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Foreign Policy

How to Upgrade China-Africa Relations

May 14 , 2014
  • Chen Jimin

    Associate Research Fellow, CPC Party School

On May 4-11, 2014, China’s Premier Li Keqiang paid official visits to Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola and Kenya, with visiting the African Union headquarters and attending the World Economic Forum on Africa. Both China’s Head of State and Head of Government have visited Africa since the new administration was established, which not only fully demonstrates Chinese government have strong political will to develop the relationship with Africa, but highlights the importance of Africa in the coming international political and economic pattern. Currently, China’s rise and Africa’s renaissance go hand in hand, which has brought a rare historical opportunity for the development of China-Africa relations. However, the international situation remains complex, the competition among great powers in Africa becomes more and more fiercely, which brings about many internal and external challenges to China-Africa relationship. Therefore, how to seize opportunities, meet challenges and build an upgraded version of China-Africa relations is a major problem for the two parties, in which China’s strategic choice is critical. 

1.  Continuously promote South-South cooperation, and constantly enhance the governance capacities of African countries  

Chen Jimin

South-South cooperation is an important means to tackle the global imbalance development. To promote the further development of South-South cooperation must be based on the improvement of African countries governance capacities. In fact, the current challenges African society faces is how to choose a development path suitable for the region, how to achieve political and social stability, how to concentrate superior resources of the region to participate in international competition and cooperation, and how to properly use international favorable factors to enhance Africa’s self-development capabilities. Among them, achieving the regional peace and stability, building strong and responsible governments and exploring an effective development path is the key. In this regard, there is a huge space for cooperation between China and Africa. 

2. Actively participating in Africa’s peace-building, effectively securing Africa’s international rights 

Peace and stability in Africa is currently one of the most critical and practical problems, which is also the prerequisite of Africa’s sustainable development. As the UN Security Council permanent member, China can use this platform to play a constructive role in UN peacekeeping in Africa. Actually, China has deployed the largest number of peacekeeping force among the UN permanent members. Meanwhile, China can give more assistance in promoting peace-building capabilities in Africa, such as the related technical support, staff training, equipments aid, etc. 

Historically, China-Africa friendship is built on the foundation of political equality and mutual support and respect. Today, China can help safeguard the legitimate rights of African countries in international affairs. China can also play an active role in enhancing the voice and representation rights of African countries in international organizations, such as the UN Security Council, IMF and World Bank. 

3. Building up confidence in China’s African policy, ensuring the sustainable, healthy and stable development of China-Africa relations 

In fact, compared to other countries, China’s African diplomacy has its comparative advantages: 

Firstly, China-Africa relations have a clear development direction. In the 2006 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, leaders of China and African countries jointly proposed the construction of “China-Africa New Strategic Partnership”, the core contents of which are “the equality and mutual trust in politics, the win-win cooperation in economy, the exchanges and mutual learning in culture.” The partnership is based on the principles of “mutual respect, equality and mutual benefits, tolerance and mutual learning”, which is in line with Africa’s development interests and has a long-lasting vitality. Such a clear strategic vision provides an important political assurance for the smooth and steady development of bilateral relations. 

Secondly, China-Africa relations have a clear development roadmap. China’s new administration has concrete African policy initiatives. For instance, China will continue to expand investment and financing cooperation with Africa, and provide $20 billion loan credits (now increased to $30 billion) to Africa in 3 years, and take part in cross-border and inter-regional African infrastructure construction. China will train 30,000 African professionals in various sectors, offer 18,000 government scholarships and take measures to improve the content and quality of the training programs in 3 years. China has promised to grant zero-tariff treatment to 97% export from least developed countries in Africa that have established diplomatic relations with it, pledging to put in place relevant measures by 2015. These policies provide the important advantages for Africa’s infrastructure construction, personnel training, capital accumulation, and trade with China, which also helps further strengthen China-Africa relations. 

Thirdly, Chinese government has always put safeguarding the interests of developing countries, including African countries as a fundamental principle of China’s diplomacy. On March 28, 2013, in Durban, South Africa, President Xi Jinping made a speech at a breakfast meeting with African leaders, clearly stating that China will always be a steadfast defender of Africa’s peace and stability, a firm promoter of the African prosperity and development, a staunch supporter of African unity for self development, and a firm supporter to promote Africa’s equal participation in international affairs.

As President Xi said, “to maintain the vitality of China-Africa relations, we must advance with the times.” Overall speaking, China’s African strategy is a principled, progressive and evolving strategy. Adhering to the principles refers to the fact that China-African relations must be based on mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, win-win cooperation. Keeping with the times refers to that China’s African policy needs the innovations in light of international political environment, the situation in Africa and China’s capabilities. Only by constantly updating China’s African policies and the institutional mechanisms of China-Africa relations, combining China’s interests and Africa’s interests can we keep the vitality of China’s African strategy and maintain the vigor of China-Africa relations and eventually promote the relationship towards a new and higher stage.

Chen Jimin, Ph.D, is an Assistant Research Fellow for the Institute for International and Strategic Studies at the Party School of Central Committee of C.P.C.


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