Partners in Development
China and Africa embrace common development
cooperate with each other in diverse fields, including energy
By HE WENPING
|CLOSER TIES: Chinese
President Hu Jintao meets with Morocco’s King Mohammed
VI during his Africa tour in April this year
A new milestone in the history of China-Africa
relations will be created when African leaders gather in Beijing
with their Chinese counterparts for the first summit of the Forum
on China-Africa Cooperation and its Third Ministerial Conference
in early November.
Africa is high on China’s diplomatic agenda
this year. To date, four major events have thrust China-Africa relations
into the media spotlight at home and abroad. Chinese Foreign Minister
Li Zhaoxing kicked off a tour to Cape Verde, Senegal, Mali, Liberia,
Nigeria and Libya on January 11. The Chinese Government released
China’s African Policy, its first ever policy paper on Africa,
on January 12. President Hu Jintao visited Morocco, Nigeria and
Kenya April 24-29. Premier Wen Jiabao toured Egypt, Ghana, Republic
of the Congo, Angola, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda through
The series of events speak of the great importance
the Chinese Government and leaders attach to China-Africa relations.
At the same time, they are indicative of the fact that China-Africa
relations have moved into an era of rapid development characterized
by cooperation, half a century after the establishment of bilateral
With the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s,
Africa lost its much-valued geopolitical status. As a result, the
attention the West devotes to Africa has been constantly on the
decline. The continent is being marginalized in the diplomatic strategies
of major Western countries. However, China is as always committed
to developing relations with Africa. While cementing their economic
and trade ties that began to expand in the 1980s, China sees great
value in fostering an across-the-board relationship with Africa
by forging closer political, cultural and educational links.
The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, established
in 2000, provides an institutionalized platform for enhancing bilateral
exchanges and cooperation. China’s African Policy white paper
and the suggestions raised by Hu on developing a new type of China-Africa
strategic partnership during his Africa trip in April have not only
clearly defined the nature of China-Africa relations but also charted
the future course for the relations.
|BUILDING A PARTNERSHIP:
A Chinese man works on the Chinese-financed Merowe
Dam in Sudan, the largest hydropower project in Africa
The new-type China-Africa strategic partnership
features cooperation in the political, economic, cultural and security
fields as well as in international affairs. In the political sphere,
China and Africa have always been equal strategic partners that
trust and support each other. China respects African countries’
right to choose the path of development independently.
It supports these countries’ efforts to
seek renewal through strengthening unity. It also takes an active
part in the international efforts to promote peace and development
in Africa. African countries, for their part, support the one-China
policy and are opposed to Western countries’ interference
in China’s internal affairs in the name of “human rights.”
China has been ready to offer material and moral
support to the African national liberation movement and their struggle
against imperialism, colonialism and racism since the 1950s and
1960s. In recent years, it has participated in UN peacekeeping operations
in Africa. To date, it has dispatched more than 3,000 peacekeepers
on 12 UN missions in Africa. Today, over 850 Chinese service people
are working on eight missions there.
In 1971, the People’s Republic of China
was restored to its lawful seat in the UN thanks to the support
of African countries. With their support, China has defeated 11
consecutive anti-China motions tabled by Western countries in UN
human rights sessions and prevented 14 proposals raised on the General
Committee before the annual UN General Assembly for Taiwan to “rejoin
or participate in the UN” from getting on the formal agenda
since 1990. They also helped China frustrate Taiwan authorities’
attempts to access international organizations that only sovereign
states are entitled to join.
Economically, China and Africa are mutually
complementary partners that benefit each other. Africa is a promising
continent with rich natural and human resources and a huge market.
However, having suffered from colonialism and regional conflicts,
it is still mired in economic backwardness and lacks the funds,
technology and experience for development. China has achieved a
remarkable economic growth since the advent of economic reforms
more than 20 years ago.
