|Take the New Type of China-Africa Strategic Partnership to a New High|
The fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) will be held in Beijing from 19 to 20 July. It is yet another major event in the friendly relations and cooperation between China and Africa.
Since its inception in 2000, FOCAC has grown into the premier mechanism for collective dialogue and practical cooperation between China and Africa in the new era. It has enabled China-Africa cooperation to expand in scale and scope and advance to a higher level. In particular, the Beijing Summit and third Ministerial Conference of FOCAC in 2006 marked a milestone in China-Africa relations, as it launched a new type of strategic partnership between China and Africa featuring political equality and mutual trust, economic win-win cooperation and cultural exchanges and mutual learning.
The upcoming Ministerial Conference will be the first of its kind in the second decade of the 21st century. State leaders from China and some African countries will attend the opening ceremony. Ministers of foreign affairs and economic cooperation from China and 50 African countries as well as the chairperson of the African Union Commission will participate in the Conference. Under the theme of "build on past achievements and open up new prospects for the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership", the Conference will take full stock of the implementation of the outcomes of the fourth Ministerial Conference held in Egypt in 2009 and draw the blueprint for China-Africa relations in the coming three years.
The last three years have seen fast growth of China-Africa relations, with rich results in many areas:
The two sides have enhanced political mutual trust. There were more frequent high-level exchanges and a deepening of all levels of exchanges and cooperation across the board. President Hu Jintao and other State and Party leaders of China paid visits to Africa. China's relations with friendly African countries and regional organizations such as the AU enjoyed all-round development. China firmly supported Africa in seeking strength from unity and promoting the integration process. The dedication of the AU Conference Center built by China won the acclaim of the African side and stands as a new symbol of China-Africa friendship. China took an active part in resolving issues affecting peace and security in Africa, and supported African countries in safeguarding national independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty as well as choosing development paths and solving regional issues independently. African countries continued to give firm support to China on issues concerning its core and major interests.
The two sides have enjoyed fruitful practical cooperation. As a fellow developing country, China empathized with African countries hit by the international financial crisis. Despite the many difficulties confronting China, China earnestly implemented all the follow-up actions of the fourth Ministerial Conference, including scaling up assistance, providing concessional loans, canceling debts and tariffs, earmarking special loans for African SMEs, building schools, hospitals and agricultural technology demonstration centers, and sending agricultural experts. In 2011, China-Africa trade reached a record high of US$166.3 billion, and China remained Africa's largest trading partner for the third consecutive year. More than 2,000 Chinese companies were established in Africa with direct investment totaling US$14.7 billion.
The two sides have conducted dynamic people-to-people exchanges. Recent years witnessed increasingly active cultural and people-to-people exchanges between China and Africa and strong expansion of their cooperation in education, science and technology, health and human resources. A variety of programs were launched, notably the "China-Africa culture in focus", joint research and exchange plan, think tank forum, people's forum and young leaders forum. The two sides jointly established 29 Confucius Institutes or Classrooms in over 20 African countries. Every year, the Chinese government provides more than 5,000 scholarships to African countries and trains over 6,000 African professionals in various fields.
The two sides have carried out closer cooperation in international affairs. China firmly supported a bigger role for African countries in international affairs, advocated a greater representation and say of African countries in the UN and other international institutions, supported the participation of African countries in multilateral affairs such as the G20, and actively supported South Africa in joining the BRICS mechanism. China called upon the international community to pay greater attention to the issue of African development, honor commitments of aid to African countries, help Africa attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and earnestly accommodate Africa's concerns regarding the WTO Doha Round negotiations, reform of the international financial system and sustainable development. China and Africa also conducted in-depth and fruitful cooperation on climate change to safeguard the common interests of developing countries.
All these are proof that the establishment and growth of the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership is conducive to bringing out the complementary strengths of China and Africa so that we can achieve common prosperity and progress. It is conducive to focusing international attention on Africa and helping Africa attain the MDGs at an early date. It is conducive to catalyzing South-South cooperation and enhancing the status of developing countries in the international political and economic architecture. It is conducive to promoting democracy in international relations and justice in the international order and to building a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity.
The world today is experiencing major development, major change and major adjustment. Peace, development and cooperation is a stronger trend than before. Yet new challenges keep emerging. The world economic situation remains complex and challenging. Turbulence persists in some regions. Uneven development continues unabated. Africa has maintained overall peace, stability and development, yet it also faces more uncertainties and factors of instability. People in all African countries desire to achieve enduring peace and stability, accelerate self-generated development, seek strength from unity and promote international cooperation.
China and Africa are good friends, good partners and good brothers. To consolidate and strengthen friendship and cooperation with African countries has always been an important component of China's independent foreign policy of peace. Under the new situation, China will remain committed to working with African countries to advance the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership and make greater contribution to the peace and development of Africa and beyond.
China will remain firmly committed to China-Africa friendship. We will enhance political exchanges and dialogue and share governance experience with African countries. We will intensify cooperation with Africa on issues related to Africa's peace, security and regional integration. We see it as our duty to uphold solidarity and cooperation of developing countries, and will maintain communication and coordination with Africa on major international issues and deepen our mutual understanding and support. Through these efforts, we will carry forward the cause of China-Africa friendship and our mutual trust will grow even stronger in the course of cooperation.
China will remain firmly committed to deepening practical cooperation with Africa. We will seize the opportunities presented by the accelerated development of China and Africa to expand the scope, innovate the ways and enhance the quality of our cooperation. We will bear in mind both current and long-term needs and lay greater emphasis on helping Africa build development capacity when providing assistance. We will advance China-Africa cooperation in a way that contributes to Africa's self-generated and sustainable development and brings about greater benefits to both sides.
China will remain firmly committed to enhancing people-to-people and cultural exchanges with Africa. Such exchanges will have a more important place in China-Africa relations. We will establish more exchange platforms and flagship programs. We will have more direct exchanges between Chinese and African cultural entities, media organizations, NGOs, and think tanks, thus nurturing a favorable public opinion environment and social foundation for sound and stable China-Africa relations.
China will remain firmly committed to making FOCAC a continued success. In the spirit of innovation and keeping pace with the changing times, we will improve FOCAC institutions, enrich its substance and create more highlights. We will adopt cooperation proposals that meet the call of our time and the need of the two sides, so that FOCAC will continue to be the standard-bearer for China-Africa relations, an effective platform for strengthening our dialogue and communication and an important engine driving practical cooperation between China and Africa.
"Good friends value the promise they make, even if it means traveling a thousand miles to meet." Convened once every three years, the FOCAC Ministerial Conference is a promise between China and Africa. It is friendship that will bring our African friends to Beijing, to join their Chinese brothers and sisters. Now, the stage is set for the fifth Ministerial Conference, and expectation is high on both sides. I believe that, with our joint efforts, the Conference will be a great success, one that will take the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership to a new level.
(The author is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China and the Honorary Co-Chair of the Chinese Follow-up Committee of FOCAC)