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Over 2m annual visits between China and Africa enough to cement better friendship, says Chen, China foreign ministry chief

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It is my great pleasure to join you in the seventh China-Africa Think Tank Forum. On behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, let me begin by expressing warm congratulations on the opening of the forum and a most sincere welcome to all our guests, particularly those from Africa who have overcome long distances to be here.

This forum is held at a most opportune time in this 40th anniversary year of China’s reform and opening-up, a year that will also see Chinese and African leaders gather for the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) this coming September. The theme of this year’s forum—China-Africa Relations over the Course of Reform and Opening-up—is highly relevant as China and Africa have a shared desire to explore development paths independently and to build a closer community for a shared future. I hope you will engage in free, open and in-depth discussions and contribute ideas on the FOCAC Beijing Summit and the development of China-Africa relations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Friends,

President Xi Jinping noted at the Boao Forum for Asia last April that “over the last four decades, the Chinese people have embraced the world with open arms and made active contributions to the world”. Let me say that the last 40 years has not only seen China achieving common progress with the rest of the world, but also witnessed China and Africa forging ahead, side by side, shoulder to shoulder.

Over the past four decades, our political relations have grown from strength to strength on the basis of strong strategic trust. Enjoying a long history of profound friendship, China and Africa have lent each other a helping hand whenever needed and worked steadily to elevate our relationship. At the FOCAC Johannesburg Summit in 2015, we announced a comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership between China and Africa. To date, China has established comprehensive strategic partnerships or strategic partnerships with 24 African countries. Blessed by the guidance of our leaders, China-Africa partnership is operating at a high level, evidenced by closer strategic communication and coordination, stronger mutual understanding and support, and greater experience sharing in governance and development.

Over the past four decades, our economic cooperation has achieved phenomenal growth on the strength of interwoven interests. Trade between us has grown more than 200-fold, jumping to USD 170 billion from merely USD 765 million 40 years ago. China has been Africa’s biggest trading partner for many years running. The last 40 years has seen Chinese investment in Africa grow from scratch to a cumulative stock of USD 110 billion. What is more, three encouraging shifts are taking place in our cooperation: from government-driven to market-driven, from trade in goods to also include manufacturing cooperation, and from project contracts to capital investment and operations. These shifts will give a real boost to Africa’s sustainable development.

Over the past four decades, our people-to-people ties have expanded, always generating fresh impetus to China-Africa friendship. Currently, nearly two million visits are made between the two sides every year. There are 133 pairs of sister provinces or cities between China and African countries. China has opened more than 80 Confucius Institutes or classrooms in 41 African countries, and 27 African countries have stationed journalists in China. Take last year for example, the two sides held more than 100 exchange events and implemented some 200 projects connecting our peoples.

Over the past four decades, our close cooperation on international and regional issues has been instrumental to upholding our common interests. At the UN Security Council, for example, China has often spoken in defense of African countries. China’s constructive role in promoting international and regional security and stability has been welcomed and applauded by African countries. China firmly supports African countries in addressing African issues by themselves and, in this context, China has actively participated in peace and security affairs in Africa. With over 2,000 of its peacekeepers in five UN operations, China sends more peacekeepers to UN operations than any other permanent member of the Security Council.

A few weeks ago, a conference on work relating to foreign affairs was held in Beijing, which established “Xi Jinping thought on diplomacy” as a fundamental principle and a guide to action for China’s distinctive major-country diplomacy in the new era. You may recall that when visiting Africa in 2013, President Xi proposed “sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith” as the guideline for China-Africa relations, and offered to pursue both the greater good and shared interests in relation to Africa. His proposal, built on China’s decades-long approach to Africa, has produced far-reaching impact on the development of China’s relations with Africa and the developing world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Friends,

China and Africa have walked an extraordinary path in developing our relations and cooperation, and our peoples have benefited a lot. What we have accomplished together is for the whole world to see. Yet a minority of Westerners, blinded by their own “pride and prejudice”, choose not to see it. Being long used to patronizing us and pointing fingers at us, they often disparage our cooperation and recently whipped up the so-called “debt problem” by accusing China of “miring nations in debt” and “undercutting their sovereignty”. Maybe there is more than a hint of “sour grapes” here?

The fact is, China-Africa cooperation, path-breaking in many respects, is based on solid principles. It is universally welcomed and supported by the African countries. The following three things set China-Africa cooperation apart:

First, China’s cooperation with Africa has no political strings attached. China respects the will and needs of African countries. We cooperate as equals. No one party imposes its own terms on, or lectures, or exports models to the others, or attaches political strings to our cooperation. This is the hallmark of China’s cooperation with Africa, one that sets it apart from that pursued by some Western countries.

