This year marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). On 12 October, President Xi Jinping and President Macky Sall of Senegal, the current African Co-Chair of FOCAC, issued a joint congratulatory message to mark this important occasion. Embracing the dawn of the new century and the trend of peace and development 20 years ago, China and our brothers in Africa decided to initiate FOCAC to promote win-win cooperation. Since then, the family of China and African nations has had its own platform for collective dialogue and mechanism for practical cooperation, ushering in a brand new chapter in China-Africa relations.
The past twenty years have been a journey of productive cooperation. FOCAC has bolstered high-level interactions and political trust between China and Africa, delivering a leap in China-Africa relations from “a new type of partnership” to “a new type of strategic partnership” and to “a comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership”.
China-Africa cooperation has made impressive achievements. In 2019, direct Chinese investment stock in Africa topped US$49.1 billion, up by nearly 100 times from the year 2000; China-Africa trade reached US$208.7 billion, 20 times the size of 2000. China has been Africa’s largest trading partner for 11 years in a row, and has contributed more than 20% to Africa’s growth for a number of years. Many flagship projects — the African Union (AU) Conference Center, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, and the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway, to name a few — have been completed and put into use. Cooperation in other fields, from science, education, culture, health, to people-to-people exchange, peace and security, is also making significant headway.
Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), President Xi Jinping has set great store by China’s relations with Africa. He personally laid down principles guiding China’s Africa policy, including sincerity, real results, amity and good faith, and pursuing the greater good and shared interests, and called for building a stronger China-Africa community with a shared future. His devotion to leadership diplomacy with Africa has given a strong boost to the relations between the two sides.
The political foundation has been cemented. In 2013, President Xi Jinping chose Africa as the destination of his first overseas visit as the Head of State of China. So far, he has visited Africa four times, covering all sub-regions of the continent. In 2015 and 2018, Chinese and African leaders convened two historic FOCAC summits: one in Johannesburg and one in Beijing. In June this year, the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19 was held at a critical moment in tackling the coronavirus. Political interactions between the two sides are more frequent, extensive and unprecedented in scale. For example, on the sidelines of the FOCAC Beijing Summit, President Xi Jinping attended more than 70 bilateral and multilateral events in eight days. With the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between China and The Gambia, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Burkina Faso, the China-Africa family has been further expanded.
Practical cooperation has been fruitful. China-Africa economic and trade cooperation has been growing at a higher speed, demonstrating three encouraging shifts: from government-driven to market-driven, from trade in goods to industrial cooperation, and from engineering contracts to investment and operations. Together, the two sides drafted and implemented ten cooperation plans and eight major initiatives, taking practical cooperation to a new level. China-Africa Belt and Road cooperation is progressing with a strong momentum: 44 African countries and the AU Commission signed Belt and Road cooperation documents with China, and a host of projects such as railways, roads, airports, ports and power stations have come to fruition, enabling remarkable change in Africa’s economic and social development.
People-to-people exchanges have been thriving. Events across a diverse range of areas, including the China-Africa Youth Festival, Think Tank Forum, Joint Research and Exchange Program, Poverty Reduction and Development Conference, and the China-Africa Press Center, have been successful. And the China-Africa Institute has already been inaugurated. So far, China has provided about 120,000 government scholarships to African countries, set up 61 Confucius Institutes and 44 Confucius Classrooms in collaboration with 46 African countries, sent 21,000 doctors and nurses in medical teams to 48 African countries, treating around 220 million African patients, and forged 150 pairs of sister cities. All these efforts have consolidated popular support for China-Africa friendship.
Mutual support has been further strengthened. China and Africa fought side by side against both Ebola and COVID-19. The two sides have supported each other on issues of each other’s core interests and major concerns. China-Africa peace and security cooperation has been deepened. The two sides have jointly supported multilateralism, opposed unilateralism and protectionism, safeguarded the international order and international system with the United Nations at the core, and promoted the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and other basic norms governing international relations. Such collaboration has effectively upheld the shared interests of developing countries as well as the overall interests of the whole international community.
