China and Africa: an all-weather friendship based on equality

China Plus Published: 2018-07-25 17:56:41
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By He Wenping

Note: The following is an edited translation of a commentary from the Chinese-language "Commentaries on International Affairs."

China and Africa share long lasting bonds of all-weather friendship. This is evident in the visit by China's President Xi Jinping to the continent, as he travels through Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa, and Mauritius on his fourth visit to Africa in five years. Several African leaders have paid visits to China, including the presidents of Cameroon, Namibia, and Zimbabwe who came to China in March. And since 1990, at the beginning of each year, the first trip overseas by China's foreign minister has been to Africa. This nearly three-decade old diplomatic tradition reflects the bond between China and Africa.

Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses the opening ceremony of the South Africa-China Scientists High Level Dialogue in Pretoria, South Africa, July 24, 2018.[Photo: Xinhua/Liu Weibing]

Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses the opening ceremony of the South Africa-China Scientists High Level Dialogue in Pretoria, South Africa, July 24, 2018.[Photo: Xinhua/Liu Weibing]

At the core of the China-Africa friendship is the principle of equality and development that is to each other's mutual benefit. This friendship can be traced back to each other's anti-imperialist and anti-colonial struggles for national liberation and independence. This foundation is reflected in the strong support shown by African countries for China's position during recent disputes over the South China Sea and the "One China" principle. And China is pushing for the development of Africa at the G20 and elsewhere on the international stage.

This year is an important one for China's diplomacy in Africa. China will work with the leaders of more than 50 African countries to lay out a blueprint for the role that China's Belt and Road Initiative can play in Africa's development, culminating in the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Summit in Beijing in September. The summit will be a new chapter in China-Africa friendship.

The China-Africa Cooperation Summit is a triennial ministerial meeting held in rotation between China and Africa. It reflects the spirit of equality in the China-Africa relationship – there are no strings attached to the development assistance that China extends to Africa. China is opening its market to African commodities. And it is helping African countries to build transport infrastructure and industrial parks, and increase their levels of industrialization.

The outstanding performance of the China-Africa friendship comes from sticking together through thick and thin. The Chinese people will not forget that when earthquakes hit Wenchuan and Yushu in May 2008 and April 2010, even some of Africa's relatively underdeveloped partners made donations to China. For example, Equatorial Guinea donated 1 million euros, despite being a small country with a population of only 1 million.

Likewise, when African countries are hit by a famine or an epidemic, China is always there to offer them support in their time of need. For example, in the summer of 2011, when Somalia and other countries in the Horn of Africa suffered a severe drought, China provided them with emergency food aid and financial assistance worth 443.2 million yuan. In March 2014, when the Ebola outbreak hit West African countries including Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, China provided assistance and funds totaling 750 million yuan. At the peak of the epidemic, there were as many as 700 Chinese experts and medical staff working in the affected areas. 

The Belt and Road Initiative will be a new chapter in the history of China-Africa cooperation and development. In light of the current international situation, and the growing focus by some countries on their national interests and trade protectionism, the friendship between China and Africa is precious and must be cherished.

(Special commentator: He Wenping, a researcher with the Institute of West Asian and African Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)

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LU Xiankun Professor LU Xiankun is Managing Director of LEDECO Geneva and Associate Partner of IDEAS Centre Geneva. He is Emeritus Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) and Wuhan University (WHU) of China and visiting professor or senior research fellow of some other universities and think tanks in China and Europe. He also sits in management of some international business associations and companies, including as Senior Vice President of Shenzhen UEB Technology LTD., a leading e-commerce company of China. Previously, Mr. LU was senior official of Chinese Ministry of Commerce and senior diplomat posted in Europe, including in Geneva as Counsellor and Head of Division of the Permanent Mission of China to the WTO and in Brussels as Commercial Secretary of the Permanent Mission of China to the EU. Benjamin Cavender Benjamin Cavender is a Shanghai based consultant with more than 11 years of experience helping companies understand consumer behavior and develop go to market strategies for China. He is a frequent speaker on economic and consumer trends in China and is often featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Channel News Asia. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Xu Qinduo Xu Qinduo is CRI's former chief correspondent to Washington DC, the United States. He works as the producer, host and commentator for TODAY, a flagship talk show on current affairs. Mr. Xu contributes regularly to English-language newspapers including Shenzhen Daily and Global Times as well as Chinese-language radio and TV services. Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is an expert in media and politics/international relations as well as Chinese affairs. He is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre International de Européenne (CIFE) and Visiting Lecturer at the European Institute affiliated with it and is teaching international relations at the Department of Law of the Democritus University of Thrace. George is the author of two books: US Foreign Policy in the European Media: Framing the Rise and Fall of Neoconservatism (IB TAURIS) and The Greek Crisis in the Media: Stereotyping in the International Press (Ashgate) as well as the founder of, an institutional partner of CRI Greek. David Morris David Morris is the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissioner in China, a former Australian diplomat and senior political adviser. Harvey Dzodin After a distinguished career in the US government and American media Dr. Harvey Dzodin is now a Beijing-based freelance columnist for several media outlets. While living in Beijing, he has published over 200 columns with an emphasis on arts, culture and the Belt & Road initiative. He is also a sought-after speaker and advisor in China and abroad. He currently serves as Nonresident Research Fellow of the think tank Center for China and Globalization and Senior Advisor of Tsinghua University National Image Research Center specializing in city branding. Dr. Dzodin was a political appointee of President Jimmy Carter and served as lawyer to a presidential commission. Upon the nomination of the White House and the US State Department he served at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. He was Director and Vice President of the ABC Television in New York for more than two decades.