as we march toward rejuvenation; no one could deny the remarkable achievements made in China-Africa cooperation, not with their assumption or imagination; and no one could stand in the way or obstruct international efforts to support Africa’s development.
The “four commitments” and the “five-no” approach is the most profound and incisive encapsulation of China’s policy and principle on its relations with Africa, and characterises the essence of China’s foreign policy. The “five-no” approach powerfully demonstrates the strong confidence and resolve of China-Africa friendship, which conforms to the trend of times and the wishes of the Chinese and African people. No other country or individual could undermine China-Africa cooperation.
Throughout history, China and Africa have always supported each other through thick and thin as good friends, good partners, and good brothers. Today, as the over 1.3-billion Chinese people work unremittingly towards a moderately prosperous society, the over 1.2-billion African people are also sparing no efforts in pursuit of economic development and national rejuvenation. The 21st century is not only a century for Asia, but a century for Africa as well. China and Africa share mutual needs and complementarities, and face rare historic opportunities for win-win cooperation for common development. China is ready to join efforts with African countries to seize the opportunity presented by the FOCAC Beijing Summit, focus on the implementation of the Eight Major Initiatives, uphold the principle of planning together, building together, and sharing together, and jointly promote the Belt and Road development and build an even strong China-Africa community with a shared future, so as to bring happiness and better life to the 2.6-billion African and Chinese people.
3. All-dimensional China-South Africa cooperation is bearing fruitful results and is heading towards a bright future.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and South Africa. Twenty years ago, it was President Nelson Mandela who had made the major political decision to establish diplomatic relations with China on the basis of the one China policy, which is: there is only but one China in this world, the government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government of China, and Taiwan and Tibet are inalienable parts of China. The political commitment made by President Mandela on behalf of the South African government and people has laid down a solid foundation for the comprehensive development of China-South Africa relations. With extraordinary political responsibility and strategic vision, President Nelson Mandela and the wise leaders of South Africa have made the right historical choice, and their contribution to China-South Africa and China-Africa relations will be remembered forever.
Over the past 20 years, China and South Africa have always understood and supported each other as we pursue development path suitable to our respective national conditions. We have always approached our bilateral relations from a strategic height and long-term perspective, and viewed each other as the strategic pivot and priority in our diplomacy. Thanks to the joint efforts, China-South Africa relations have achieved leapfrog development from partnership to strategic partnership to comprehensive strategic partnership.
In July this year, President Xi Jinping paid his third state visit to South Africa, making South Africa the only country in the world where he has paid three state visits. In September, President Cyril Ramaphosa paid a successful state visit to China. Such frequent exchange between the two Presidents fully demonstrates the strong political and strategic mutual trust between the two countries. What has happened shows that the comprehensive and rapid development of China-South Africa relations serves the fundamental interests of our two countries and two peoples. China-South Africa relations will not be altered by leadership succession or the changing of time.
Over the past 20 years, China-South Africa friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation has yielded abundant results and has brought tangible benefits to the two peoples. China has for nine years remained South Africa’s largest trading partner, and South Africa has for eight years in a row remained China’s biggest trading partner in Africa. In 2017, China-South Africa two-way trade reached $39.17-billion, which accounts for ¼ of China-Africa trade, and represents an increase of 25 folds from the $1.5-billion at the beginning of our diplomatic relations. According to incomplete statistics, Chinese businesses have invested over $25-billion in South Africa, an increase of over 100 times from 1998. Chinese investment in South Africa has created over 400,000 local jobs. During President Xi Jinping’s visit in July, both sides reached a number of cooperation agreements worth $14.7-billion. When President Ramaphosa visited China this month, the two sides again signed multiple cooperation agreements. China has taken the lead to take actions to support the New Investment Drive launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa in pursuit of economic development, job creation, and the improvement of livelihood in South Africa.
The rich and diverse China-South Africa cultural and people-to-people exchange has greatly deepened mutual understanding and friendship between our two peoples. Cooperation and exchange continues to expand in education, culture, science and technology, health, youth, women, think-tanks and media. South Africa has attracted more Chinese tourists, established sister relations with more Chinese provinces and cities, and opened more Confucius Institutes and classrooms than any other African country. China has become an increasingly popular destination for South African youths and tourists for study, work, and travel. In 2017, the number of South African students studying in China grew by 11.5% to more than 2,600.
As important members of the developing world and the emerging markets, China and South Africa share extensive common interests and similar views and positions on major regional and international issues. Increasingly, cooperation between China and South Africa in international fora such as the United Nations, BRICS and G20 is picking up greater global significance. This year, the success of the two summits, namely the BRICS Johannesburg Summit and the FOCAC Beijing Summit, has sketched out a new blueprint for BRICS and FOCAC cooperation in the new era. Today, China-South Africa relations has become the flagship for China-Africa relations, South-South cooperation, and unity for emerging economies, making an important contribution to a more fair and just international order, to a new type of international relations, and to the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
As Africa’s strongest power, South Africa enjoys three unique advantages of rich resources, superb location, and the best foundation and condition for development. China on the other hand enjoys comparative strengths in capital, technology, market, enterprises, talents, and successful development experience. Looking forward, with the support of the four major cooperation platforms of FOCAC, BRICS, Belt and Road Initiative, and South-South Cooperation, China-Africa cooperation stands to embrace new development opportunities. China-South Africa win-win cooperation for common development enjoys huge potential and broad development prospect.
China is ready to work closely with South Africa to earnestly implement the outcomes reached during the two state visits, the BRICS Johannesburg Summit, and the FOCAC Beijing Summit. We will make active efforts to reinforce our political and strategic mutual trust, strengthen international coordination, deepen exchange and experience sharing on governance, and expand cooperation in industries, agriculture, finance, tourism, digital economy, marine economy, infrastructure development, human resources development, youth, women, think-tanks and media. China is prepared to share its development opportunities and market. We welcome South Africa, as the only guest country of honour from Africa, to send a high-level delegation to participate in the First China International Import Expo to be held in Shanghai in November. China will also encourage and support Chinese businesses to take an active part in the Investment Conference in South Africa in October.
Moving forward, China will remain the most reliable friend and the strongest partner in South Africa’s pursuit of economic and social transformation, and will join efforts with South Africa to further uplift China-South Africa comprehensive strategic partnership, and realise win-win cooperation for common development at a higher level.
This article was paid for by the People's Daily Online SA.