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A Fresh Phase in the China-Africa Story

Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress, Addressed the China-Africa Business Cooperation Conference on May 21, 2007 in Cairo

It gives me great pleasure to attend the China-Africa Business Conference and meet old and new friends during my official friendly visit to Egypt, an ancient civilization. First of all, on behalf of the Chinese people, I'd like to express our sincere greetings and best wishes to all of you present here, and to the Egyptian and African people through you.

An Egyptian proverb says that all those who have drunk water from the Nile will one day return to it. I visited Egypt in 2000. The old pyramids, the Nile, the magnificent Aswan Dam, all these have deeply impressed me. I find Egypt an extremely friendly nation as I revisit this land seven years later. It's a pleasure to see that under the leadership of President Mubarak, Egypt enjoys a stable society and sustainable economic development, and the Egyptian people enjoy increasingly improved living conditions, along with the country's enhanced comprehensive national strength. Egypt is playing an increasingly important role in safeguarding peace and stability in the Middle East, and in promoting solidarity among African and Arabian countries. As old friends of the Egyptian people, the Chinese people admire what you have achieved and are happy for you!

Given that friends here are very interested in China's development, I'd like to take this opportunity to give you a brief account.

In the late 1970s, China began to adopt the policy of reform and opening up, which was initiated by Mr. Deng Xiaoping. Profound changes have happened in China after years of hard work by the Chinese people. Looking back, we think the most important thing is that we have found a way to build socialism with Chinese characteristics, a combination suited to China's national conditions and conforming to the trend of the times and the Chinese people's will. Facts prove that this way has been successful in transforming China into a wealthy, strong, democratic, harmonious and modernized socialist country.

China focuses on economic development and places a persistent emphasis on reform and opening-up. Public ownership plays a dominant role in the economic system, with diverse forms of ownership developing side by side and aiding the development of a socialist market economy. Guided by the principle of putting people first, the Chinese Government aims to provide its 1.3 billion people with a better life. When we initially began the opening-up policy in the late 1970s, as China had just moved out of the shadow of the decade long Cultural Revolution, the Chinese economy was on the verge of breakdown. At the time per-capita GDP stood at a mere $226, a limit was imposed on the purchase of such food as grain, meat, egg and oil; such commodities as cotton cloth, soap, matches, etc. were provided according to certain coupons. In most cases, three generations of a family shared a room. At that time, what people dreamed of were the "three major possessions," namely bicycle, wristwatch and sewing machine. In the past 29 years since China began to adopt reform and opening-up policy, the Chinese economy has maintained an annual growth rate of 9.7 percent. Now per-capita GDP has exceeded $2000. China has managed to provide enough food for 22 percent of the world's population with less than 10 percent of the world's arable land. The average housing area has reached 26.1 square meters for urban residents. In 2006, the sales volume of cars reached 3.83 million and automobiles are now available to ordinary people. China's GDP ranks fourth in the world, its total volume of foreign trade ranks third and its foreign exchange reserves rank first.

China adheres to the road to political development that suits our national conditions, extends socialist democracy, improves the socialist legal system and builds a socialist country under the rule of law. China puts the people's congress system into practice. The National People's Congress (NPC) exercises state power. The government, court and procuratorate all originate from it. They hold themselves responsible for the NPC and are supervised by it. By this fundamental political system, we Chinese people hold the future and fate of our country and nation firmly in our own hands. With regard to the political party system, China holds with the system of multiparty cooperation and political consultation led by the Communist Party of China (CPC), which is the core leadership for the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics. It is China's ruling party. The eight democratic parties are neither parties out of office nor opposition parties, but they participate in government and political affairs. In the areas where ethnic groups live in concentrated communities, China puts the system of regional national autonomy into practice. All levels of autonomous regions take charge of their own internal affairs. In rural and urban areas and enterprises, China practices a grassroots autonomous system: There are villagers' committees in rural areas, residents' committees in urban areas and workers' congresses in enterprises. We expand the citizen's orderly participation in politics in different levels and areas, and guarantee our people's right to administrate state and social affairs and to manage economic and cultural undertakings. China's Constitution prescribes that human rights are to be respected and guaranteed. China preserves and guarantees Chinese citizens' freedom and rights according to law. Chinese citizens have not only the freedom to believe in religion but also the freedom not to believe in religion.

