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Strategic partnership between China and Africa is built on mutual trust and win-win economic cooperation
President Xi Jinping's first overseas trip since taking office includes Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo, and he is scheduled to attend the BRICS summit on March 26 and 27 in South Africa.
Xi's visit to Africa shows more than the willingness of China's new leadership to further develop friendly relations with African countries.
Over more than half a century of friendly exchanges between China and Africa, mutual respect and win-win cooperation have been the unshakeable foundation for relations. Their long-term, stable and comprehensive cooperative relationship as "all-weather friends", has become the model for South-South cooperation. The two sides have strengthened their communication and cooperation in international affairs, and enhanced their comprehensive cooperation and exchanges in fields such as security, trade and finance, science and technology, and human resources training.
Especially since the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was established in 2000, the two sides have made great achievements in their economic and trade relations and strengthened consultation on security issues and cooperation on international affairs.
The trade volume between China and Africa was more than $200 billion in 2012, up from $10 billion in 2000. China surpassed the United States to become Africa's largest trading partner in 2009. China's direct investment in Africa was less than $500 million just 10 years ago, as of April last year it had grown to $15.3 billion. There are more than 2,000 Chinese enterprises in Africa investing in projects covering trade, production and processing, resource development, transportation and agriculture.
China's aid projects have benefited more than 50 countries throughout Africa. So far, China has provided assistance for the construction of more than 2,000 kilometers of railways, more than 3,000 km of roads, more than 100 schools, and more than 60 hospitals, and reduced and cancelled debts of more than 20 billion yuan ($3.2 billion).
From the construction of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway in the 1970s to the completion and inauguration of the new African Union Conference Center in 2012, grand engineering projects have marked their journey from last century's common struggle against imperialism and colonialism to their shared goal of development and rejuvenation this century.
African countries have given active support to China's just cause of safeguarding its national sovereignty and unity and they have given firm support and valuable assistance on issues involving China's core interests and major concerns. For example, at the 26th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1971, African countries withstood the pressure of Western countries and made an important contribution to China regaining its legitimate seat in the UN.
The rapid development of relations between China and Africa has benefited from the efforts and hard work of people on both sides. Despite some Western countries attacking or denigrating their relations with claims of neocolonialism and the plundering of resources, relations between China and Africa have weathered the test and maintained steady and rapid development.
The reason that their relations have continued to flourish is because China and Africa regard each other as an important opportunity for development and an important pivot in each other's foreign strategy. China needs Africa, and Africa needs China. China's development is a development opportunity for Africa, not a threat. China has provided Africa with infrastructure and a lot of investment in exchange for resources.
Africa has rich natural and human resources, huge market potential and great potential for development. But the colonial plunder of the past has left the African economy relatively backward, and while the lack of capital, technology and experience, as well as local conflicts, have hindered economic growth.
Today, the Chinese people share the dream of realizing national rejuvenation, and African people share the dream of poverty reduction and development. Only by establishing a partnership of complementary advantages, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation can the people of both sides realize their dreams.
After 30 years of reform and opening-up, China has shown that there is an alternative to the Western model of development. Africa should seize the opportunity to strengthen economic and trade relations with China and other emerging countries and seek common development with China.
The author is director of African studies at the Institute of Western Asia and North Africa Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.