The past twenty years have been a journey of overcoming challenges and enhancing partnerships. FOCAC has withstood the test of the volatile international landscape, and scored historic achievements. It is a vivid epitome of China’s pioneering efforts in foreign affairs under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy. It is also a source of aspiration for further growth of China-Africa relations.
We have always pursued solidarity, consultation and cooperation. China is the largest developing country and the African continent home to the largest number of developing countries. When China-Africa cooperation prospers, South-South cooperation will prosper. When the voice of the 2.6 billion people in China and Africa are heeded and respected, the world will have genuine fairness and justice.
From the very beginning, we have always taken China-Africa relations as part of South-South cooperation, and have advanced FOCAC in the spirit of solidarity and cooperation. FOCAC, composed of China and 53 African countries and the AU, is by no means “one vs. 54”, but “54 plus one”. We would sit down in consultation whenever there is an issue, and solve it through discussion. And that is the guiding principle for our conduct. China never interferes in African countries’ pursuit of development paths that suit their own national conditions, never imposes its will upon others, never attaches any political strings to its assistance, and never seeks selfish political gains in investment and financing cooperation.
We attach great importance to the Forum’s role in drafting overall plans and providing strategic guidance, and we give equal attention to China’s ties with each FOCAC member, so that the Forum mechanism and bilateral cooperation can complement each other in forging a strong network of partnerships between and among countries. The Forum has significantly increased the international profile of China-Africa relations, and has become a pacesetter for South-South cooperation and for cooperation by the international community with Africa.
We have always advanced win-win cooperation for development. Both China and Africa are at a crucial stage of development and rejuvenation. The Chinese and African peoples are entitled to live a better life. President Xi Jinping has made it clear that no one could hold back the Chinese people or the African people as we march toward rejuvenation. Cooperation and development have always been FOCAC’s top priority. We have fully leveraged our unique strengths, such as the great complementarity between our economies and development stages. We have developed greater synergy between our development strategies and embarked on a path of win-win cooperation with distinctive features.
Our cooperation is about action and results. Every three years, FOCAC rolled out a package action plan. The 2018 Beijing Summit alone produced more than 880 deliverables. We always deliver and we do not make empty promises. We have kept pace with the times and kept our mind open to break new ground and tide over challenging times. According to African friends, FOCAC is a cooperation mechanism that truly delivers.
We have always supported each other in trying times. China-Africa friendship was born in the formidable years of national liberation and is deeply rooted in our peoples’ heart. As President Xi said, China and Africa are friends tested by adversity, and such friends must never be forgotten.
During the 2008 international financial crisis, China and Africa rendered each other valuable support. Instead of reducing assistance, China bucked the trend and increased its support to Africa. During the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, when others chose to leave, Chinese doctors and nurses braved difficulties and rushed to the hard-hit regions to help local people fight the disease, leaving an indelible chapter in the history of humanitarian assistance of the People’s Republic of China. Faced with the onslaught of COVID-19 worldwide, China and Africa have again stood shoulder to shoulder to help each other tide over the challenges.
What we have gone through together shows that China and Africa are more than just partners. We are comrades-in-arms. The more severe the difficulties, the more determined and confident we are about China-Africa cooperation, and the more capable FOCAC is in pooling our strengths to forge ahead, making itself the key driving force for the time-honored China-Africa friendship.
We have always embraced openness and inclusiveness. FOCAC was established to answer the call of the times for peace, development and win-win cooperation. It serves as a fine example of multilateralism. China and Africa have all along upheld the principle of openness and inclusiveness. A closed-door policy or exclusiveness is never an option. Colonial plunder and the Cold-War rivalry brought excruciating sufferings to the African people. That part of history must not be repeated. Africa must never again be an arena for major-power rivalry. This belief is widely shared by people across Africa, and should be respected by the entire international community.
