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Forging a New Chapter in Sino-African Friendship and Cooperation

By Li Zhaoxing 

The Second Ministerial Meeting of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum will be held in December 2003 in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. This is a significant event in the history of Sino-African friendship, as it carries forward the past and opens the way into the future.


Sino-African friendship has a long history. Friendly contacts and exchanges between China and Africa date back to the second century BC In 762 Tang Dynasty explorer Du Huan traveled to Egypt, the Sudan, Ethiopia and other African countries, recording his impressions in his travel journal, Jing Xing Ji (Record of Experiences and Travels). In the first half of the 15th century, famous Chinese navigator Zheng He set sail on the high seas seven times, and four times landed on the eastern coast of Africa. The treasures his fleet brought back from Africa included giraffes and zebras, which the Chinese people regarded as auspicious animals symbolic of good fortune and happiness. On several occasions, Somalia and certain other African countries also sent envoys to visit China.


The founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 marked a new era of Sino-African relations. In the 1950s, on achieving national independence and shaking off the shackles of colonialism, many African countries established diplomatic relations with China. Chairman Mao Zedong received visiting African state leaders on several occasions. When meeting with then Zambian President Kenneth David Kaunda in February 1974, Chairman Mao put forward his famous "Three Worlds" theory. On his three visits to Africa in the 1960s, Premier Zhou Enlai raised the five principles guiding China's relations with African and Arab countries and eight principles underlying China's economic and technological aid to foreign countries. These principles acted as guidelines for the development of Sino-African relations.


Deng Xiaoping maintained concern about peace and development in Africa, saying that African countries should explore a development road that suited their particular situation.


On President Jiang Zemin's first visit to Africa in May 1996, he made a speech at the headquarters of the Organization of African Unity putting forth the five proposals of sincerity, friendship, equality, unity and cooperation, common development, and facing the future regarding Sino-African relations.


In 2000 the First Ministerial Meeting of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum was held in Beijing. Both China and African countries determined to develop new partnership relations in the 21st century based on long-term stability, equality and mutual benefit.


China and Africa have made considerable accomplishments throughout their cooperation. The peoples of China and Africa have struggled against colonialism and imperialism and striven for national independence. They support one another in the common cause of safeguarding national sovereignty and developing national economy. China has made its contribution to the political liberation of African countries by providing both moral support and material aid. China and Africa have strengthened their consultative coordination in international affairs and in protecting the rights and interests of developing countries. They are now a model for South-South unity and cooperation.


Of the 76 countries that voted for the restoration of China's legitimate status in the United Nations in 1971, African countries numbered 26. China, on the other hand, actively supports African countries seeking to consolidate their independence, develop their national economy and promote social progress. Since 1956 China has provided substantial aid to 53 African countries and helped them build over 700 projects in the sphere of economic and social development. Sino-African economic and trade cooperation has progressed rapidly, the Sino-African trade volume having increased from US$817 million in 1979 to US$12.389 billion in 2002. Cooperation between Chinese and African businesses has flourished, and a large number of Chinese enterprises have entered Africa and made their contributions to local economic prosperity. China and Africa have also seen continuous expansion and enrichment of exchanges and cooperation in the fields of culture, education, science and technology, health and sports.


The development of Sino-African friendship and cooperation over the past half a century indicates vital and distinctive characteristics of Sino-African cooperation.


First, Sino-African friendship is profound, and cooperation has a solid basis. Trailbreakers in the railway aid project in Tanzania effectively erected an historic monument to Sino-African friendship and cooperation. The joy expressed by African friends on restoration of China's legitimate seat in the United Nations was truly moving. Sino-African friendship is cherished deeply in the hearts of both peoples and is a solid base for their continued cooperation. China and Africa take a similar stand in important international issues, and have the same fundamental interests. We both believe that peace and development are the themes of the current era, despite the challenges they face. We both advocate democracy in international relations and protection of the world's diversity. We both call for strengthened South-South cooperation and South-North exchanges in order to realize the common prosperity and progress of humankind.


Second, China-Africa cooperation is a form of South-South cooperation built on the basis of equality and mutual benefit. The two sides have long followed the principles of sincere friendship, mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, and forged a relationship wherein impoverished friends help each other. China-Africa cooperation is therefore cited as epitomizing South-South cooperation.


Third, China-Africa friendship and cooperation have broad development prospects. African countries are exploring development modes that suit their national situation and actively promoting regional integration. They are overcoming difficulties and marching towards their goal of realizing Africa's revival. The Chinese people, on the other hand, are accelerating their construction of an overall better-off society. China-Africa mutual-benefit cooperation is mutually supplementary and has great potential. The Chinese and African population account for one-third of the world total and half that of the developing world. Common development of the two sides through effective cooperation is without doubt an important contribution to the prosperity and progress of humankind.


In order to adjust to changes in the international situation and seek common development, China and African countries united in establishing the China-Africa Cooperation Forum mechanism in Beijing in the golden autumn of October 2000. Over the past three years, progress has been made in fulfilling mechanism construction and follow-up action, making the Forum an effective platform for the two sides to strengthen consultation and cooperation under a new situation.


Strengthening friendly cooperative relations with developing countries, particularly African countries, has always been an important part of China's independent foreign peace policy. We believe that close cooperation between Chinese and African countries will ensure a successful and fruitful Second Ministerial Meeting of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum, and that it will forge a new chapter in Sino-African friendship and cooperation. 


Li Zhaoxing is Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China. --Ed.


(China.org.cn December 11, 2003)

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