Carry Forward Traditional Friendship and Seize the Opportunities of Our Times

— Toward an Even Stronger China-Africa Community With a Shared Future

By Dai Bing
The2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) successfully held on 3 and 4 September wasa truly memorable momentfor China-Africa relations. The summit, whichbrought together the China-Africa big family,surpassed any other diplomatic event China hosted in terms of the number of participating heads of state and government. Fifty-two leaders of FOCAC African members attended the summit, including 40 heads of state, 10 heads of government, one deputy head of state and the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission. In his keynote speech at the opening ceremony, President Xi Jinping called upon China and Africa to jointly build a community with a shared future that features joint responsibility, win-win cooperation, happiness for all, common cultural prosperity, common security, and harmonious co-existence.President Xi also announced eight major initiatives for China and African countries totaketheir relations to a new height. Two major documents, namely,The Beijing Declaration—Toward an Even Stronger China-Africa Community with a Shared Future and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Beijing Action Plan (2019-2021) were adopted. This successful summit ushered ina new era of China and Africa jointly building an even stronger community with a shared future.

Building an even stronger community with a shared future is a common decision of China and Africa.

Historically, China and Africa have stood together as a close community sharing weal and woe. At the FOCAC Beijing Summit, President Idriss Deby of Chadsaid that China-Africa community with a shared future could be traced back to the period of common struggle for political independence and to the strategic alliance forged in the fight against colonization, injustice and oppression.His wordswell captured the essence of the long-standingfriendship between China and Africa. Since 2000, with the establishment and growth of FOCAC, China-Africa cooperation has progressed on a “fast track” of all-round development. China and Africa worked together in tiding overthe global financial crisis. In the face of earthquakes in Wenchuan and Yushu and the Ebola epidemic in Africa, the two sides reached out to each other with a helping hand. In a fast-changing world, they stand closely together. In 2013, President Xi visited Africa on his very first overseas trip as Chinese president. In Tanzania, he solemnly stated that China and Africa had always been a community with a shared future. At the FOCAC Beijing Summit, both sides agreed to build the complementarity between the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI),the Agenda 2063 of the AU and national development strategies of African countries, jointly implement the “eight major initiatives” agreed at the summit, and better connect the Chinese dream and the African dream. This has laid a solid foundation for a closer China-Africa community with a shared future.

Building an even stronger community with a shared future will take China-Africa unity and cooperation to a new height. African countries have an important place amongChina’sfriends.They form the very foundation of China’s foreign relations. Since 2013, over 30 leaders of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government have visited Africa. African state leaders have made 120 plus trips to China for visits and international conferences. Such frequent interactions between Chinese and African leaders, like those between relatives and friends, provide political guidance for China-Africa relations. With joint efforts, the two sides have developed an all-dimensional and multi-tiered framework of cooperation. People-to-people and cultural exchanges are thriving, enabling the China-Africa friendship to take deep root in the heart of the people. China and Africa also enjoy stronger strategic mutual trust, broader convergence of interests, and enhanced unity and coordination. Building an even stronger community with a shared future taps into the momentum of and brings new dimensions andimpetus tothe China-Africa relations. 

Partnering for common development is thepathway toward and the goal of building a China-Africa community with a shared future.Africa and China, both emerged from dark days of poverty and backwardness, know better than others the importance of development. Today’s Africa, drawing on the latecomer advantages in terms of energy and resources, demographic dividends and market potential, is taking big strides toward a brighterfuture. China, now the world’s second largest economy, has accumulated strengths in capital, technology, equipment and human resources. Inspired by China’s reform and openingup, African countries hope China’s experience could be used for their own development. China, on its part, stands ready to share its experience and do its modest best to help African countries prosper. As a Chinese saying goes, “A single flower does not make spring, while one hundred flowers in full blossom bring spring to the garden.”In building an even strongercommunity with a shared future, China and Africaare working together for revitalization and commondevelopment.
Buildinga China-Africa community with a shared future transcends the bilateral scope and has significance for the whole world. Our world is facing many global challenges. Economic globalization has encountered headwind, and protectionism and unilateralism are rising. China and Africa, as the largest developing country and the continent home to most of the developing countries, must stand in unityat critical moments for the world and coordinate on important issues to safeguard the collective interests of developing countries. At the FOCAC Beijing Summit, Chinese and African leaders sent a strong message against unilateralism and protectionism, reiterated their support for multilateralism and the free trade regime, and advocated consultation and cooperation for shared benefits as the approach to the reform of global governance system.The summit represented a strong positive force in a world with uncertainty and instability. Together, China and Africa could set an example for the building of a community with a shared future for mankind and contribute to world peace and development.
Building an even stronger China-Africa community with a shared future answers the call of our times.
AChina-Africa community with a shared future is characterized by joint responsibility, win-win cooperation, happiness for all, common cultural prosperity, common security, and harmonious co-existence.These features are mutually reinforcing and inter-connected.They point the way forward for China-Africa cooperation.
(1) China-Africa cooperation is a collective undertaking.At the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum and the UN Office at Geneva in early 2017, President Xi elaborated on the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind and stated that countries, big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, are all equal members of the international community. As such, they are entitled to participate in decision-making, enjoy rights and fulfill obligations. In pursuing cooperation with Africa, China follows the principles of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith, and pursues the greater good and shared interests. China values sincerity, friendship and equality, and puts common interests and friendship first. China wants its cooperation to enable better development in Africa and benefit the African people, and will see to it that China-Africa cooperation remains open and inclusive. China will keep to these principles, play its part as a big responsible country, speak up for the legitimate rights and interests of African countries in international affairs, contribute more to Africa’s development. Facing the uncertainties in the world, African countries have joined China in calling for a fairer and more equitable international order, standing for multilateralism and against unilateralism and protectionism, and advocating political settlement of regional hotspot issues.Together, China and Africa are working for the greater good of mankind.

