Commentary: Pragmatic cooperation on various fronts to fortify China-Africa ties
Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019. [Photo: Xinhua]
by Xinhua writer Wang Hongjiang
One year has elapsed since the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) convened last September.
China and Africa have made undaunted efforts to carry out practical cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual benefit despite the rise of protectionism, and initial results have been achieved.
In order to build a China-Africa community with a shared future, China and African countries have been implementing consensus made at the Johannesburg and Beijing summits of the FOCAC held in 2015 and 2018 to align their respective development strategies.
The first China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo was successfully held in June in Changsha, the capital city of central China's Hunan Province. A total of 84 deals worth 20.8 billion U.S. dollars were reached in trade, agriculture, tourism and other fields during the three-day expo.
This week, Chinese President Xi Jinping's special envoy Yang Jiechi is paying official visits to Kenya, Nigeria and Sierra Leone to exchange views with African leaders on promoting bilateral ties as well as international and regional issues of common concern.
Yang's tour will facilitate the implementation of the action plan adopted at the FOCAC Beijing Summit in September 2018.
Health, hunger and development are always tough tasks in Africa. China has always been lending a helping hand to Africa in those fields.
Decades on, China has sent medical teams to help Africans fight epidemics while dispatching agricultural experts and providing financial and technical support for Africa's infrastructure transformation and poverty reduction.
Since 1963, some 220 million patients in 48 African countries have been treated by Chinese medical personnel as of 2018, according to the National Health Commission. Currently, 983 Chinese doctors are providing free medical services in 45 African countries.
"China has significantly contributed to Africa's ongoing combat against the Ebola outbreak as well as to the development of the Africa CDC," or the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to John Nkengasong, director of the young institution.
A friend in need is a friend indeed. In 2014, when the Ebola outbreak wreaked havoc in West Africa, China immediately sent some 1,200 medical workers and communicable disease experts to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to help overcome the crisis, in stark contrast to some countries which were primarily focused on evacuating their own citizens out of the Ebola-hit land.
Notably, Yuan Longping, China's "father of hybrid rice," and the Yuan Longping High-tech Agriculture Co. Ltd. expert team have successfully cultivated five kinds of high-yielding hybrid rice seeds suitable for the African soil and climate.
So far, Chinese experts and technicians have carried out more than 300 small-scale projects in nine African countries, promoted 450 agricultural technologies, and trained nearly 30,000 local farmers and technicians, Ma Youxiang, an official with China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, said in June.
Ma vowed that China will continue to send high-level agricultural experts and vocational education teachers to African countries, to further expand training in Africa and help nurture more talents in agriculture.
Qu Sixi, China's representative of the World Food Programme, the food assistance branch of the United Nations, said in June that it will work with China to help Africa achieve the goal of "Zero Hunger."
Taking Ethiopia as an example, about 465 Chinese professors and senior experts have been sent to the eastern African country during the past 19 years, who have helped develop new crop varieties and transfer technology and skill to the locals, according to figures from the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture.
With the help of Chinese experts, more than 200 Chinese advanced and practical technologies have been transferred, and 13 textbooks have been published. In addition, China has trained more than 6,500 Ethiopian instructors and development agents as well as 55,000 students in the country.
Besides, China always respects the choice of the African people to pursue their own development paths and has never imposed "prescriptions." Confronting challenges and problems, China seeks solutions in an open and honest way and through consultations with its African counterparts.
Under the framework of South-South cooperation, and driven by the Belt and Road Initiative and the FOCAC, China has helped African countries build highway and railway networks, airport terminals, sea ports and industrial parks across Africa in recent years. Thanks to China's efforts, Africa's interconnectivity has been boosted and its industrial capacity unlocked.
Located about 40 km south of Addis Ababa and operated by Chinese companies, the Eastern Industrial Zone, Ethiopia's first industrial zone, has provided more than 10,000 jobs for local people. Chinese-built Jimma Industrial Park, some 350 km west of Addis Ababa, once fully operational, will create some 12,000 direct jobs for Ethiopians, according to Ethiopia's Industrial Parks Development Corporation.
The 60 billion U.S. dollars in funds China pledged at the 2015 FOCAC Johannesburg Summit has been either delivered or arranged, and the 10 cooperation programs have brought huge benefits to local people.
People-to-people exchanges have been enhanced during the past year, as thousands of African students have received Chinese scholarship to study in China and the Confucius Institutes served as major platforms for communication to enhance mutual cultural understanding. Meanwhile, more and more Chinese films and TV series were introduced into Africa and entertained locals, while African cultures, tourism resources and products becoming increasingly attractive to the Chinese people.
Despite the progress, however, it seems that some Western skeptics have chosen to ignore the win-win nature of China-Africa cooperation. In their descriptions, China sees the world's second largest continent as nothing more than a land of abundant resources ripe for pillaging.
Such accusations have cast aside the most basic facts that Beijing has always treated its African partners with respect and equality, and that China's investment flowing into Africa has always sought to bring benefits to both sides.
According to a report by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, after the implementation of the 10 major plans for China-Africa cooperation, projects that Chinese enterprises have built in Africa will create roughly 30,000 km of highways, 85 million tons of port throughput per year and over 9 million tons of clean water per day through water treatment, in addition to providing nearly 900,000 jobs for Africans.
China has been Africa's largest trading partner for 10 consecutive years. In 2018, China-Africa trade volume reached up to 204 billion dollars, a year-on-year increase of 20 percent.
China has never been a colonizer. And it never intends to be one. China's Africa policy differs greatly from that of the Western colonizers, who started to divide and rule the continent for dominance and resources since the Age of Discovery.
Just as an emperor of China's Tang Dynasty put it, "with a bronze mirror, one can see whether he is properly attired; with history as a mirror, one can understand the vicissitudes of different times." Time will tell who is a true friend.