Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang and Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen Hassen jointly meet the press in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on January 10 (CHINESE EMBASSY IN ETHIOPIA)
As one popular saying goes, do not be afraid to celebrate a kept promise. In doing so, you embrace the potential for a better world. Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, China's new Foreign Minister Qin Gang embarked on his term with a seven-day visit to five African nations—Ethiopia, Gabon, Angola, Benin and Egypt—from January 9 to 16. The visit also brought him to the African Union (AU) headquarters and the League of Arab States headquarters.
Prior to Qin's arrival, this visit was widely expected to restore momentum in China-Africa cooperation, help China's undertakings in Africa and develop an integrated strategy that does three things: establish continent-wide objectives for China and African nations with tailored regional strategies, expand mutually beneficial economic cooperation and investment, and support African nations in their independent development and capacity building.
China's leadership in the international realm sees it fulfill its promises and commitments to friends and partners, which ultimately leads to building trust. This is one of the reasons why, over the past three decades, China has kept its promise and has remained committed to a diplomatic tradition to commence every year with a visit to Africa, truly proving how China greatly values its traditional friendship with African nations and the development of China-Africa cooperation.
A prized partnership
China's unshakable commitment to its diplomatic engagement with the continent of Africa is a privilege that will forever be cherished by the African people. With regard to the reason why Qin visited these five African nations, these nations truly reflect China's foreign policy toward Africa. That is why in Angola, China intends to solidify its position as the nation's top trading and economic partner. As for Ethiopia, the nation could easily leverage the Chinese knowledge of peace and security as well as comprehensive development to overcome its internal upheavals. As for the visit to the AU headquarters in Ethiopia, coupled with the fact that Chinese contractors would soon finish building the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the capital Addis Ababa, Qin's visit demonstrated China's determination to choose multilateralism over unilateralism.
As for Egypt, as a major voice and significant connection between the continent of Africa and the Arab world, the minister's visit provided China with the opportunity to continue the ongoing constructive dialogue on how to encourage development collaboration on both sides of the Red Sea. China is Gabon's largest economic and trading partner and top investor. Qin's visit helped fortify the synergy between the Emerging Gabon Strategic Plan and the Belt and Road Initiative, a China-proposed initiative that aims to boost connectivity along and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes, to diversify the nation's economy. As for Benin, the visit helped promote the financing pact between China and Benin to support high-impact social and economic projects in the nation.
Likewise, the visit conveyed the Chinese belief that Africa should be a place for international cooperation, not for major-power competition or geopolitical gains. Qin's former role as Chinese ambassador to the United States put him in a good position to promote China-Africa cooperation against a backdrop of increasing American presence in Africa.
In recent years, the Chinese Government has extended its presence in Africa not only by building infrastructure, but also by providing information and communications technologies. This makes China's engagement across the continent vital because it meets the needs of local people, from the creation of employment to providing required technology and related infrastructure. As such, China's lending, construction, investment, as well as other business activities, are not inherently bad or dangerous for African nations. But rather, these different development projects represent an enormous opportunity for the African people to create a continent where no African nation is left behind.
Likewise, China offers financial support and affordable proposals to local economies to build up the economic strength that can weather present and future challenges. African leaders and citizens have appreciated not just the material help arising from the continent's relationship with China, but also the sense of not being patronized. African people like seeing their economies treated as business opportunities rather than places to run randomized trials for foreign aid with political strings attached. It's no wonder that when the Chinese Government negotiates with African nations, it considers them as partners with whom it can expand business opportunities, rather than as recipients of charity.
Qin's visit helped bring fresh impetus and great potential to China and Africa and created new hope for the decade to come. That's because the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), industrial parks or special economic zones could be a major engine to connect Africa with the international market, and China could focus more on new infrastructure construction across the African continent that would help to propel the AfCFTA, which boasts a market of more than 1 billion people and a combined GDP of over $3 trillion.
African nations and China see Qin's visit as an opportunity to reinvigorate Chinese investments in Africa and explore new ways to incentivize China's top decision-makers and businesses to use joint ventures as a vehicle for their investment in Africa more frequently.
Qin's visit was the starting point of a new era for China and African nations to work together to build a high-quality community with a shared future for humanity that can further grow into a community of collaboration to meet the challenges in people-to-people harmony, safeguard people's health, promote social and economic recovery and help both African nations and China unleash their development potential in the decade to come.
The author is executive director of the Center for Nigerian Studies, Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University
Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon
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The Sino-American relationship should not be about competition or zero-sum games that enlarge one's own gain at the expense of the other, Foreign Minister Qin Gang said while meeting the press with Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on January 11.
China and the United States should respect each other, coexist in peace and pursue win-win cooperation, and should not harm third-party interests, he replied when journalists asked him about China's views on the Second U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in December 2022.
As permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, China and the U.S. shoulder important responsibilities for world peace, security and development, he added.
Having withstood the test of the changing international landscape, the China-Africa relationship has gone from strength to strength and become unbreakable, he said.
Since the beginning of the new century, China has built more than 6,000 km of railways, 6,000 km of roads, nearly 20 ports and over 80 large-scale power facilities, as well as funded over 130 hospitals and clinics, over 170 schools, 45 sports venues and over 500 agricultural projects in Africa.
These tangible outcomes have played an important role in advancing economic and social development and improving the African people's livelihood, demonstrated the true color of China-Africa relations and the defining color of China-Africa friendship, and been praised by African countries and people, Qin said.
Qin further noted Africa is an emerging continent full of hope, vigor and vitality.
"Africa needs solidarity and cooperation, rather than bloc confrontation," he said. "No country or individual has the power to force African countries to pick sides. Africa should be a stage for international cooperation, not an arena for major-force rivalry. If there is competition, it should be about who does more practical things for the peace and development of Africa and who helps Africa have more representation and say in the international governance agenda."
Qin said China is glad to see any country truly help Africa realize peace and development with sincerity.
"If African friends wish, China is also ready to carry out trilateral or multilateral cooperation with any other country in Africa to jointly make greater contributions to the development and rejuvenation of Africa," he said.
(Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs)