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Unchangeable Commitment

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Children holding the national flags of China and Zambia participate in the completion ceremony of Access to Satellite TV for 10,000 African Villages Project in Zambia on June 13, 2019 (XINHUA)

On January 7-13, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid official visits to five African countries, the first overseas trip of the minister in 2020, marking the 30th consecutive year since 1991 that a Chinese foreign minister has visited Africa at the start of every year.

It is a tradition that a Chinese foreign minister visits Africa at the start of every year, which has been kept for 30 years. It embodies China's priority to develop ties with Africa and an unchangeable commitment to forging everlasting friendships with African people. Long established brotherly relations and shared future bond in China and Africa together.

Traditional friendship

During a joint meeting with Zimbabwean Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Sibusiso Busi Moyo in Harare on January 12, Wang mentioned three reasons why the Chinese foreign minister's first visit of the year has been to Africa in the past 30 years. First, the friendship between China and Africa goes back to ancient times. China and Africa not only shared weal and woe and supported each other in the struggle for national independence and liberation, but also continued to cooperate with each other in the development and construction period after independence and became good partners for mutual benefit and win-win progress. Second, it is based on the practical needs of deepening cooperation and common development between China and Africa. China and Africa are natural partners with complementary advantages, showing unlimited cooperation space and potential. Third, it is based on the important mission of strengthening international coordination and safeguarding common interests between China and Africa. Among these three driving forces, traditional friendship through generations is the most important.

The extraordinary friendship between China and Africa is embodied in mutual political trust, as well as the long-standing mutual support and assistance. This can be traced back to the mutual support of the Chinese and African people in the struggle against imperialism and colonization.

The special friendship between China and Africa is reflected in equality, mutual benefit and win-win development. The ministerial conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), convened every three years, is held alternatively in China and Africa to ensure equality and joint engagement. In terms of win-win cooperation, the Chinese market is opening up to more and more commodities from African countries, and China is helping build infrastructures like roads, bridges and industrial parks to accelerate industrialization in Africa.

Moreover, friendship is invaluable in that they support each other at difficult times. The Chinese people will never forget how African countries, though not wealthy, donated funds when China was struck by disasters in Wenchuan, southwest China's Sichuan Province, and Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China's Qinghai Province.

Similarly, the African people will not forget how China responded when African countries were hit by famine and epidemics. For example, when Ebola hit West African countries in March 2014, China's medical teams stationed in the affected areas did not withdraw. At the peak of the epidemic, as many as 700 Chinese experts and medical professionals were working in the affected areas.

Then Sierra Leonean Foreign Minister Samura Mathew Wilson Kamara said that China's generous assistance shows that China is a true strategic partner of Sierra Leone and African countries.

The tradition of Africa being the first destination of China's foreign minister's visit every year shows that the development of friendly and cooperative relations with African countries has always been China's consistent basic foreign policy and unswerving choice.

Shared future

During the visit, Wang had in-depth exchanges with African leaders and foreign ministers on consolidating bilateral relations and deepening mutually beneficial cooperation and reached broad consensus. Both sides expressed the need to speed up the implementation of the outcomes of the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit, advance cooperation on jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative with high quality and deepen practical cooperation in various fields. Both sides believed that China-Africa relations are at their best in history and the future of bilateral cooperation is full of hope. There is reason to believe that China-Africa cooperation will continue to be at the forefront of international cooperation with Africa.

From the perspective of the elements of economic development, China and Africa complement each other, which is a solid foundation for cooperation. The African continent is rich in natural and human resources, with a vast market and a population of more than 1 billion. It needs funds, technology, and experience for development. After more than 40 years of reform and opening-up, China has accumulated rich experience, funds and applicable technologies with which it can help Africa.

Against the background of the shrinking development cooperation between Western countries and Africa, China still invests huge resources to promote China-Africa cooperation, despite domestic challenges of economic restructuring and capacity utilization. For example, the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit put forward the Eight Major Initiatives with $60 billion in financial support, namely eight actions in eight areas, including industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, green development, capacity building, healthcare, people-to-people exchanges, and peace and security.

The year 2019 was the first year of the implementation of the Eight Major Initiatives. Over the past year, the implementation of the initiatives has made a lot of progress. For example, in terms of industrial promotion, China has established about 25 economic and trade cooperation zones and over 100 industrial parks in Africa, making positive contributions to Africa's industrialization, job creation, and export growth. These 25 economic and trade cooperation zones alone have created more than 40,000 jobs and contributed nearly $1.1 billion in taxes to the host countries.

In 2020, China-Africa cooperation will take the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the FOCAC as an opportunity to further strengthen communication and cooperation, promote the in-depth development of the Belt and Road Initiative, optimize cooperation plans, and continue to push forward and implement the Eight Major Initiatives.

Today, China has signed 199 Belt and Road cooperation documents with 137 countries and 30 international organizations, including 44 African countries and the African Union Commission. This is undoubtedly a vote of trust and support from African countries for the initiative.

Looking into the future, as China-Africa cooperation continues to deepen and consolidate, the implementation of the initiative will surely play a bigger role in poverty reduction and industrialization in Africa, and will also play an exemplary role in promoting South-South cooperation and international cooperation with Africa in the new era. The Chinese foreign minister will, as always, appear on the African continent at the beginning of each year to renew friendship and development with African friends.


Source: CHINAFRICA, VOL.12 February ·2020-02-19

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