China has sent 16,000 medical personnel to 47 African
countries since 1963
Despite the progress, it faces new problems
such as a severe energy shortage and escalating competition in its
domestic market. Given these factors, the Chinese Government encourages
Chinese firms to invest in Africa in various fields such as trade,
agriculture, infrastructure construction, mining and tourism while
offering an increasing amount of assistance with no political strings
To date, China has spent 44.4 billion yuan assisting
African countries with over 800 projects, including textile factories,
hydropower stations, stadiums, hospitals and schools. At present,
trade between China and Africa is undergoing rapid growth. The bilateral
trade volume rose from $12.11 million in the 1950s to $10.5 billion
in 2000 and $29.4 billion in 2004. In recent years, in particular,
China has increased imports from African countries and thus maintained
a trade deficit with them, enabling these countries to earn a large
amount of foreign exchange.
In an effort to facilitate the country’s
access to African goods, China exempted the tariffs on 190 categories
of goods from the 29 least developed African countries. Under this
policy, these countries’ exports of such goods to China more
than doubled last year. In 2005, Africa posted a trade surplus of
$2.4 billion with China. In addition, China canceled 156 debts owed
by 31 heavily indebted African countries totaling 10.5 billion yuan.
In recent years, Chinese firms have redoubled
their efforts to penetrate the African market. To date, direct Chinese
investment in Africa has reached $1.25 billion. Over 800 companies
are currently operating in Africa, engaged in trade, manufacturing,
natural resource exploitation, transportation, agriculture and agricultural
processing. Chinese companies have helped create employment opportunities
in African countries, increase their tax revenues, introduce practical
technologies to these countries, enhance the competence of local
workers and improve their productivity.
On the cultural front, China and Africa should
become equal partners that jointly promote the prosperity and progress
of human civilization. China and Africa are both origins of human
civilization, each boasting a brilliant cultural heritage. At its
source, African culture has a lot in common with Chinese culture.
For example, both value community spirit and the tradition of yielding
personal benefits to the interests of the community. Given these
common values, China and Africa are expected to further strengthen
their cultural linkages with a view to building a harmonious world
where different civilizations coexist in the spirit of tolerance
and equality while learning from each other.
a broader sense, cultural exchange is not limited to exchanging
students and teachers and holding arts performances and exhibitions.
Chinese medical teams and other flourishing programs such as China’s
training of African workers and the exchange of experiences in pursuing
development are also part of the China-Africa cultural exchange.
In the field of security, China and Africa should
enhance exchanges and consultation, thus raising the awareness of
collective security in the international community, promoting a
new security concept featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality
and cooperation and shaping an international environment favorable
for common development. China also needs to strengthen cooperation
with African countries in the nontraditional security field, such
as preventing major infectious diseases including bird flu and addressing
cross-border crimes so that they can jointly deal with the challenges
posed by globalization. China is expected to devote more resources
to UN-led peacekeeping operations, thereby playing a greater role
in the resolution of international conflicts and disputes in Africa.
Africa is an important player in international
affairs. China and Africa share a broad consensus on major international
issues. They have traditionally cooperated with each other in this
regard. Enhanced coordination on these matters serves the common
interests of both sides. They are expected to step up collaboration
to promote multilateralism and democracy in international relations
and UN reform and work together for peace and harmony in the world.
A new type of strategic relationship between
China, the largest developing country in the world, and Africa,
a continent that has the greatest concentration of developing countries,
not only serves the interests of the two sides but also helps promote
South-South cooperation and the common prosperity of developing
countries. In the context of the widening gap between the North
and South and the looming terrorist threat, the common prosperity
of developing countries and their sharing of the fruits of globalization
have far-reaching implications for world peace and development.
Western media have of late paid special attention
to the rapidly developing China-Africa relations, especially their
cooperation in the energy field. They have made a big fuss about
China grabbing Africa’s oil resources and pursuing neocolonialism
in Africa. Whenever a Chinese leader visited Africa, they tended
to label the visit “an energy journey,” or “an
As a large developing country with a huge population
and a lack of resources, China certainly needs to import oil to
meet the growing domestic needs. Since it became a net oil importer
in 1993, China has intensified efforts to secure energy in the international
market by forging mutually beneficial cooperation with many countries,
including African countries. China has never denied this, nor is
it necessary for it to do so.
