By Charles Onunaiju
The extraordinary rise of China is unprecedented in world history and the biggest geopolitical development of the first two decades of the 21st century; it is likely to continue to be so for decades to come — Retd. Gen. David Petraeus, U.S Army
ONE of China’s foremost and strategic thinkers, Zheng Bijian, coined the phrase of “peaceful rise” to describe the exponential growth of modern China following reforms and opening-up to the outside world in the early 1980s and 1990s. The phrase was later modified to “peaceful development,” since a “rise” implied that someone else is on the “fall”.
However, whether it is “rise of China” as used by the U.S former Army General, Mr. David Petraeus or the contemporary “peaceful development,” one thing that is clear is that the former director of U.S intelligence service, CIA, was not exaggerating when he observed that China’s development “is unprecedented in world history and the biggest geopolitical development of the first two decades of the 21st century.”
The past nineteen years of the 21st century has been epochal for China as its enigmatic breakout to popular universal consciousness, continue to hold and grow. Also, the pragmatic phase of Africa-China cooperation at the turn of the 21st century, with the founding of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, FOCAC, in 2000, opened a fresh vista in international relations to a fact that practical cooperation and a partnership founded on the historic five principles of peaceful co-existence can bring more tangible benefits than construction of alliances. China and Africa have elevated cooperation to a new paradigm of international relations.
Still a work in progress, the first twenty years of the 21st century has demonstrated that nations and regions with considerably different social systems and paths of development can actually build a consensus on the pragmatic contents of their cooperation and drive a process of consultation and engagement through institutionalized dialogue mechanism. This feature of twenty first century international diplomacy is a particular contribution of China and Africa to the emerging multi-polar global order and is also highly commended to the major powers relations. Beyond the consultative framework of China-Africa cooperation, the practical and tangible outcomes in fixing the important issues of Africa’s development has been clearly and sufficiently documented. Africa’s surging profile on the international platform owes a lot to the re-discovered momentum of internal regeneration but has benefited enormously from the strategic comprehensive cooperation with China enabling the two sides to tap considerably from their respective comparative advantages.
China-Africa relation in the first quarter of the 21st century has provided a pivotal paradigm to redefine international relations away from conflicts to consultations and cooperation, giving humanity an opportunity to construct a community of shared future and even destiny. The idea of a shared future for all humanity has found a practical road-map of international cooperation, underpinned by elaborate infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, deepening financial integration and people to people cooperation among countries in the international system.
Extensive consultations, joint contribution and shared benefits would characterize the emerging framework of international cooperation of the “Silk Road Economic Belt,” and the 21st century maritime Silk Road,” initiated by the Peoples Republic of China but now owned by the world. Since the Belt and Road Initiative was announced about six years ago in 2013, the world has considerably changed. Across Asia and through to Europe and Africa, either with rail tracks, port renovations, highways, air links, or fiber optics laid across vast oceans to the Americas, travel time, business cost are considerably being reduced, generating more robust and inclusive economic activities that are taking down unemployment and generally brightening up the human prospects.
According to a recent study “an evaluation of the Belt and Road Initiative by the World Bank provides a sense of the astonishing scale and impact of the programme. Shipment times would fall by an average of almost 12 per cent in countries that are part of the initiative, while trade costs would fall more than 10 per cent. The figures are so large that they would have an impact on global trade, bringing down shipment times and aggregate trade costs by as much as 2.5 per cent for the world economy as a whole.”
At the 2018 summit of the Forum of China-Africa cooperation held in Beijing, more than two dozens of African countries signed the memorandum to jointly participate in the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative, vowing along with China, to bring on board, the deep historical cooperation between the two sides to energize the Belt and Road Initiative, and add its innovative vigour to the already productive mechanism of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, FOCAC.
The Belt and Road Initiative whose key component of infrastructure connectivity, have found a solid resonance in Africa, has already affected the economic outlook of the region. A study by an international management consortium, the Mckinsey & Company in 2017 found that the famed Africa’s potentials are being systematically translated to reality, like no other time in history as a result of China-Africa cooperation.
The past two decades of the 21st century have demonstrated enormous creative vitality in the cooperation between the two sides, and drawing strength from the pragmatic cooperation would open new vistas offering more opportunities to both sides. Despite lingering uncertainties about some misuses in the international arena, the certainty of China-Africa cooperation would continue to illuminate the paths and inevitably brighten the prospects of the human condition.
Beijing has categorically immersed herself in the world, linking her national prospects to the immense possibilities of the humankind, inevitably and robustly engaging the world in the firm understanding that the path to her sustainable prosperity would be more creatively paved by a prosperous world that is at peace with itself.