Africa, being a colony for over 500 years, didn’t gain full independence until 1990. Today, consequent problems such as poverty, social conflicts and unrest still plague the region. China began to offer financial aid to Africa soon after the People’s Republic of China was founded. In the 21st century, Sino-African cooperation has taken off in multiple areas. Part of the reason lies in China’s respect of African countries’ sovereignty since China always sees its assistance as a way of international cooperation and harbors no political agenda. Common development is both the direction and the principle the two sides stick to, and it also manifests in how they practice democracy in international relations.
On July 4, China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong gave a speech at the opening of the Seventh Meeting of the China-Africa Think Tanks Forum, in which he disclosed that Sino-African bilateral trade volume had surged to US $170 billion in 2017 from US $765 million in 1978, and China had invested a total of US $110 billion in Africa. He said that China would help improve the investment environment in Africa to ensure its debt sustainability. Today, China and Africa work together in many ways. China provides both assistance and preferential loans to Africa and joins hands with economic organizations from various countries and African governments. Besides, Chinese companies also provide consultation and management services instead of just being contractors in Africa.
China’s experience in economic development is fresh, effective, applicable, and therefore easier to be accepted by Africa. Now there are between 20 to 30 co-managed programs based on China’s successful experience in the form of free trade zones, special economic zones, and industrial development zones. Africa is on a track of economic take-off by the introduction of foreign capital and industries.
According to Forbes, in 2016 the total value of U.S. direct investment in Africa only accounted for one 10th of China’s. China has surpassed America to be the most influential foreign country in the eyes of locals. Data from Xinhua shows that last year 39 big projects were built by China, and other statistics indicate that from 2000 to 2011, China provided up to US $75 billion of financial aid to 1,673 African projects.
Close economic cooperation results in job opportunities. In 2017 McKinsey & Company conducted research on 1,073 Chinese enterprises in eight major African countries, which found out that African people constitute 89 percent of the employees and 44 percent of the managers.
Three years ago, at the Johannesburg Summit of FOCAC, China pledged to provide Africa with US $60 billion in financing, including US $5 billion of interest-free loans, and US $35 billion of export credit in a bid to support the 10 major China-Africa cooperation plans which aim at industrialization and agricultural modernization. By March 2018, more than 90 percent of the investment had been carried out or was underway.
Meanwhile, people-to-people exchanges have been flourishing. There are over 130 pairs of sister cities between China and Africa, and every year more than one million Chinese tourists choose Africa as their destination. Besides that, the China-Africa Youth Gala, China-Africa Think Tanks Forum, and the Forum on China-Africa Media Cooperation are also prominent examples. Apart from this, China has trained 162,000 technical personnel across Africa, and provided training opportunities to 43,000 Africans, government scholarships to over 20,000 African students, and college education to 1,300 students.
China has never been a colonizer, nor does it have the intention to be one. China’s assistance to Africa is welcomed by the locals. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta once said on an inspection tour that the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway would contribute as much as 1.5 percent to Kenya’s economic growth, and so help Kenya to achieve economic restructuring.
Following this year’s Beijing Summit, new practical measures will be released to combine African resources, its demographic dividends, its potential in the market with China’s capital, equipment, and technical advantages. This will change Sino-Africa cooperation from government-led to market oriented, from commodity trade to production capacity cooperation, and from project contracting to investment and operation.
In addition, seen from the angle of the China-Africa comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership; on the one hand, traditional cooperation in infrastructure construction, trade, investment and financing, health care, and the development of human resources needs to continue, while on the other, new areas such as poverty reduction, people-to-people exchanges, peace, security, and environmental protection also need to be reached out to.
The Beijing Summit is also a platform to show that developing countries are eager for peace, cooperation, and development, as well as world multi-polarization. By practicing democracy in international relations, China and Africa hope for a more just world order.