After the first summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing in October 2006, the second one was held on Dec 4-5 this year in Johannesburg, South Africa. Chinese President Xi Jinping paid his second visit to Africa in a short span to two-and-a-half years, a frequency never seen among leaders of major countries, including Xi’s predecessors. The summit took place in Africa, another first in the African policies of major countries. Xi’s second visit and convocation of the Johannesburg summit testified to the significance attached by the Chinese government to developing China-Africa relations, strengthened South-South cooperation and African countries’ desire to consolidate their ties with China. Even in the ‘new normal’ of slowed economic growth at home, China introduced 10 major cooperation plans with funding support of $60 billion. This counter-cyclical move not only demonstrates China’s determination to promote African development and to tide over difficulties through China-Africa solidarity but also is a blessing for world peace, stability and development as well as for the smooth implementation of America’s African strategy.
Apparently after 30 years of high-speed growth, China is now in a state of slower ‘new normal’ growth, in which the country aims to restructure the economy and digest some excess capacity. Compared with the robust demands for raw materials to power high-speed growth in the past, Chinese demands for raw materials and bulk stocks such as oil and gas has naturally decreased. At the same time, prices of these commodities on the international market have also dropped by a large margin. African countries relying on the export of raw materials and bulk stocks and China-Africa trade have both been impacted. In this connection, the IMF has reduced its African growth forecasts for this year, those of eight African oil producers even by half, from 7% to 3.5%. Pessimistic observers predicted that China, with its slowing economic growth and tightened purse, would not be able to strike big deals with Africa and even previously agreed major projects would be affected.
Exactly as the Chinese word 危机 (crisis) contains double meanings, China-Africa cooperation in the ‘new normal’ faces both danger and opportunity. Even though growth in both is slower than in the past, China and Africa still grow at speeds faster than the world average. Asia and Africa remain the two fastest growing regions in the world. China’s 13th five-year plan recently published envisions a 6.5% annual growth rate in the coming five years, which will still be fairly high. Given the large base accumulated in the past three decades and the size of the world’s second-largest economy, the 6.5% growth will be sufficient to underpin and steer further growth of China-Africa economic cooperation and trade.
The 10 major cooperation plans published at the recent China-Africa Summit show that the ‘new normal’ has not constrained China in moving into Africa. The 10 areas identified are industrialization, agricultural modernization, infrastructure, finance, green development, trade and investment facilitation, poverty reduction and public welfare, public health, people-to-people exchanges, and peace and security. The first priority is industrialization cooperation, in other words, capacity cooperation and promotion of industrialization in Africa. To facilitate this by supporting the transfer of good-quality Chinese production capacity and developing industries in recipient countries, a China-Africa production capacity cooperation fund was set up with initial capital of $10 billion, and the China-Africa Development Fund and the Special Loan for the Development of African SMEs each got $5 billion in additional capital. China has pledged to help Africa to build or upgrade a number of industrial parks, establish a number of regional vocational education centers and several capacity-building colleges for Africa, train 200,000 technicians for African countries, and provide the continent with 40,000 training opportunities in China.
This new momentum of China-Africa cooperation will absolutely boost world peace and development. ‘Picking’ and ‘magnifying’ negative cases in China-Africa relations with a narrow mind represent an ignorance of the overall positive effect of strengthened China-Africa cooperation on world peace, stability and economic recovery. As Premier Li Keqiang described it at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Nigeria in May 2014, with a combined population of 2.3 billion, strengthening mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Africa will enhance welfare for their people and promote balanced world economic development, which will be the biggest inclusive growth in the world. With China’s help, Africa will realize economic development and African people, who account for one-third of the world population, will truly benefit from economic growth and enjoy higher living standards. Such an undertaking will greatly promote a balanced world economic development and overall progress of the human society. It will also be an embodiment of China’s sense of responsibility and commitment as a major power.
From the perspective of safeguarding world peace, stability and international security, advancement of China-Africa cooperation, the production capacity cooperation and African industrialization process in particular will create jobs for young Africans and improve their living standards, levels of social participation and sense of career fulfillment. This will help curb the infiltration and recruitment in Africa by ISIS and other religious extremists. ‘Development’ is expected to address the root causes of extremism and terrorism while ‘surgical operations’ such as bombing can only suppress those forces temporarily.
Furthermore, the various measures proposed in the 10 cooperation areas will greatly improve the overall investment environment in Africa and accelerate the continent’s integration process, thus being objectively favorable for the US to implement the $33 billion cooperation plan with Africa announced at the US-Africa Leaders Summit in August 2014, including the Power Africa project and projects in the areas of construction, clean energy, banking and information technology and engineering.
In short, the big event in China-Africa relations and South-South cooperation should be assessed from the perspective of African development and the benefits for the whole world.