(2) China-Africa cooperation pursues win-win outcomes.An African proverb goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” In the same vein,a Chinese saying runs that “People of one mind can move a mountain.” Ambitious goals can only be achieved through win-win cooperation.This can be best proved by the fruitful outcomes of China-Africa cooperation. Statistics show that China hashelped Africa in constructingmore than 10,000 kilometers of roads, over 6,000 kilometers of railways, 20 plus airports and terminals, more than 30 bridges and ports, over 80 power projects, around 150 stadiums, conference centers and parliament buildings. China’s investment in Africa has surpassed US$100 billion and over 3,700 Chinese businesses have invested in Africa. In 2018, China-Africa trade once again exceeded US$200 billion. For 10 consecutive years, China has been Africa’s largest trading partner. China’s investment in Africa and Africa’s investment in China now take a bigger share in their respective outbound investment. Thirty-seven African countries and the AUCommission have signed Belt and Road cooperation agreements with China. Indeed, Africa is an important partner in Belt and Road cooperation.When announcing the“eight major initiatives” on China-Africa cooperation at the FOCAC Beijing Summit, President Xi emphasized that China and Africa will work to enhance cooperation in such areas as industrial capacity, infrastructure and trade, and increase cooperation potentials in green development and capacity building. These initiatives serve both China’s need for high-quality growth and high-standard opening-up and Africa’s urgent need for industrialization. They have become the new engines of the win-win cooperation between China and Africa.

(3) China-Africa cooperation is aimed at achieving happiness for all. One of the primary goals of advancing China-Africa relations is to deliver more benefits to the people. From infrastructure projects like the Tazara Railway in the 1950s and 60s, which the Chinese tightened their belts to help build, to the wide range of initiatives announced at FOCAC summits designed to improve living standards, there is no lack of illustrations of China’s commitment to making lives better for the Chinese and Africans through its cooperation with Africa. Chinaand Africa are not just friends standing together in times of adversity, but also partners for mutual success. The community with a shared future for mankind envisioned by President Xi is all about making lives better for not only the Chinese but also people of other countries, especially developing ones. The policy measures unveiled at the FOCAC Beijing Summit cover many areas related to the wellbeing of Africans such as food security, poverty reduction, development, employment, income, quality of life and health care, all aimed at delivering real and tangible benefits to more people.

(4) China-Africa cooperation thrives on cultural prosperity. Both China and Africa boast splendid civilizations. With more exchanges and mutual learning to boost cultural prosperity, China and Africa will have an important pillar in building a community with a shared future. At present, people-to-people and cultural exchanges between the two sides are flourishing like never before. The “Chinese and African Cultures in Focus” and the “Program of China-Africa Mutual Visits Between Cultural Personnel” have now become leading events in China-Africa cultural exchange. The China-Africa People-to-People Friendship Action and the China-Africa Press Exchange Center program have been a success. Cultural eventssuch as the “Happy Spring Festival” and “Festival of Spring” have aroused great interest among Africans in Chinese culture.Some 59 Confucius Institutes and 41 Confucius Classrooms have been set upacross 44 African countries.Enthusiasm for learning Chinese is growing strong. Popular Chinese TV series such as “ABeautiful Daughter-in-Law Era”, “Nirvana in Fire” and “Ode to Joy” have become big hits in Africa, and the dating show “Hello Mr. Right”produced by a Chinese entertainment company has scored high ratings in several countries including Zambia and Nigeria. With such extensivecultural exchanges, China and Africa have been able to draw on each other’s strengths and learn from each other, thus bringing their people closer and making their friendshipstronger.

