Hand in hand, China and Africa contributing to global agenda for sustainable development

China welcomes all developing countries to jump on the bandwagon of China's development in achieving common development and safeguarding regional stability and equality.

Editor's note:

Themed “China and Africa: Toward an Even Stronger Community With a Shared Future Through Win-Win Cooperation,” the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which begins today and closes tomorrow, will be one of the most significant diplomatic events hosted by China this year. On the eve of the event, Wang Lei explained to Shanghai Daily columnist Wan Lixin why the Summit is being so eagerly watched.

Wang is director of the BRICS Cooperation Center and associate professor of School of Government at Beijing Normal University.

Q: What can be expected from the Summit?

A: The Summit is being watched closely by the world because it will exert a powerful influence on China and Africa, South-South Cooperation, global development, or even on global governance.

From China’s perspective, the Summit is a major diplomatic event that involves developing countries, and Africa has always been much emphasized in Chinese diplomacy. The Summit will not only consolidate the global positioning of China’s diplomacy, but also promote Chinese investment in Africa and deepen China-Africa trade ties. Naturally China will also use the Summit as a platform to explain its diplomacy concerning Africa, and its diplomatic principles vis-à-vis developing countries.

Meanwhile, the Summit will afford African participants a close-up look at China’s development in the four decades since China’s reform and opening-up, which will, hopefully, help African countries find a way of development suited to their own conditions, and give them fresh impetus in their search for prosperity. In addition, the participation of African countries will debunk the allegation by some Western countries that “China is promoting neo-colonialism in Africa.”

Q: What is the Summit’s implication for global development?

A: The Summit can also be analyzed through the prism of South-South Cooperation — with China being the largest developing country as well as one of the most important emerging economies on one hand, and Africa concentrating the highest number of developing countries on the other. Thus promoting cooperation between China and African countries is a major pillar in South-South Cooperation.

The Summit will go beyond mere China and Africa, and will deliberate a number of proposals concerning the implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, South-South Cooperation and South-North Cooperation.

Developing countries will also have their voices heard on a spectrum of issues ranging from global climate change, poverty alleviation and global development to promotion of hygiene and health.

With nearly 60 developing and emerging countries involved in discussion of global politico-economic issues, and given the consensus expected over a spectrum of issues, the Summit will be a significant effort in consolidating world peace and stability, pushing foward global development and prosperity, and constructing a more just, rational, balanced, mutually beneficial and sustainable international politico-economic order. The Summit will also issue a strong appeal to join hands in promoting the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Q: While Africa is geographically distant, it has always featured prominently in Chinese diplomacy. Why?

A: Notwithstanding the great distance, China and Africa have always maintained strong ties from political, economic and diplomatic perspectives.

The strong ties have been forged since the ancient past, when China first established close trade and cultural ties with African regions on the east and north of the African continent.

There is also a political dimension in this affinity. China and African nations have developed strong friendships in their support for each other in their respective pursuit of national independence and development.

With Africa being most prioritized in Chinese diplomacy concerning developing countries, and given the high degree of consensus on the part of China and Africa in major issues concerning global peace and development, African countries will continue to be chief supporters for China in its bid to construct a global network of partners.

African countries not only have supplied China with materials needed in China’s economic development, the rapid economic development of African countries has also provided opportunities for Chinese businesses in their ambition to tap international markets.

Africa stands to benefit from China’s rise in the international arena, too. China welcomes all developing countries, including those in Africa, to jump on the bandwagon of China’s development in achieving common development and safeguarding regional stability and equality.

Q: How can leaders make the most of the complementarity between Africa and China in economic terms?

A: While China and Africa are both developing, they are highly complementary in terms of their development stage and industrial structure. To make the most of their complementarity, they should first of all strengthen mutual trust, and adhere to the principle of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration.

As we know, China-Africa relations are confronted with Western noises like “China is promoting neo-colonialism in Africa,” “China is plundering resources and seizing markets in Africa,” or “China is exporting indebtedness to Africa.”

China is more than willing to share its success story and experience, which will be of considerable value to some countries still groping for a growth model best suited to their own conditions. China feels duty-bound and is willing to provide support in terms of funding, technology and talent.

But it should also be noted that China-Africa cooperation is open and inclusive. China and African countries are also actively participating in global governance and establishing a global multilateral trade regime.

Q: What are the challenges in achieving sustainable and win-win cooperation between China and Africa?

A: One of the chief challenges is the increasingly complex international politico-economic situation impacting externally on sustainable development for the two sides.

Currently the international situation and global governance regime are undergoing significant readjustment, marked by intensifying regional conflicts and the rise of hegemonism and power politics.

While global economy is recovering, the reversion to trade hegemony and bullying on the part of some developed countries is leading to the global multilateral trade regime being seriously marginalized.

Another challenge is born of the imbalances in China-Africa economic and trade framework that need to be addressed properly.

China enjoys considerable favorable balance of trade with Africa. Investment also comes chiefly from China. As this imbalance tends to grow, this not only prevents further tapping of cooperative potentials, but lends some politicians an excuse to calumniate China-Africa cooperation.

Q: In what ways is the BRI significant for growing prosperity of Africa?

A: The BRI is providing African countries with an effective approach in achieving national development suited to their own conditions.

The BRI also provides African countries with an international platform for achieving prosperity, for the BRI is a kind of public goods African countries could exploit fully in order to participate in global economic governance.

Of particular importance to Africa is the principle of shared growth through discussions and collaboration embedded in BRI. Historically, Africa had lagged behind in economic terms. BRI might enable African countries to seize the opportunity to achieve leapfrog, rapid development.

Q: What are needed to conceive of a community with a shared future?

A: So long as both China and African countries bear in mind their status as developing countries, they are able to jointly push forward South-South Cooperation as well as the formulation of a China-Africa community with a shared future.

Mutual political trust is vital, and there is greater room for cultural exchanges. Such trust and exchanges will go a long way towards nourishing the root underlying the construction of a community with a shared future.

The two sides should also handle with dexterity some potentially challenging issues like the reform of the UN Security Council, African development, and terrorism and African security. Both sides should be wary of the spill-over effects of these issues, in the realization that these issues could be best approached in light of cooperation and coordination.

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