From John Okeke, China
Sino-African relations refers to the historical, political, economic, military, social and cultural connections between China and the African continent.
China-African relations has all over the years gained a tremendous improvement in all spheres.
China and Africa have always belonged to a community of shared future. Over the past five decades and more, they have always been good friends who stand together through thick and thin, good partners who share weal and woe, and good brothers who fully trust each other despite changes in the international landscape. The traditional friendship between China and Africa is deeply rooted in people’s minds and has become an invaluable asset for both.
China and Africa have long valued sincerity, friendship and equality, which constitute the underlying rationale for China-Africa relations to grow stronger with time. Based on this tradition, China and Africa will be committed to mutually beneficial cooperation and common development under the new circumstances, adding new substance and injecting inexhaustible impetus to China-Africa relations.
Little is known about ancient relations between China and the African continent, though there is some evidence of early trade connections.
Highlights of medieval contacts were the 14th-century journey of Ibn Battuta, the Moroccan scholar and traveller, to parts of China;the 14th-century visit of Sa’id of Mogadishu, the Somali scholar and explorer, to China; and the 15th-century Ming dynastyvoyages of Chinese admiral Zheng He and his fleet, which rounded the coast of Somalia, passing the Ajuran Sultanate, and followed the coast down to the Mozambique Channel.
Modern political and economic relations commenced in the era of Mao Zedong, the first leader of the Chinese Communist Party. Starting in the 21st century, the modern state of the People’s Republic of China has built increasingly strong economic ties with Africa.
There are a good number of Chinese citizens residing in Africa.
Additionally, there are many Africans are working or doing business in China.
Trade between China (PRC) and Africa increased by 700% during the 1990s,and China is currently Africa’s largest trading partner.
The Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was established in October 2000 as an official forum to strengthen the relationship.
A few Western countries, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, have become concerned over the political, economic and military roles China is playing in the African continent.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasises China’s developmental engagements with Africa while also stating that China and Africa are making “joint efforts to maintain the lawful rights of developing countries and push forward the creation of a new, fair and just political and economic order in the world”.
The relationship between them has been viewed as mutually beneficial rather than colonisation by the chinese side.
Commenting on China-Africa Partnership , Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has this to say in his exact words , “The perception that China is the new colonizer is a complete misrepresentation of Beijing’s activities here in Africa. Achievement of mutual benefits is the basis of Sino-Africa cooperation, I don’t think that a partner who is helping us fight poverty and other development challenges can be called a colonizer. China is ready to help us develop and meet our socioeconomic objectives without imposing its agenda on us. This is the outstanding aspect of our cooperation with China.”
Li Anshan , Center for African Studies, Peking University China, said ,” China has provided an alternative for Africans adding” infrastructure China did in Africa is a promotion for international investment.”
Femi Akomolafe ,Nigerian historian, said “China’s rise is different from the west, and has provided experiences for Africa: if only there are a people with confidence, determination and view, everything is•possible.”•
“No one is laughing at the Asians anymore, he said.
Ebraim Ishmail Ebrahim, parliamentary counselor to the South African Presidency said China’s engagement in the past 20 years has accelerated Africa’s economic growth and improved infrastructure in the continent.
China, he said, has built roads and railways which are the foundation to regional integration and poverty alleviation.
Ebrahim said China is committed to ensuring that there is a long lasting peace in Africa to make the environment conducive for economic growth and development.
“Africa should take advantage of China’s expanding market base. China has helped the local economy and boosted manufacturing production and afforded African households goods at affordable prices. China has also reduced debt for African countries,” he said.
China is now contributing to building a new world order, Ebrahim said, adding that “a new voice on the international stage is also being heard” as the country is Africa’s key partner to democratize the international organizations such as the UN, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the World Trade Organisation.
It could be recalled that on 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping chaired the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FACOC), which supports new international relations between China and Africa based on mutual benefits.
At the Summit, President Xi, 50 heads of state, heads or representatives of government and chairman of African Union (AU) Commission spoke glowingly of China-Africa friendship, planned for the development of strategy, opening the new era of China-Africa win-win cooperation and mutual growth and breaking ground for relations.
The summit approved The Declaration of the Johannesburg summit of FACOC and FACOC: Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (2016-2018), acting as the framework document for guiding China-Africa friendly relationship under new circumstances.
In face of the international situation of changes and opportunities, risks and challenges, Xi made a solemn pledge that the China-Africa brotherhood of equality, mutual trust and support would not change, the basic goal of cooperation, mutual benefits and development would not change, the collaborative spirit of mutual understanding and progress would not change, and strong will of pulling together and acting in unity would not change.
The four “would not change” demonstrates Beijing’s sincerity to develop China-Africa relations, speaks out China-Africa’s common aspirations to defend global peace, promote global development and prosperity and help build new international relations based on mutual benefits.
Chinese and African leaders agreed to lift the Sino-African relationship to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership featuring political equality and mutual trust, win-win economic cooperation and civilization exchanges, close ranks and help each other in security, and cement unity on international affairs with the entire Africa.
Xi announced the “10 major plans” in cooperation with Africa in the coming three years, covering the areas of industrialization, agricultural modernization, infrastructure, financial services, green development, trade and investment facilitation, poverty reduction and public welfare, public health, people-to-people exchanges, as well as peace and security.
Beijing provided $60 billion of funding to guarantee implementation of the plans, which injected more impetus for vital Sino-African relations.
Fruitful results were achieved at the Johannesburg summit.
The upgrade of relations and cooperation framework laid a solid foundation for development of Sino-African relationship. The summit marked a new milestone and opened a new era for Sino-African relations.
In a Beijing Review on China-Africa relations by the Research Assistant , China Institute of International Studies, He Riu said China has placed great emphasis on synergizing its own development strategy with that of Africa , and on realizing common development though capacity- building cooperation.
He said according to the agenda 2063, new partnership for Africa’s development and other African development strategies , China has formulated plans which can meet the requirements of both sides and fully support the independent development of Africa.
He said,” China also values sustainability in development, and has accordingly focused on pragmatic cooperation oriented by enterprises and guided by market. In particular , China has supported African participation in the latest technological revolution and the industry 4.0 process, having actively promoted cooperation in hi-tech fields as well as the training of personnel and the transfer of technology . China has also supported Africa in improving its infrastructure and carrying out new-energy development projects so as to ensure the progress of urbanization , industrialization and agricultural modernization.
“In the future, China will continue to treat Africa as a friend, valuing tangible results in cooperation , cultivating kinship-like qualities in their relationship and focusing on sincerity in addressing problems. China will continue to support the development of African countries , sharing experiences of governance while avoiding both interference in internal affairs and the harming of regional interests.”
“The reputation China enjoys today in supporting peace and development in Africa is bestowed upon it by the African countries themselves, and is a direct reflection of this reality .
“China harbors great hopes and spares no effort toward the prosperity of the African continent , which is not only favourable to the African people , but also to balanced development and stability of the world,” he added.
The Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi commentimg on the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Summit, which will take place in Beijing this September and focus on the Belt and Road Initiative, said,” it is a great opportunity for our African brothers and sisters to participate fully in the BRI, the Summit will give new impetus to the China-Africa comprehensive strategic partnership.
“China’s diplomatic agenda for 2018 are unfolding even as we speak. In the new era, we will work even harder to see that China will enjoy a better environment for development and make greater contributions to human progress,” he added.