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Sino-African Cooperation to Rise to New High
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Cooperation between China and Africa is likely to reach higher levels in the next century, with the two sides having established a solid foundation in various areas during the past decades.

Yang Lihua, a senior Chinese researcher from the Institute of West-Asian and African Studies (IWAAS) of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that she is quite optimistic about the future of Sino-African ties.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, Yang noted that this year marks an important step in the relations between China and Africa, saying that many activities will take place to push forward the relationship, especially "the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation -- Ministerial Conference Beijing 2000".

Yang said that her optimism is based on the deep-rooted traditional friendship between China and countries in the African continent.

Contact between China and African countries can be traced back to the 10th century BC., Yang noted, adding that it was at this time that China and Egypt began trading.

Around the 2nd century BC., China and Egypt set up official relations by sending envoys to each other, according to Yang, who is also the deputy director of the IWAAS.

Afterwards, China and Africa began to communicate through the landway, starting from the west of China to west Asia and all the way to north Africa, she said.

The great west sailing by Zheng He of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) served as an important impetus to marine trade between China and east-African countries, the Chinese expert said, adding that it also facilitated the increase of cultural exchange between the two sides.

The advanced culture of Egypt was transmitted to China and China's great four inventions were spread to Egypt and then to north Africa and Europe, Yang noted, saying that the cultural exchange promoted cultural mingling among Asia, Africa and Europe.

Regarding the first phase in Sino-African relations, Yang said that "although China was a big power at that time in the world, the contacts and exchanges between China and Africa were equal, peaceful, and friendly." When western colonists began to invade Asia and Africa in the 15th century, the political, economic, and cultural contacts between China and African countries were seriously affected, Yang noted.

The sea-route from the Indian Ocean through the Mediterranean to Africa was seized and monopolized by Western powers, and as a result, the official relationship between China and Africa was suspended, she said.

The friendly contacts between China and Africa in early stages enhanced mutual understanding and friendship and laid a solid foundation for the development of bilateral ties later on, Yang commented.

Sino-African relations began its all-round development after the People's Republic of China (PRC) was founded in 1949. The PRC carries out an independent foreign policy of peace.

Cooperation between China and Africa continued to expand with the process of the independence and national liberation of the African countries, Yang said.

The two sides supported each other politically and joined hands in opposing imperialism and colonists, she noted, adding that China offered help to newly-independent African countries.

When China started its reform and opening up policy over twenty years ago, African countries also experienced 20 or 30 years of development after their independence, and both sides began to put more emphasis on economic development.

Both China and African countries hope to further strengthen mutually-beneficial economic cooperation and raise economic and trade relations to a higher position in bilateral relations, the Chinese expert said.

The new international situation also prompted China and African countries to enhance their cooperation within the South-South cooperation framework. Both sides also need to strengthen cooperation in establishing a just and reasonable new international, political and economic order, she noted.

The two sides have a lot in common concerning the new order and the consensus served as an important basis for the furthering of Sino-African relations, Yang said.

African countries proposed to cut or dismiss their debts to developed countries, to incorporate development into globalization, to have increased market share in developed countries and to change the unequal and unreasonable trade conditions, all of which are supported by China.

African countries also expect China, the biggest developing country and a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations, to uphold justice and speak out for developing countries.

They also expect to strengthen consultations with China in order to raise the position of the developing countries as a whole in international affairs.

Yang said that she is confident that China and African countries will continue to strengthen political consultations, enhance economic contacts and expand exchange in culture, education, science and technology in the new century.

(Xinhua 10/03/2000)

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