We have three numbers: 53 African countries, 50 years of China-Africa
co-operation and US$50 billion worth of China-Africa trade. Underlying these
figures is the health of China-Africa relations. The ties are expected to get
better with the summit of China-Africa Forum and the Third Ministerial
Conference on China-Africa Co-operation being held in Beijing.
More than 40 heads of state or government from the African Continent are
expected to attend the Beijing Summit, together with Chinese leaders. They will
take stock of China-Africa relations over the last five decades and the fruits
yielded by the China-Africa Forum since its birth six years ago and discuss the
future direction of Sino-African ties.
Two important documents are expected to be passed by the summit: the
Declaration of the Beijing Summit of China-Africa Forum and a Beijing action
In the declaration, the two sides will announce the establishment of a
new-type strategic partnership based on political mutual trust, economic
co-operation and cultural exchanges. Specific measures will be implemented to
promote the new partnership.
The Beijing action plan will map out bilateral co-operation programmes in the
fields of politics, economics, international affairs and social progress.
In addition, the Chinese side will work out a package of important measures
to support the development of African countries, involving reducing their debts,
cutting tariffs on African imports, increasing aid to African nations,
strengthening personnel training, increasing investment in Africa and promoting
co-operation in the areas of agriculture, infrastructure construction, energy,
finance and environmental protection.
The convening of the China-Africa Forum in Beijing demonstrates that
bilateral relations are making fast progress, pushed by the needs of both
parties, as well as signifies the extension of traditional Sino-African
friendship and co-operation.
China-Africa relations got started in 1956 when China and Egypt established
diplomatic relations. Over the past 50 years, Sino-African friendship and
co-operation, which were initiated and nurtured by old-generation leaders Mao
Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping together with their African counterparts,
have withstood the tests presented by the dramatic political and economic
changes in the world, become more consolidated and are moving ahead in a big
Upon entering the new century, profound and complex changes have taken place
in the international political arena. As a result, China and African nations are
presented with new problems domestically. At the same time, the content of
China-Africa relations has also been changing.
However, both sides have acknowledged that they can achieve common
development only through co-operation based on the principles of mutual trust,
mutual benefit, sharing opportunities together and facing up to the challenges
together, taking into account the accelerating economic globalization, deepening
of the world's interdependence, and their being brought ever closer to one
another by their own interests.
Based on this common knowledge, the China-Africa Forum was initiated in
October 2000 in Beijing. Its second ministerial meeting was convened in Adis
Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, in December 2003.
Since its founding six years ago, the China-Africa Forum has made impressive
progress in various fields and has become an important platform for effective
China-Africa dialogue mechanisms and effective co-operation.
In the political area, to begin with, top Chinese and African leaders visit
one another's countries frequently and non-governmental exchanges have been ever
expanding, which serve to promote political mutual trust and mutual
In addition, the two sides have effective co-operations in major
international organizations and some multilateral mechanisms and in the areas of
security, fighting terrorism and peace-keeping missions.
Second, economic co-operation between China and African nations has been
going ahead at an accelerated pace. According to the Chinese official
statistics, the annual China-Africa trade was merely US$12 million in 1956 when
Chinese-Egyptian diplomatic relations were established. In 2000, however, the
figure crossed the bar of US$10 billion. The annual bilateral trade volume hit
US$39.7 billion in 2005. The figure is expected to cross the threshold of US$50
billion in 2006.
Third, the Chinese side has taken steps to support the development of African
nations. Within the framework of the China-Africa Forum, for example, China has
reduced the debts owed to China by some poorest countries in Africa by 10.9
billion yuan (US$1.36 billion) over the past five to six years and helped 49
African countries construct 720 industrial projects.
The Chinese Government also encourages various kinds of Chinese enterprises
to make investments in Africa and set up plants there. So far, Chinese
investment in Africa stands at US$6.2 billion.
Starting from January 1, 2005, China gave zero-tariff treatment to 190
products China imports from 30 least developed African countries. In addition,
China has trained 14,600 professionals needed in various sectors in African
Some problems, however, have cropped up in the course of ever expanding
co-operation, such as trade friction.
The disputes, however, can be settled through compromises and each party
being considerate of the other.
Strengthening co-operation and unity with African countries has always been a
vitally important component in China's diplomacy.
For instance, the Chinese Government issued China's Africa Policy document at
the beginning of this year, expounding on the general goal of the country's
Africa policy, mapping out specific measures to have the policy carried out and
charting bilateral co-operation in various fields in the immediate future.
President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao's Africa tours in April and June
demonstrate that China is determined to push the traditional friendship with
Africa forward under new circumstances.
The author is a researcher with the China Institute
of International Studies
(China Daily 11/02/2006 page4)