Openness is vital in cooperation with Africa. It is important to share experience and learn form one another, so that Africa’s peace and development can benefit from the common effort and contribution of the international community. Africa’s cooperation with China has improved its development capacity and business environment, which in turn has created favorable conditions for other countries’ cooperation with the continent. China has taken part in more Africa-related trilateral and multilateral cooperation in recent years. We commend and encourage such cooperation and will continue to support it.
The past twenty years have been a journey of China and Africa coming together as one community with a shared future. Today, the world is being shaped by changes unseen in a century, a process accelerated by COVID-19. China and Africa are good friends, partners and brothers, and more importantly, an important force for world peace and development. In this changing world, China and Africa need to stay united and work more closely together to make FOCAC a greater success and further deepen China-Africa relations, so as to further enhance our friendship and justice in the world.
China and Africa can and should be a new shining example in building a community with a shared future for mankind. The more complex and fluid the international landscape is, the greater the imperative for China and Africa to adhere to the fundamental direction of building a China-Africa community with a shared future. We should continue to follow the principle of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith and the principle of pursuing the greater good and shared interests. We need to maintain the momentum of high-level exchange, share more governance experience with each other, build a stronger bond between the Chinese and African peoples, and continue to elevate the China-Africa comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership. We need to promote the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, step up mutual support on issues involving each other’s core interests and major concerns, and work together for greater democracy in international relations. We need to take the side of the overwhelming majority of the international community, stay committed to multilateralism, and align global governance reforms with the common interests of developing countries. With these efforts, we will make the China-Africa relationship a trailblazer and a shining example in building a community with a shared future for mankind.
China and Africa can and should set a new benchmark for international anti-epidemic cooperation. China and Africa have fought hard for what we have achieved in tackling COVID-19. As the virus continues to spread globally, both China and Africa are confronted with the formidable task of combating the virus while stabilizing the economy and protecting people’s livelihoods. We will speed up the implementation of the important measures that President Xi Jinping announced at the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19, and make China’s contribution to making vaccines accessible and affordable for African countries as soon as possible. China will continue to provide COVID-19 containment supplies, send expert teams, and facilitate Africa’s procurement of medical supplies from China. China will strive for breaking ground for the construction of the Africa CDC headquarters by the end of this year. These are concrete actions that will show the world that China and Africa have the determination and strength to defeat COVID-19 together.
China and Africa can and should unleash greater potential in practical cooperation. COVID-19 will not hamper China-Africa cooperation. As one of the first countries to fully reopen the economy, China aims to foster a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other. This will bring new opportunities for China and Africa to deepen, transform and upgrade their cooperation. China supports Africa’s effort to develop the African Continental Free Trade Area. We encourage Chinese companies and financial institutions to take an active part in infrastructure connectivity projects in Africa, which will facilitate cross-border logistics and customs clearance. We are ready to work with the international community in supporting Africa’s integration process and sub-regional economic community-building. China hopes to work with Africa to deepen the integration of our industrial and supply chains, and encourages Chinese businesses to step up investment and technological cooperation in Africa. We will support Africa’s agricultural modernization and industrialization drive to raise the added value and competitiveness of Africa’s exported energy, mineral and agricultural products. China will work with the international community to support Africa’s integration into the global industrial and supply chains. China and Africa need to join hands in pursuing green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable development. This will contribute to African countries’ ability to tackle climate change.
An ancient Chinese verse reads: “Having scaled a cloud-shrouded mountain peak, we rest our horses and set sail for the vast ocean.” The China-Africa relationship will never stop moving forward. The development of FOCAC will never take a break. Standing at a new historical starting point, China will continue to follow the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy and, with the personal commitment and support of Chinese and African leaders, increase the cohesion and influence of FOCAC, take China-Africa ties forward against all odds, and achieve greater success in our journey of building a China-Africa community with a shared future.
The writer is the State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs, People’s Republic of China