March 10, 2018

As FOCAC Beijing Summit draws near

As FOCAC Beijing Summit draws near

By Zhou Pingjian

As President Mahammadu Buhari recently said in his felicitation message to President Xi Jinping on the occasion of the Chinese lunar new year, “I am looking forward to China hosting the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in Beijing in September this year, and have every reason to believe that the Year of Dog will bring us more success stories and mutual benefits for China-Africa cooperation.”

The Chinese Government is working hard to ensure the success of the Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, according to Premier Li Keqiang while delivering the government work report to the ongoing first session of China’s 13th National People’s Congress on March 5. This year marks the 18th anniversary of FOCAC.

The past 18 years have seen fruitful progress in China-Africa practical cooperation across the board. Two-way trade and China’s total non-financial investment in Africa in 2017 were 17 times and around 100 times that of 2000 respectively, which shows China’s contribution to Africa’s economic development has risen significantly. FOCAC has become a pacesetter in China-Africa cooperation, a champion for greater international attention to and input in Africa, and the largest and most effective South-South cooperation platform in the world.

The FOCAC Johannesburg Summit held in December 2015 was a great success, and it is now China’s turn to hold a new FOCAC. China decides to upgrade the forum to a summit in response to the positive and urgent wishes of the African members of FOCAC. President Xi Jinping and President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, the FOCAC co-chair, will jointly invite all the leaders of the forum members to attend the summit.

Building on the success of Johannesburg Summit, we are willing to strengthen communication and consultation with our African friends to elevate the FOCAC Beijing Summit to a new level. We hope to, through the joint construction of the “Belt and Road” between China and Africa, inject fresh and strong impetus into China-Africa mutually beneficial cooperation and elevate it to a new level.

China-Africa cooperation has always been open and transparent. China welcomes the concerted efforts made by the international community to support Africa in achieving peace, stability and development. Some allegations by some people in the international community however, are biased and not fact-based, and we frankly don’t agree. Take the concessionary loan provided by China to African countries. Has it increased the debt burden of countries concerned? Are there any political considerations behind it? The answers are definitely negative, contrary to the claim. That kind of claim, I should say, is full of groundless words with an attempt out of ulterior motives.

In recent years China has indeed increased its financing support to African countries including Nigeria, with China-Africa cooperation having been increasingly expanded and deepened. However, as Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi made it very clear during his visit to Africa early this year, it needs to be stressed that China has always adhered to the following principles in this process:

First, the response made to the development demand of Africa itself. Any country has huge capital demand at the initial stage of economic take-off and industrialization and Africa is of no exception. Based on the wishes put forward by the African countries, China provides financing support within its due capacity and offers timely assistance to the economic and social development of the African countries, which has been unanimously recognized and welcomed by all countries.

Second, never attach any political conditions. Like African countries, China had a painful experience of having its economy under the control of the foreign countries and then suffering unfair treatment and even being exploited and oppressed. Therefore, China will never do what the western countries have done or impose its will on others no matter in assistance or cooperation, but will always respect and work together with Africa, considering both righteousness and benefit with the former as the top priority.

Third, stick to the principle of mutual benefit and win-win results. The nature of China-Africa cooperation is South-South cooperation, one of whose major characteristics is equal treatment, mutual benefit and win-win results. Only by doing in this way can sustainable and long-term cooperation be achieved and common development of both sides realized. To this end, the financing support provided by China to Africa must undergo serious feasibility studies and market-oriented arguments to ensure that each cooperation project can achieve the desired economic and social effects.

The current debt owned by some African countries was accumulated over a long period of time instead of occurring in recent years. China is not a main creditor of African countries. The solution to debt issues is to achieve diversified economic development by taking the path of sustainable development. China firmly supports this solution. China’s financing support to Africa is mainly invested in infrastructure construction and the productive field.

The Chinese companies have built a large number of infrastructure projects such as highways, railways, ports, airports and communications facilities in Africa, which greatly improved the environment for Africa’s economic development, added to its appeal to foreign investment and enhanced its capability to achieve self-driven development. In addition to loans, the Chinese government is more inclined to encourage and guide Chinese enterprises to increase their direct investment in Africa and has offered support in this regard, and actively explores new investment cooperation model such as the Public-Private Partnership (PPP).

China always attaches high importance to Africa’s debt sustainability. We are committed to intensive development. The large infrastructure projects are planned and moved forward along with promoting Africa’s industrial development. While pursuing the economic and social benefits of the relevant projects, we have also laid emphasis on enhancing African countries’ capability for independent and sustainable development so as to avoid adding to African countries’ debt burden.

There is a saying in China that “Only your feet can tell whether your shoes are suitable or not”. Africa has the best say on China’s cooperation with Africa. There is another saying in China that “Justice naturally inhabits man’s heart”. African people will have their own judgment and naturally come to the fair conclusion that who helps Africa sincerely and who is the most reliable partner of Africa. We hope that relevant countries can contribute more to Africa’s development and view China-Africa cooperation in a fair and objective way.

As the FOCAC Beijing Summit draws near, we believe we will surely be able to open up broader prospects for China-Africa comprehensive strategic partnership irrespective of detractors and distractions, as long as we adhere to the principle of shared growth through consultation and collaboration.

  • Dr. Zhou Pingjian is Ambassador of China to Nigeria