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 flag-ship 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 side-lines of the FOCAC Beijing Summit, President Xi Jinping attended more than 70 bilateral and multilateral events in eight days. With the reestablishment 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 Com-mission 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 pros-per. When the voice of the 2.6 billion people in China and Africa are heed-ed 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 inter-national 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.
»To be continued