Second, China’s cooperation with Africa is a boost to local economic and social development. The debt problem in some African countries is the result of multiple factors and not unique to them. It is a “growing pain” that naturally emerges in the process of development and  can only be eliminated in the course of further development. As the Chinese often say, it is better to teach people how to fish than just give them fish. Guided by this philosophy, China is taking the initiative to align its development plan with those of African countries, helping them to build capacity for home-grown development, and undertaking a large number of projects that will make a big difference to economies and lives in Africa.

Third, China’s cooperation with Africa is economically viable and win-win in nature. China understands the importance of debt sustainability in Africa and is helping Africa to improve its investment environment. As China’s financing to Africa is provided in a responsible manner, the associated risks are generally under control. China empathizes with Africa’s situation and tries to help Africa contain debt risks and relieve the pressure of repayment through encouraging its companies to make more direct investment to Africa and exploring new models such as public-private partnership (PPP).

Facts speak louder than words and fair-minded people can tell right from wrong. The benefits of China-Africa cooperation are abundantly clear. No one will ever buy the irresponsible slanders made by a handful of countries. Many African governments and individuals have come forward to say so. China sincerely hopes that those countries will do more for Africa’s development, rather than assigning blame.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Friends,

With the FOCAC Beijing Summit to be expected in September, this is a big year for China-Africa partnership. Both sides will capitalize on the momentum generated by the summit to chart the way forward. Discussions under the theme of “China and Africa: Toward an Even Stronger Community with a Shared Future through Win-Win Cooperation” will surely propel China-Africa relations and cooperation in sync with our times.

The Beijing Summit will reinvigorate our joint effort to build a community with a shared future for mankind. As you know, the overarching vision of China’s diplomacy is to build a new model of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind. China and Africa have shared weal and woe together and see our future as interwoven. This is why we must champion and act on this vision. At  the summit, we will work for an even stronger China-Africa community for a shared future by laying out a master plan, seeking the guidance of our leaders, building consensus and coordinating our actions.

The Beijing Summit will also catalyze our joint effort to advance the Belt and Road Initiative. The summit provides an opportunity to align this initiative with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Agenda 2063 and the development plans of African countries. The summit will bring together Chinese capital, technology, equipment and talent and Africa’s natural resources, demographic dividends and market potential. To do this, we will roll out new measures of cooperation, measures that will deliver more win-win results to both sides.

We are pleased to note that preparation for the summit is on track. African leaders responded enthusiastically to the invitation, and many have confirmed their participation. They look forward to discussing plans for China-Africa cooperation in Beijing. We have no doubt that, with the close collaboration of the two sides, the Beijing Summit will become another milestone in China-Africa relations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Friends,

Think-tank cooperation is part and parcel of China-Africa cooperation. In recent years, we have tried meaningful things in this area and held a series of high-quality exchanges, including this forum. These activities have fostered a positive atmosphere in both academia and society for stronger China-Africa relations. On the other hand, the scale and effectiveness of our cooperation still fall short of the needs generated by the fast-growing China-Africa relations and do not do justice to the role of China-Africa cooperation in catalyzing international cooperation with Africa. In a fast-changing world, the contest for greater say in international affairs has become more intense. China-Africa relations and cooperation must grapple with a more complex media and public opinion environment. Together, we must figure out a way to deepen and add more substance to our think-tank cooperation. If we are to provide more intellectual support for China-Africa relations, have our deserved say in the world and spread the story of our cooperation, this is crucial.

Before I conclude, let me take a moment to offer a few thoughts to  this forum and on cooperation between Chinese and African think tanks:

First, the world and our respective regions are changing rapidly. I encourage you to keep abreast of the change and draw on the good experience of think tanks worldwide. By developing new approaches to cooperation that suit us, Chinese and African think tanks can contribute more to the building of a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind.

Second, I encourage you to focus on China-Africa relations. We  welcome good ideas and suggestions that address the challenges and issues in China-Africa cooperation. Targeted and practical proposals that are the result of field visits and intense work are particularly welcome.

And third, I encourage you to lend your voice to the bright future of China-Africa relations and help shape a narrative that reflects our shared values. It would also help if you could step forward to debunk false stories about China-Africa cooperation whenever they arise.

As China-Africa relations and cooperation continue to flourish, I see enormous opportunity and great prospects for collaboration between Chinese and African think tanks. I hope and believe that this forum will be a continuing success and spread the voice of China and Africa.

Finally, I wish the seventh China-Africa Think-Tank Forum a resounding success.

 

Thank you!

Being text of address by China deputy foreign minister, Chen Xiaodong at the China Africa Think Tank Forum held in Beijing this week

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