Riding the Wind and Breaking the Waves, Working Together to Build a China-Africa Community with a Shared Future in the New Era
By Deng Li
China and Africa enjoy a long history of exchanges and an enduring friendship. As President Xi Jinping stated, “China and Africa have forged unbreakable fraternity in our struggle against imperialism and colonialism, and embarked on a distinct path of cooperation in our journey toward development and revitalization. Together, we have written a splendid chapter of mutual assistance amidst complex changes, and set a shining example for building a new type of international relations.” Against the fast-evolving international landscape, China and Africa will build on past achievements and continue to forge ahead in the spirit of solidarity toward a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era.
The year 2021 marked the 65th anniversary of China-Africa diplomatic ties. It was a year of celebration and a new milestone for China-Africa cooperation. China and African countries fought in solidarity against COVID-19 and successfully held the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), bringing China-Africa community with a shared future into a new era and up to a new height.
1.Flagship platform: FOCAC cooperation yields fruitful results. The Eighth Ministerial Conference of the FOCAC is the biggest overseas physical diplomatic event that China co-organized since the start of the pandemic. It is also a major event promoting international cooperation on Africa with the largest and most broad-based participation. President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote speech at the conference, in which he articulated the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation for the first time, elaborated on the four proposals for building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era, and announced nine programs for practical cooperation with Africa, setting a new milestone in China-Africa relations. Representatives of 53 African countries and the African Union (AU) Commission attended the conference, including 36 foreign ministers, and several dozen ministers for commerce and finance. Four important outcome documents were adopted at the conference. Against the background of fast-evolving changes unseen in a century and resurgence of COVID-19 worldwide, the success of the conference is of great significance for building consensus and deepening cooperation between China and Africa, and for promoting the economic recovery in Africa. It also lends new impetus to the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
2.Political guidance: China-Africa strategic mutual trust grows deeper. Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, China and Africa have maintained the momentum of friendly exchanges through creative means involving both virtual and physical interactions. In 2021, President Xi Jinping had phone calls with eight leaders of African countries. Premier Li Keqiang attended the Fourth Forum on China-Africa Local Government Cooperation via video link. Director Yang Jiechi visited Uganda, Zambia, Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone. In November 2021, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the FOCAC in Dakar, Senegal, and visited Senegal and Ethiopia. In January 2022, he made another trip to the African countries of Eritrea, Kenya and Comoros, and proposed the Outlook on Peace and Development in the Horn of Africa, keeping a 32-year tradition of Chinese foreign ministers making Africa the destination of their first overseas visit in the beginning of a new year. In 2021, more than 80 leaders of African countries and political parties sent congratulatory messages and letters on the centenary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and leaders of seven African countries attended the CPC and World Political Parties Summit via video link, demonstrating the high level of political mutual trust between China and Africa.
3.Standing together through thick and thin: solidarity against COVID-19 testifies to the value of China-Africa friendship. At the height of China’s fight against COVID-19, the AU and African governments and people extended invaluable support to China. When COVID-19 hit Africa, China rushed to its assistance and provided large-scale humanitarian support. We sent 120 batches of emergency medical supplies, dispatched expert teams and short-term medical teams to 17 African countries to help fight the virus, established a cooperation mechanism for Chinese hospitals to pair up with 45 hospitals in 40 African countries, and launched the construction of the China-assisted Africa centers for disease control headquarters earlier than scheduled and completed the construction by the end of 2021. As of 2021, China had provided 200 million plus doses of vaccines to 45 African countries and the AU Commission, and made active efforts to help Africa realize local vaccines production. China has also worked to relieve the debt burden of African countries. We have signed agreements or reached common understanding on debt suspension with 19 African countries, and announced the decision to channel to African countries US$10 billion from China’s share of the International Monetary Fund’s new allocation of Special Drawing Rights.
4.Turning challenge to opportunity: China-Africa practical cooperation gets an upgrade. Despite the challenge of COVID-19, many Chinese employees have either stayed on their post or returned to work in Africa. More than 1,100 China-Africa cooperation projects remain up and running. Key projects invested by Chinese businesses such as the Lekki Deep Sea Port in Nigeria and the Nairobi Expressway in Kenya made major progress, contributing to economic stability, job creation and improved livelihood in African countries. China-Africa trade bucked the trend and hit a record high of US$254.3 billion in 2021. The China-Mauritius Free Trade Agreement came into effect. China and the Secretariat of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) signed an MoU on establishing an Expert Group on Economic Cooperation. African participation in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has achieved near-full coverage, with 52 countries and the AU Commission having signed the BRI cooperation agreements. Turning challenges into opportunities, the two sides have stepped up cooperation on health care, e-commerce, digital economy, and integration of industrial and supply chains, and launched the China-Africa Partnership Plan on Digital Innovation, opening up new and broader prospects for China-Africa cooperation.