(5) China-Africa cooperation is built on common security. Without a peaceful and secure environment,cooperation and development can hardly be achieved. Africa has expressed hope for China to do more for Africa’s peace and security, and China firmly supports African countries in solving African issues in the African way to uphold peace and stability on their continent. China has actively assumed its responsibilities as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. During its rotating presidency in recent years, China proposed and chaired open debates on “Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea in the Gulf of Guinea”, “Enhancing African Capacities in the Areas of Peace and Security” and “Strengthening Peacekeeping Operations in Africa” to rally international support for Africa over its security concerns. China remains the largest peacekeeping troop contributor to Africa among the P5 countries, with close to 2,100 Chinese peacekeepers on the ground right now in five operationsin Africa. Since 2009, Chinese navy fleets have conducted 1,191 escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off the Somali, ensuring safe passage for 6,595 Chinese and foreign ships. At the FOCAC Beijing Summit, President Xi announced that on the peace and security front, Chinadecided to set up a China-Africa peace and security fund and step up support for the building of the African Standby Force, the African Capacity for the Immediate Response to Crisis, etc. Not long ago, China and the African co-chairs of FOCAC, Senegal and the AU, held a Dialogue on the Implementation of China-Africa Peace and Security Initiative in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. Through this dialogue, the parties aligned their actions on implementing the outcomes produced at the FOCAC Beijing Summit, laying a solid foundation for promoting China-Africa peace and security cooperation. 

(6) China-Africa cooperation seeks to foster harmony between human and nature. Climate change and environmental degradation have become global challenges that call for urgent action. As President Xi put it, “lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets.” China is firmly committed to this principle in both domestic development and international cooperation. For years, China has engaged in resource-conserving and environment-friendly cooperation with African countries, and environmental protection has been an integral part in its overall cooperation with Africa. Unlawful actions that are damaging to the environment, including emission of pollutants and smuggling of wildlife products, are strictly prohibited. Cooperation between the two sides is never allowed to be pursued at the expense of Africa’s eco-system and long-term interests. The green development initiative unveiled at the FOCAC Beijing Summit includes 50 projects for green development and ecological and environmental protection in Africa, the establishment of a China-Africa environmental cooperation center, and other important measures. This initiative well testifies to the great significance the two sides attach to cooperation in environmental protection. China will work with Africa to promote green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable development in a joint effort to preserve Africa’s natural environment.

Implement the Outcomes of the FOCAC Beijing Summit and Work Toward an Even Stronger China-Africa Community with a Shared Future

The international situation is undergoing profound and complex changes. The lack of momentum inglobal economic growth,spreading unilateralism and protectionism,the serious strain the UN-centered international system is facing, and intensifyingcompetition between major countries all pose new challenges to developing countries in their pursuit of growth and prosperity. Against such backdrop, to build a community with a shared future has become an increasingly shared aspiration of China and Africa.

Going forward, full implementation of the outcomes of the FOCAC Beijing Summit will be a primary task for the two sides, which paves a solid path toward an even stronger China-Africa community with a shared future. If all goes well, the implementation actions will not only lead to greater convergence of interests of the two sides and bring China-Africa cooperation to a higher level, but also lay a strong foundation for the long-term development of a China-Africa community with a shared future.

 Implementation of the outcomes of the summit requires a multi-pronged approach, careful arrangement and thoughtful planning. It falls on the two sides to build greater consensus and work in synergy. The clear instructions of Party and state leaders on implementation after the summit is a testament to the great significance China attaches to follow-upactions. Early this year, Yang Jiechi, Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, and Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister, made separate visits to African countries and the AU headquarters, where they held in-depth discussions with African leaders on joint efforts to implement the summit outcomes in Africa. African leaders spoke highly of China’s sincerity in advancing outcome implementation.

In the same month the summit was concluded, the Chinese Follow-up Committee of FOCAC held an expanded meeting during which participants discussed andagreed on the assignment of implementation work, especially on the “eight major initiatives”. They are working intensively on a timetable and roadmap for implementation. Country-specific implementation plans are being formulated through ongoing communication among government departments such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Commerce and China International Development Cooperation Agency, and financial institutions such as the Export-Import Bank of China and the China Development Bank to deliver progress on the ground as quickly as possible. They are also having close consultation with African countries to identify potential issues that may come up in the course of implementation and find solutions in advance. Chinese embassies in Africa have maintained close contact with their host countries and reviewed the priorities and key projects in bilateral cooperation to ensure that cooperation is more targeted and deliver benefits for all.

As President Xi pointed out, “The world today faces profound changes of a kind unseen in a century.” Amid such transformation, joining hands to build an even stronger community with a shared future is a solemn commitment of China and Africa and serves the fundamental interests of the two sides. China and Africa are prepared to carry forward their traditional friendship, implement the outcomes of the FOCAC Beijing Summit and continue their BRI cooperation. China and Africa are fully ready to build an enduring partnership and make new contribution to a stronger community with a shared future for China and Africa and for all mankind.

Dai Bing is Director-General of the Department of African Affairs,Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.