In fact, unlike colonialists who plundered Africa
for its resources by brutal means, China cooperates with African
countries on the basis of their mutual demands and in line with
the principle of mutual benefit. The cooperation does not target
any third party, either. Take the oil exploration agreement reached
when President Hu visited Nigeria in April for example. Nigeria
granted licenses to China National Petroleum Corp. to prospect in
four oil blocks in the country. Two of them are located in the oil-rich
Niger Delta, whereas the other two lie in the harsh, unexplored
Lake Chad Basin.
The Chinese company poses no threat to the interests
of multinational companies in Nigeria. Instead, it will help Nigeria
explore its virgin lands, while diversifying its foreign investment
sources. More importantly, China made commitments to invest $4 billion
in the construction of related infrastructure and $5 million in
purchasing anti-malaria medicine, training Nigerian malaria and
bird flu control personnel and conducting technical cooperation
in this field.
At present, five major multinational companies
dominate Nigerian oil production. Some Nigerian scholars have noted
that Western countries are only interested in investing in strategically
important oil resources rather than in developing Nigeria’s
manufacturing industry. While exploiting oil resources, they do
not take effective measures to protect the environment, resulting
in widespread ecological degradation and worsening the living conditions
of local residents. Worse still, the oil companies have long neglected
the maintenance of oil pipelines. As a result, farmland polluted
by oil leaked from the pipelines became infertile.
Apart from energy cooperation, Chinese companies
cooperate with Nigeria in a variety of other areas such as agriculture,
infrastructure construction, electricity and telecommunications.
The Nigerian Government and China’s Guangdong Xinguang International
Group signed an agreement worth $2 billion to improve Nigeria’s
railways early this year. Nigeria earned $500 million from China
from its non-oil exports last year.
With regard to China’s energy cooperation
with Sudan, a hot-button issue in Western media, Chinese companies
started to explore for energy resources in Sudan in the mid-1990s.
By the end of 2003, their investment totaled $2.7 billion, with
which they built 1,506 km of oil pipelines, a crude oil processing
plant with a capacity of 2.5 million tons a year and several gas
With the Chinese investment, Sudan turned itself
from an oil importing country into an oil exporting country. More
importantly, it established its own oil industry consisting of prospecting,
exploitation, refining and transportation facilities and sales networks
with China’s help. In addition, China spent over $20 million
in building schools and hospitals for the country.
In contrast, Shell has been engaged in oil exploitation
in Nigeria for over 50 years. Nigeria still exports crude oil and
imports gasoline. Not owning any oil production and processing facilities,
it remains a raw material exporting country.
Actions speak louder than words. What China
has done in Africa has shown that it seeks mutual benefit in energy
cooperation. It provides African countries with capital and technology
that are indispensable to the exploitation of energy resources.
At the same time, it helps these countries become real masters of
The author is Director of the Division of African Studies
of the Institute of West Asian and African Studies, Chinese Academy
of Social Sciences
Population: 1.3 billion (2005)
Land Area: 9.6 million square km
GDP: $2.3 trillion (2005)
GDP Growth: 10.2 percent (2005)
Source: National Bureau of Statistics of China (www.stats.gov.cn)
is situated in the eastern part of the Asian continent
on the western coast of the Pacific. It is the largest country
in Asia and the third largest in the world, next to Russia
The Chinese territory is around 5,500
km from the middle of the Heilongjiang River north of Mohe,
Heilongjiang Province, in the north to Zengmu Ansha of the
Nansha Islands in the south, and stretches for some 5,000
km from the confluence of the Heilongjiang and Wusulijiang
rivers in the east to the Pamirs Plateau in the west. The
land boundary extends for 22,800 km.
China has vast adjacent seas, with its
mainland facing the Bohai Sea (nearly 80,000 square km), the
Yellow Sea (380,000 square km), the East China Sea (770,000
square km) and the South China Sea (3.5 million square km)
to the east and south. The area of China’s territorial
seas stands at 380,000 square km. China has under its jurisdiction
6,961 islands, each having an area of over 500 square meters,
with 433 of them being inhabited. In line with the principle
of “one country, two systems,” another 411 islands
are now under the jurisdiction of Taiwan and the Hong Kong
and Macao special administrative regions. The mainland coastline
is 18,000 km and that of the islands 14,000 km, giving China
a total coastline distance of 32,000 km, the eighth longest
in the world.
China enjoys a prominent monsoon climate.
It also sees various other types of climate due to its vast
territory, complicated topography and great disparity in elevation.
ON CHINA-AFRICA COOPERATION (FOCAC) is a platform
established by China and friendly African countries for collective
consultation and dialogue as well as a cooperation mechanism
between the developing countries. The First Ministerial Conference
of FOCAC was held in Beijing October 10-12, 2000. The conference
charted the direction for the development of a new, stable
and long-term partnership featuring equality and mutual benefit
between China and African countries, with the issuance of
the Beijing Declaration of the FOCAC and the Program for China-Africa
Cooperation in Economic and Social Development.
The Second Ministerial Conference of FOCAC
was convened in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, December
15-16, 2003, with the theme of “Pragmatic and Action-Oriented
Cooperation.” The FOCAC Addis Ababa Action Plan (2004-2006)
adopted at the conference mapped out a program for China-Africa
cooperation in the political, economic, trade, social development
and other spheres from 2004 to 2006. The First China-Africa
Business Conference was held in parallel with the Second FOCAC
Ministerial Conference. Over 500 Chinese and African entrepreneurs
attended the conference, signing 21 cooperation agreements
worth $1 billion.
Population: 904. 8 million (2005)
Land Area: 30.3 million square km
GDP: $719.6 billion (2005 at constant
2000 market prices)
Real GDP Growth: 4.9 percent (2005)
Source: African Development Bank
is the second largest and second most populous
continent in the world after Asia. The continent is surrounded
by the Indian Ocean to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the
west, the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Suez Canal
and Red Sea to the northeast. From the most northerly point,
Ras ben Sakka in Tunisia, to the most southerly point, Cape
Agulhas in South Africa, is a distance of approximately 8,000
km. From Cape Verde, the westernmost point, to Ras Hafun in
Somalia, the most easterly projection, is a distance of approximately
The coastline, 30,500 km long, is relatively
flat and straight, with few bays and peninsulas. Africa has
fewer islands than any other continent in the world. Except
for Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island, all
African islands are small. The combined area of the islands
is about 620,000 square km, accounting for less than 3 percent
of the total area of Africa.
Africa straddles the equator and encompasses
numerous variations in climate. Generally, however, temperatures
are high; areas with an annual average temperature of 20 degrees
Celsius or above account for 95 percent of the continent.
of China-Africa Relations
1956 Egypt became the first African country to establish
diplomatic relations with China. By the early 1960s, over
10 African countries, including Morocco, Algeria, Sudan and
Guinea, had established diplomatic relations with China.
December 1963-June 1965
Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai made three visits to Africa, inspiring
a large number of African countries to seek diplomatic relations
with the People’s Republic. By the end of the 1970s,
44 of the 50 independent African countries had entered into
diplomatic relations with China. Today, China enjoys diplomatic
ties with 48 of the 53 African countries.
July 1976 The Tanzania-Zambia
Railway opened to traffic. The 1,860-km railway built with
Chinese assistance has been hailed as a monument of China-Africa
May 1996 Chinese President
Jiang Zemin visited Kenya, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mali, Namibia
and Zimbabwe. He proposed developing a China-Africa relationship
toward the 21st century characterized by “long-term
stability and all-around cooperation” when delivering
a speech at the headquarters of the Organization of African
Unity in Addis Ababa.
October 2000 The Forum
for China-Africa Cooperation was created to expand cooperation
and promote common development.
January 2006 The Chinese
Government issued its China’s African Policy white paper,
its first ever policy paper on strengthening across-the-board
cooperation with Africa.
April 2006 Chinese President
Hu Jintao visited Morocco, Nigeria and Kenya. Addressing the
National Assembly in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, he put
forward proposals on establishing “a new type of China-Africa