5.Bringing people closer together: China-Africa people-to-people exchanges adopt new forms. In recent years, China and Africa have established a string of cultural exchange mechanisms and platforms, including the China-Africa Institute, China-Africa Youth Festival, China-Africa Think Tanks Forum, Forum on China-Africa Media Cooperation, and the China-Africa Press Center. To overcome the impact of COVID-19 on personnel movement, the two sides have come up with new forms of exchanges. Events such as the China-Africa Video and Photo Competition, China-Africa Youth Festival, and the China-Africa Think Tanks Forum were held with success. The TV series Ebola Fighters, starring both Chinese and African actors and featuring China-Africa cooperation in the battle against Ebola, was premiered and warmly received by the Chinese audience. China issued the white paper titled China and Africa in the New Era: A Partnership of Equals and the Report on Chinese Investment in Africa. These activities have greatly enhanced the mutual understanding and friendship between the Chinese and African peoples, especially the younger generations.
6. Answering the call of duty: China and Africa stand up for international equity and justice. Faced with complex and serious global challenges and countercurrents in the international landscape, China and Africa have stepped up coordination and collaboration in international affairs, and staunchly supported each other on issues concerning their core interests. The two sides have firmly upheld the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, spoken out against unilateralism, power politics, bullying acts, politicization of COVID-19, racial discrimination and external interference, and fought shoulder-to-shoulder to defend the overall interests of developing countries. With a view to fostering global consensus on cooperation with Africa and creating synergy to support Africa’s development, China and Africa jointly launched the Initiative on Partnership for Africa’s Development in May 2021. This shows the firm resolve of China and Africa to strengthen coordination and jointly promote development cooperation under the new circumstances. In September 2021, President Xi Jinping put forward the Global Development Initiative (GDI). Africa is the first continent that collectively welcomes and supports the initiative, making an important contribution to advancing global cooperation and multilateralism.
Facing the new circumstances and new challenges, China-Africa friendship and cooperation are bursting with great vitality. The two sides, standing side by side in solidarity, will overcome the current difficulties and embrace new important opportunities.
China has embarked on a new journey toward building a modern socialist country in all respects. With the fulfillment of the First Centenary Goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, the 1.4 billion Chinese people are marching toward the Second Centenary Goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects. The 14th Five-Year Plan has got off to a good start, as the Chinese economy continues to recover and supply-side structural reform further deepens. China is committed to promoting high-standard opening-up, and sharing its market opportunities with the world, and is moving faster to create a new pattern of development. Not long ago, China successfully held the 2022 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The Games fully showcased the new Olympic motto of “Faster, Higher, Stronger — Together” and brought warmth and confidence to the volatile world.
Africa’s rejuvenation also enjoys new prospects. Thanks to the concerted efforts of all African countries, the COVID situation in the continent is generally better than anticipated. Despite the challenges, Africa has made headway in its integration process, and gathered pace towards seeking strength from unity. The official launch of the AfCFTA has bolstered confidence in the big African market with 1.3 billion population and US$3.4 trillion in GDP. To cope with the pressure of the pandemic, Africa has accelerated economic transformation, and new business models such as e-commerce, online consulting, telemedicine, mobile payment and e-learning have prospered. Rising global commodity prices will further unleash Africa’s potential for development and create favorable conditions for its post-COVID economic recovery.
China-Africa cooperation has entered a new era. The Eighth Ministerial Conference of the FOCAC injected new momentum into China-Africa cooperation and drew up a new blueprint for building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era. China and Africa are at different stages of development, and have a lot to offer each other economically. Our cooperation under the BRI is making steady progress. We both share the commitment to mutual respect and win-win cooperation, endorse the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, support true multilateralism, and stand up for international equity and justice. The time-tested spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation and the fruitful results of practical cooperation will lay a solid foundation for the long-term and steady development of China-Africa relations and enable China-Africa cooperation to continue to set the pace for South-South cooperation and international cooperation with Africa in the post-COVID era.