We work hard to promote social harmony, consider the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of people as the starting point and goal, ceaselessly meet the growing material and cultural needs of the people, and promote the all-round development of the people so as to realize the development for the people, by the people and of the people. We believe in educating our people with the socialist core value system and encouraging our people to develop the basic virtues of "patriotism and observance of law; courtesy and honesty; solidarity and friendship; diligence, frugality and self-improvement; and devotion and contribution." To carry out an active employment policy, develop harmonious labor relationships and amplify the social security system. To hold to the strategy of rejuvenating the country through science and education, and the strategy of building up the strength of the country with talented people; to develop education and public health services, and resolve the most urgent, direct and realistic problems based on the interests of the people. We aim to basically popularize nine-year compulsory education, help young and middle-aged illiterates to read and write, completely waive tuition fees for students at a compulsory education stage in rural areas and nowadays, among every 10,000 people are 182 college students on campus. The national broadcast and TV transmitting coverage is over 95 percent of the country. The rights and interests of women, the minors, the elderly and the disabled are specially protected according to law. All children are to be inoculated with the hepatitis B vaccine, BCG vaccine, poliomyelitis vaccine, pertussis vaccine and the measles vaccine, free of charge. The natural population growth has been controlled to within 5.3 percent and the average life expectancy of urban and rural residents has risen to 73 years.

To be frank, my African friends, although China has made great progress in recent years, it is still far from rich. A large population, poor foundation to start from, imbalanced economic and social development between rural and urban areas, underdeveloped productivity, enlarged pressures of population, resources and environment, and prominent employment problems are still our basic national conditions. China is in the primary stage of socialism and will remain so for a long time to come. Given its 1.3 billion people, China's average per-capita economy, resources, consumption and basic public services are all below the average level of the world. The discrepancy in per-capita GDP between the east coast provinces and the west inland provinces is over ten times. In rural areas, there are over 20 million people who lack adequate food and clothing and about 200 million surplus laborers. In urban areas, over 20 million people live on the minimum living allowances and every year another 24 million laborers will enter the employment market. We can see that China's modernization still has a long way to go and requires the unremitting effort of several generations, over ten generations or even scores of generations. We will adhere to the guidance of a scientific concept of development; planned rural and urban development, regional development, economic and social progress, harmonious development between man and nature, domestic development and opening-up to the outside world as a whole; transform the economic growth pattern; enhance the growth quality; build a new socialist countryside; find new approaches to industrialization; build an innovative country and a resource saving and environmentally friendly society; pioneer a path of civilized development featuring a thriving economy, an affluent life and a sound eco-system. We will always hold to people-oriented, all-round, coordination and sustainable development, hold to combining development of different areas organically and helping each other, and believing in developing our country by safeguarding world peace, and safeguard world peace by developing our country. Although the road ahead is rough, we believe we will bring about the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation as long as we keep firm and press ahead on the socialist road with Chinese characteristics.

Africa boasts vast land, abundant resources, a long history and splendid culture. African people are self-reliant and hospitable. This is my fourth trip to Africa and every time I come here I feel the strong vigor of this land. Africa is moving forward with time. A united and thriving Africa is emerging in front of the whole world!

China is the largest developing country in the world while Africa is the continent with the largest number of developing countries. China and Africa share a similar historical experience, the same development tasks and extensive common interests. All these factors have connected the Chinese people with the African people. We never fail to reach a mutual understanding, mutual support and deep friendship. We are glad to see that thanks to a joint effort, the China-Africa friendship has withstood the test of time and is full of vitality. Facts prove that China and Africa are good brothers who treat each other sincerely, good partners who conduct comprehensive cooperation, and good friends who help each other.

The political relations between China and Africa are getting closer; strengthening unity and cooperation with Africa has always been an important part of China's independent foreign policy of peace. Africa has 53 countries and 48 of them have established relations with China. China pursues five principles of peaceful coexistence,respects the diversity of civilization and promotes the democratization of international relationships. China advocates respecting the development paths chosen by various countries on their own and internal and external polices formulated by themselves, stresses that big powers should respect small ones, strong powers should help weak ones and rich countries should help poor ones.

China and Africa have begun to witness a surge in consultations with regard to international affairs and safeguarding developing countries' rights and interests. Since 2000, some 100 African state leaders have visited China and Chinese leaders visited 35 African countries. China-Africa economic and trade cooperation has also seen rapid development. It has only taken 10 years for China-Africa trade volume to jump from $10 million to $100 million, 20 years for it to go from $100 million to $1 billion, and a further six years to move from $10 billion to $50 billion, with the annual growth rate exceeding 30 percent. By 2006, China-African trade volume had reached $55.5 billion, up 40 percent on a year-on-year basis, which ranks first in terms of the growth rate between China and any other continent.

By now, China has signed trade treaties with 41 African countries and established economic and trade joint committee mechanisms with 37 countries, the bilateral investment promotion and protection agreements with 29 countries, an agreement to prevent double taxation and tax evasion with 9 countries. Twenty three African countries have recognized China's full market economy status.

China-Africa humanistic and cultural exchanges have been highly successful. China has signed government-to-government cultural exchange and cooperation agreements with 65 African nations. China and Africa have sent or received more than 200 cultural delegations and groups. Hundreds of cultural and artistic exchange activities of all types have been organized. Of the six Chinese cultural centers China has set up overseas, three are in Africa. China has offered scholarships to 20,000 students from 50 African countries to study in China. Twenty-six African countries have become destinations for Chinese tourists. The number of Chinese who went to Africa on private business last year doubled over the previous year.

China and Africa have supported each other consistently. China provides Africa with aid without any political strings attached. The countries of Africa have been highly supportive of China. China firmly protects the interests of developing countries at international organizations such as the United Nations and pushes the international community to pay more attention to peace and development in Africa. African countries firmly support China on the Taiwan question, the Tibet issue, and human rights issue. During the past 50 years, China helped Africa put together more than 900 economic and social development projects, including schools and hospitals and projects in agriculture and the infrastructure. China has trained tens of thousands of qualified personnel of all types for Africa and dispatched 16,000 medical teams to Africa, which have treated 240 million patients. China has written off tens of billions of yuan in debt owed to China by 31 poor and least developed countries in Africa, to the benefit of large numbers of African countries and African people.

It is worth mentioning here that the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FCAC), which was initiated in October 2000, has become an effective mechanism for a collective dialogue between China and Africa and a major platform for full-fledged cooperation. It has ushered in a new era in China-African cooperation. In November 2006 Chinese and African leaders gathered together in Beijing for the first time to attend  the FCAC Beijing Summit and established a new strategic partnership. In this partnership, there is political equality and trust between China and Africa. Economically there is win-win cooperation and culturally there are exchanges and learning from each other. The Beijing Summit sketched a new blueprint for China-Africa cooperation and is a new milestone in China-Africa relations. At the summit President Hu Jintao announced eight policy measures that the Chinese Government will take in the next three years to strengthen effective cooperation with Africa, which were warmly welcomed by the nations and people of Africa and widely praised by the international community.

We are pleased to see that the implementation of the eight policy measures has begun and positive results have already been achieved. At the beginning of the year, President Hu Jintao paid a special visit to eight African nations, thus personally giving a boost to the full implementation of the eight policy measures. He conveyed the deep friendship of the Chinese people to the African people. The Chinese Government will continue to work hard alongside the African nations to properly and successfully implement the eight policy measures so that effective cooperation between China and Africa can develop in depth. The eight policy measures are:

– Increase the amount of aid for Africa. The Chinese Government will double its aid for Africa within three years. Most of the aid will be used to fund social, cultural, and public welfare projects so as to help African nations develop their economies and improve the lives of their people. To date China has signed aid agreements with 17 African nations.

-- Provide African nations with $3 billion in preferential loans and $2 billion in preferential export buyers' credits. So far China has signed framework agreements on preferential loans with five African nations.

-- Create the China-Africa Development Fund to encourage and support Chinese companies in investing in African nations. The Chinese departments concerned are now busy with putting the finishing touches to the creation of the development fund and will formally launch it next month. The fund will be managed by a special company and will operate in accordance with market rules. The Chinese Government welcomes African companies to apply to the fund management company for aid through project recommendation by their Chinese partners.

-- Implement projects that contribute to the process of the united self-strengthening of African nations and to their integration. By and large China has reached a consensus with the African Union with regard to the number and type of projects. Groundbreaking is scheduled to take place shortly and everything is expected to be completed by 2010.

-- Write off the no-interest loans maturing in late 2005 which were owed to China by the least developed and most heavily indebted African nations. To date China has signed debt write-off agreements with 14 African countries under which China would forgive a total of 73 loans. In addition, China will complete formalities by the end of this year to forgive another 81 loans taken out by 19 other countries.

-- Increase from 190 to more than 440 the number of commodities which Africa's least developed nations may export to China tariff free. So far China has completed exchange of notes with 23 African countries and is in the process of exchanging notes with seven other nations. They will go into effect beginning this year.

-- Set up three to five China economic and trade cooperation zones and 10 agricultural technology demonstration centers in African countries. When President Hu Jintao visited Africa last February, he announced the opening of the agricultural technology demonstration center built by China to aid Mozambique. China and Madagascar are in the process of exchanging notes on the building of an agricultural technology demonstration center in Madagascar. Other agricultural technology demonstration center projects are currently under study and will be launched one after another during the year.

-- Engage in cooperation in the development of manpower resources, in agriculture, medicine, social development and education. Since the beginning of the year, China has organized 26 training courses, which trained 667 Africans in a variety of fields. Plans call for the training of 5,000 Africans in various fields this year and the training of 15,000 Africans within three years. The details of dispatching 100 high-level agro-technology experts to the African nations are being discussed. Forty-five agricultural experts will be sent to Africa this year. China will provide assistance to 30 hospitals in Africa. This year China will complete site selection and design work on nine new hospitals. Each year China will build 10 malaria prevention and treatment centers in Africa and a total of 30 in three years. A malaria prevention and treatment center has been completed in Liberia. China has sent 75 young volunteers to African nations and there are plans to send 300 volunteers to teach Chinese, physical education, computer science, and Chinese medicine within three years. By late 2009 China will have helped build 100 rural schools in Africa. China has exchanged notes with 17 African nations to provide assistance building 34 new rural schools.
The purpose of my latest visit to Egypt and my presence here today is to continue to put into effect the consensus that was reached by President Hu Jintao and the leaders of the African nations, accelerate the implementation of the results of the FCAC Beijing Summit, and promote the comprehensive and in-depth development of China-Africa relations, especially China-Africa economic and trade relations.

Today China-Africa relations are at their historical best. Our good political relations should be a boost to the development of our economic and trade relations. The development of economic and trade relations is bound to inject endless energy into the development of China-Africa relations. The Chinese and African economies are highly complementary. They provide each other with large markets. There is already a strong foundation for cooperation, assured with such cooperative mechanisms as FCAC. The future of China-Africa economic and trade cooperation is very bright.
 Here I would like to emphasize that we should make the strengthening of cooperation between Chinese and African businesses the priority of China-Africa economic and trade cooperation. Only when their businesses are actively involved will China-Africa economic and trade cooperation grow in volume and strength. Only then will it be full of life. It is hoped that Chinese and African businesses will, in accordance with the principles of equality and mutual benefit, cooperation and win-win, step up effective cooperation, fully put into effect the results of the FCAC Beijing Summit, and together write a new chapter in China-Africa cooperation. Below I offer for your consideration three suggestions on strengthening cooperation between Chinese and African businesses.

First, we should focus on key areas of cooperation. African nations on their own have chosen to upgrade agriculture, improve infrastructure, develop energy and mineral resources, accelerate industrialization, and train qualified personnel as a way to develop their economies and improve the well being of their people. This is also what the African people eagerly long for. Cooperation between Chinese and African businesses should concentrate on the above-mentioned areas. The Chinese and African economies are highly complementary. Africa is vast in size and abounds with resources. It boasts fertile land and plenty of sunshine. For its part, China has mature and applicable equipment, technology, and experience. There is huge potential for China-Africa cooperation in agriculture, including crop cultivation, the livestock industry, the processing of agricultural byproducts, and irrigation; in infrastructure development, including transportation, communications, and power generation; and in industry, including the prospecting and exploitation of energy and mineral resources and the production of light industrial and textile products. The Chinese Government encourages Chinese businesses to accelerate cooperation with their African counterparts and work alongside their African friends for win-win and mutual benefit and for joint development.

Second, both sides should develop new models of cooperation. At the moment cooperation between Chinese and African businesses mostly takes the form of trade cooperation. Their investments in each other remain quite small and large projects are few and far between. Exploring new ideas on cooperation between Chinese and African businesses and developing new ways to cooperate is an important issue facing us. Instead of relying exclusively on trade, both enterprises should cooperate in a variety of ways, including investment, services, technology, and project contracting as well as trade. We throw our support behind a number of large projects that are capable of pulling along the entire situation so as to guide cooperation with and the development of small and medium-sized businesses. We should concentrate on cooperative projects in economic and trade zones and industrial parks in order to form an industrial chain. These projects would then be a leader for the rest with their spillover effects. By providing loans and export credits on favorable terms and setting up the China-Africa Development Fund, among other things, the Chinese Government will encourage and support those Chinese businesses that have formidable economic muscle and a good reputation and are competitive in investing in Africa. We also welcome African businesses to invest in China. The Chinese Government will continue to adopt positive measures to make it easier for even more African exports to enter the Chinese market, expand and balance bilateral trade, and optimize the trade structure so that bilateral trade will break the $100 billion mark by 2010.

Third, we must improve the climate for cooperation. Whether or not there is a good climate for cooperation will directly determine whether a cooperative project succeeds or fails. We must make the most of the existing mechanism, formulate and enforce the corresponding policies, and actively serve as a go between. We must promptly coordinate and handle all issues that emerge in business cooperation. The Chinese Government will continue to sign agreements with the interested African nations to promote and protect investment and other accords aimed at preventing double taxation and tax evasion in order to protect the legitimate rights and interests of investors from both sides. Working alongside the African nations, China will create a favorable climate for cooperation.

The friendship between China and Africa forged and nurtured by the older generations of Chinese and African leaders stands tall like the Great Wall and rolls on incessantly like the waters of the Nile. Hand in hand, let us carry on with the tradition of friendship, comply with the trend of our times, strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation and fight for the joint development and progress of China and Africa and for a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity.

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