Lu Shaye, director-general of African Affairs at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is now having a web chat with readers of chinadaily.com.cn on the latest developments in China's diplomacy in the region on Feb 27.
Q: Would you brief us about current China-Africa relations?
A：Since the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was held in 2000, the China-Africa friendship and relations have seen a leap in development, drawing wide attention around the world. At present, the trade between China and Africa has far surpassed the level when the formal bilateral relations were established. The China-Africa trade volume has soared to nearly $200 billion, and China's investment in Africa has reached $17 billion with the increase of personnel exchanges.
In tourism for example, the number of Chinese tour visits to South Africa has reached 100,000 a year, and the Republic of Seychelles, a small African country with a population of 100,000, has attracted 4,000 Chinese visitors each year.
We can say the development of China-Africa relations is very promising, and we hope people stay focused on Africa, cherish the China-Africa relations and make their own contribution to the development of bilateral relations.
Q: What caused the political instability and unrest in some African countries in recent days and in what way would it affect the development of the China-Africa relations. And most important, would local Chinese life be negatively affected?
A: The primary cause for political instability in Africa is probably the laggard economic development, and it is not difficult to understand that people would definitely want to change their life if they were under poor living conditions. But there are some other factors, such as problems left by colonial rule, tribal conflicts, and the subsequent implementation of a multi-party democracy. West Asian and North African political turmoil in the past few years has a great impact on the present political situation in Sub-Saharan Africa. The recent war in Mali is a spillover effect from war-torn Libya. With the expanding cooperation between China and Africa, China's interests in Africa is growing bigger and bigger, so political unrest in Africa will be affecting China to a much bigger extent.
Q: Recent news about Somali pirates has raised eyebrows, which has aroused media attention as well. Why Somali pirates are so rampant, what is the real reason pirates appeared and is the situation improving?
A: Somali pirates are criminal gangs and terrorists, but actually, fishermen who live by fishing during peacetime account for the largest part. The reason why pirates exist is complicated, but economic depression and the instability of the nation are the root causes. We know that Somalia has been at war since the 1990s. Fishermen can not survive on fishing alone, so they choose to become pirates. However, last year, the war in Somali ended and a government and parliament were established. We hope Somali can develop successfully and move toward a peaceful future.
Q: The Chinese government has cancelled Africa's debt to China several times. What is the historical reason for this debt and how much debt does Africa still owe China?
A: China mainly offered aid of interest-free loans or low-interest loans to Africa in the past and these are official debts Africa owes to China. After several debt deductions in the China-Africa Cooperation Forum, African countries have little debt left to China. In recent years, China mainly provides non-reimbursable assistance to Africa.
Q: A report from the UK claimed that fake medicines made in China and India have been found to be widely sold in Africa and worried that such a phenomenon disturbed the work of malaria prevention in Africa. What's your take?
A: I won't comment on whether the Indian-made fake medicines have gone to the African market, but that saying China-made medicine is pure fabrication. After that report was published, we conducted some local surveys about the issue via our embassies, and the truth is the opposite of what was in the report. Actually, all anti-malaria medicines from China were authenticated by WHO before they were introduced to Africa. They are quite welcomed by African people due to its curative effects. We call for the media to abide by the principle of being objective and truthful, not spread false information.
Your questions and comments are welcomed!