By Lü Fuyuan
Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the three generations of Chinese leadership, respectively headed by Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, have always attached great importance to Sino-African relations and economic and trade cooperation. The combined efforts of the Chinese and African governments and businesses concerned have enabled a gradual increase in bilateral trade. In the early days of the founding of the PRC in 1949, only a few African countries had trading contacts with China. But the independence and liberation movement in Africa from the late 1950s to the 1970s brought independence to many African countries. They established diplomatic relations with China that laid the political foundation for later economic and trade contacts between China and Africa. Implementation of the reform and opening policy in the 1980s and China's greater national strength helped to stimulate Sino-African trade. The two sides have since extended and strengthened their scope of cooperation. In the 21st century, Sino-African trade relations have been further improved and pluralized to contribute to their continuing mutual economic development.
Sino-African trade has seen a sharp increase in recent years. China maintains economic and trade contacts with 59 African countries and regions, and has signed bilateral trade agreements with more than 40 of them. Sino-African trade volume has since 2000 exceeded US$10 billion. From January to July 2003, the gross China-Africa import and export volume reached US$10.23 billion, representing a 59.3 percent increase over the same period the previous year, and one 21 percent higher than the national import and export rate of increase.
China has gradually expanded its investment in Africa, and projects in trade, processing, resource development, transportation and communications and agriculture are spread over 54 African countries and regions. By the end of June 2003, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce had given approval to 602 Chinese enterprises to invest a total US$1.173 billion in Africa. To date, China has signed Agreements on Encouragement and Reciprocal Protection of Investment with 22 African countries, and Agreements on Avoiding Double Taxation with 8 others.
Chinese contracted projects in Africa have been growing steadily. The number of major projects has increased and their technological content upgraded. They are normally in the fields of construction, petrochemicals, power construction, transportation, communications, water conservancy and industrial construction. The many large-scale and high quality projects undertaken by Chinese enterprises in Africa have won high praise from the African people and their governments. By the end of June 2003, China had signed labor contracts with African countries worth US$24.27 billion with Africa and sent 65,000 Chinese labors to work there, realizing a turnover of US$17.2 billion.
China's aid and assistance to 53 African countries since 1956 has brought obvious results. It has constructed more than 700 projects in 48 of the African countries. They cover such fields as agriculture, fishing, livestock breeding, power construction, water conservancy, communications, education, radio and TV broadcasting, health care and food processing. China has also provided material and technological support and helped to train managerial and technical personnel for Africa.
In a speech at the Organization of African Unity, former Chinese President Jiang Zemin announced: "China is willing to consolidate and develop a long-term stable cooperation relationship with African countries in the 21st century under the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence." He expressed the Chinese people's sincere and decisive attitude towards deepening their friendship with the African people, and stated that the Chinese Government will continue its economic and trade cooperation with Africa on the principals of equality and mutual benefit, diversified forms, efficiency and common development. China is the largest developing country in the world, and the African continent is where the largest number of developing countries is gathered. Cooperation between the two sides has great potential for further development that will supplement their respective economies. Africa has rich natural resources and huge markets, and African countries are eager to further their economic and trade relations with China, a country with comparatively powerful economic strength, advanced technology, managerial expertise, competitive commodities and many business opportunities. In the face of economic globalization, Sino-African economic and trade relations should and will be closer, stronger and more active in all fields. The Chinese Government will take practical measures to expand its imports and exports to Africa, to undertake more investment and cooperation projects in Africa, to continue to its capacity assistance to Africa, and to extend its cooperation in agriculture, infrastructure construction, natural resource exploration and human resources development.
The First China-Africa Cooperation Forum Ministerial Meeting 2000 was successfully held in Beijing in October 2000 to consolidate and enhance longstanding friendly relations. This was a milestone in the China-Africa friendly relationship and will take economic and trade cooperation between them to a new historical stage. The Chinese Government has set up the China-side Follow-up Action Committee composed of members from 21 Chinese ministries and commissions to implement decisions made at the forum. China had reduced and exempted 156 debts of 31 African countries by the end of June 2002, thereby fulfilling in advance its pledge to reduce or exempt 10 billion yuan worth of debts owed by African countries to China. This won high commendation in Africa.
The Second Ministerial Meeting of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum will be held in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, in December 2003. Important events will take place during the forum, including the Chinese and African Entrepreneurs Conference, the unveiling ceremony of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum Monument and the China-Africa Friendly Cooperation Achievement Photo Exhibition. Chinese and African state leaders will attend the forum, and government delegations of the member countries will be headed by foreign ministers and ministers in charge of international economic cooperation.
This will be the first visit to Africa by the new Chinese state leader and the first ministerial meeting held in Africa since the forum mechanism was set up. Hence it is of far-reaching significance. China attaches high importance to the Forum, and has made full preparation for it. As one of the two honorary chairmen of the Follow-up Action Committee of China-Africa Cooperation Forum, and on behalf of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce I wish the Second Ministerial Meeting of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum success.
Lü Fuyuan is Minister of Commerce of the People's Republic of China. --Ed.
(China.org.cn December 11, 2003)