Against the backdrop of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, the world has entered a period of turbulence and transformation, and the development of China-Africa relations also faces a more complex external environment. The protracted pandemic has impeded personnel exchanges, shipping and logistics between China and Africa, and added to the difficulties of our practical cooperation. In addition, some external forces are making every effort to suppress and smear China-Africa cooperation in Africa. By playing up the factor of major-power rivalry and zero-sum mentality, and hyping up issues such as Chinese loans to Africa and BRI cooperation, they attempt to drive a wedge between China and Africa and disrupt the development of China-Africa relations.
This year is the first year in the full implementation of the outcomes of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the FOCAC. It marks a new starting point for China and Africa to carry forward the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation and promote high-quality development of China-Africa cooperation in the new era.
1.Making concerted efforts to set an example for the building of a community with a shared future. We will keep to the fundamental direction of building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era, enhance strategic mutual trust, maintain frequent exchanges at all levels, conduct in-depth exchanges on state governance, support African countries in exploring a development path suited to their own national conditions, and jointly pursue rejuvenation and play an exemplary role in building a community with a shared future for mankind. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry has successfully visited countries in the region. We will stay in close communication with our African friends, promote implementation of the Outlook on Peace and Development in the Horn of Africa, and support countries in the region to effectively cope with the challenges of security, development and governance, seek strength through unity and pursue independent development. China will play a constructive role in realizing peace and development in the Horn of Africa and across the continent.
2.Acting in the spirit of solidarity to put up a shield of vaccination against the virus. At the opening ceremony of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the FOCAC, President Xi Jinping announced that China will deliver another one billion doses of vaccines to Africa, which will be the largest vaccine assistance program provided by a single country to Africa since the beginning of the pandemic. It will make a substantial contribution to international cooperation against COVID-19. We will fully honor the solemn commitment announced by President Xi Jinping to help Africa enhance their capacity of local vaccine production, realize the goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the African population by 2022, ensure vaccine accessibility and affordability, and support Africa with concrete actions to defeat the virus at an early date.
3.Advancing win-win cooperation to cultivate the engine for development. Following the blueprint outlined in the nine programs for cooperation with Africa, China and Africa will step up practical cooperation in poverty reduction and agricultural development, trade and investment, digital innovation, green development, capacity building, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, peace and security and other fields. We will work for early harvests in opening “green lanes” for African agricultural exports to China, expanding trade and investment, and channeling funds to African countries from China’s share of Special Drawing Rights to bring more tangible benefits to African countries. China will continue to enhance synergy between the BRI cooperation, the GDI, and Agenda 2063 of the AU, work to upgrade China-Africa cooperation, and take concrete actions to support Africa’s economic recovery and sustainable development.
4.Keeping to the principles of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith to build a bridge of friendship. We will earnestly implement the new initiatives of China-Africa people-to-people exchanges, support making all African countries having diplomatic ties with China approved destinations for Chinese tourist groups, hold African film festivals, Chinese film festivals, China-Africa youth services forum and China-Africa women’s forum, and strengthen exchanges between think tanks, media, enterprises and universities. We will spread success stories of friendly cooperation between China and Africa, and enhance mutual understanding and friendship between our peoples, especially young people, to cement the popular foundation for China-Africa friendship and pass it from generation to generation.
5.Upholding multilateralism to safeguard the common values of humanity. We will continue to promote the consensus on opposing hegemonism, external interference, sanctions and racism, join hands to pursue a new vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, promote the settlement of differences through peace talks and dialogue, extend mutual support on issues involving each other’s core interests and major concerns, and uphold true multilateralism and international equity and justice. China congratulates the AU on its 20th anniversary, and will continue to support African countries in seeking strength from unity, and promote the Initiative on Partnership for Africa’s Development. We will work with Africa to increase the representation and say of developing countries, especially African countries, in global affairs, and safeguard the common interests of developing countries.
“By setting sail together, we could ride the wind, break the waves, and brave the journey of ten thousand miles.” No matter how the international landscape evolves or how tortuous the road ahead is, there is no stopping for China-Africa friendship and cooperation. China will join hands with African countries to carry on our friendship, promote cooperation, and synergize the great strength of the 2.7 billion Chinese and African people. Together we will usher in a brighter future for China-Africa relations.
Deng Li is Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Deng Li is Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs.