Chinese FM's visit to Africa consolidates a closer community

By Li Anshan
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Beijing Review, January 20, 2021
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A Tanzanian teacher gives a Chinese language lesson at the Confucius Institute at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on January 4. [Photo/Xinhua]

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi's recent visit to five African countries continued the diplomatic tradition passed down for 31 years that China's top diplomat starts his first trip abroad in a year with an African destination. This not only demonstrates the friendship between the two sides but also reflects the important position of Africa in China's diplomacy.

The countries visited by the foreign minister were very representative: Nigeria in West Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in Central Africa, Botswana in the south, Tanzania in the east, and the island nation of Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. Nigeria has a population of more than 200 million, the largest in Africa. The largest economy on the continent, it is also a very important strategic partner of China. In contrast, Seychelles has a population of only 100,000. All African countries, big or small, are of the same significance in China's diplomacy.

A closer community

Wang said his tour was aimed to convey clear messages about the joint efforts of China and Africa to build a closer community with a shared future: China supports Africa in combating the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19); in accelerating the latter's economic recovery; and in enhancing its international influence. China also seeks to improve the quality of its cooperation with African countries.

He held talks with his counterparts in these five countries, reaching consensus on strengthening bilateral cooperation, expanding the areas of cooperation and improving its quality, and advancing multilateralism. They pledged joint efforts to safeguard the common interests of developing countries, oppose external interference, uphold fairness and justice, and promote a fairer and more reasonable international order.

The presidents of all the five countries expressed their wish to enhance bilateral relations when meeting with Wang. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said at a time when oil prices were falling and Nigeria was facing difficulties in development, thanks to China's strong support, it alleviated problems such as underdeveloped infrastructure and insufficient food supply. China has a very important role in Nigeria's sustainable development, he added.

Last year, the overall volume of imports and exports between China and the DRC grew against the global downward trend, reflecting the high degree of complementarity between the two economies and great potential for bilateral trade. President Felix Tshisekedi said the DRC, which will soon assume the rotating chair of the African Union (AU), will play a bigger role in promoting Africa-China cooperation.

Wang said China supports the DRC Government in safeguarding national unity and stability, in developing and revitalizing the economy, and in assuming the rotating chair of the AU. The two sides also signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative.

Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi welcomed China's help to contribute "patents of Botswana" to the world. This year marks the 46th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Botswana. During Wang's visit, Botswana became the 46th partner country in Africa in cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.

Wang said during his visit to Tanzania that Tanzania is China's iron-clad friend in Africa. This was a reference to Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai traveling a long distance to visit Tanzania in 1965, Tanzania's first president Julius Nyerere visiting China 13 times, and the TAZARA Railway linking Tanzania with Zambia that was built with Chinese support.

President Xi Jinping visited Tanzania during his first trip to Africa after he assumed office in 2013. During that visit, he put forth the principle of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith in developing China-Africa relationship.

"Tanzania is ready to become the gateway for Chinese enterprises to explore the Eastern and Southern African markets and join hands with China to usher in a new era of common development between the two countries," Tanzanian President John Magufuli told Wang.

Seychellois President Wavel Ramkalawan said China was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of Seychelles. He thanked China for the support during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The president was the first in the nation to get an injection, using Chinese vaccine, and the event was broadcast on live television.

Wang said China is willing to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation with Seychelles in the three areas of environmental protection, the blue ocean economy and tourism. The two sides signed an agreement on the construction of a low-carbon development demonstration zone for South-South cooperation during Wang's visit.

Post-pandemic cooperation

Since the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000, China and African nations set out practical goals for every three years and make corresponding commitments before each session concludes. The previous seven sessions of FOCAC demonstrate that both sides have worked hard to achieve their goals and fulfilled their commitments.

Despite the novel coronavirus pandemic, more than 70 percent of the outcomes of the FOCAC Beijing Summit in 2018 have been realized. Great progress has been achieved in the eight initiatives China pledged in 2018: industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, green development, capacity building, healthcare, people-to-people exchanges as well as peace and security.

During his visit, Wang not only discussed how to realize the goals set out at the Beijing Summit, but also worked with the African side to prepare for the next FOCAC summit and specify priorities for bilateral cooperation in the post-pandemic era. The Chinese Government believes that political stability is crucial for the African continent and will work together with the African side to build a Healthy Africa, a Made in Africa, an Inter-Connected Africa, a Harvest Africa, a Digital Africa, a Green Africa and a Safe Africa.

These areas cover both traditional cooperation areas such as agriculture and industry, and new ones such as healthcare and the digital economy.

Wang said, "What has impressed me most throughout this visit is that no matter how the international situation changes, no matter what challenge we face, and no matter what kind of disturbance and disruption we encounter, the traditional friendship between China and Africa has withstood the test of time, and is getting stronger and stronger."

The world is under a viral attack. All countries are suffering from this disaster unseen before. This common threat can be defeated only by people working together. As a result, the vision of a community with a shared future has won greater recognition across the world. Wang's Africa visit underscores that China is making its due contribution with concrete actions to create a better future for all. 

The author is head of the Chinese Society of African Historical Studies and professor emeritus at Peking University.

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