A Sting Exclusive: “China-Africa Cooperation Sets a Fine Example of South-South Cooperation”, by China’s Ambassador to EU

Ambassador Zhang Ming Chinese Mission to EU 2018

HE Ambassador of the Chinese Mission to EU, Mr Zhang Ming, delivers a speech at the joint forum ‘EU, China and SDGs: A Likely Alliance?’. © European Union , 2018 / Photo: Jennifer Jacquemart.

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Head of Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the European Union, Mr Zhang Ming. The opinions expressed in this article belong to the distinguished writer.

In the west of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s capital city, 70 Chinese nationals have been laid to rest, most of whom were engineers and technicians who demised when constructing the Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA) in the 1970s. They interpreted the spirit of friendship with their lives, and their story is always remembered by Chinese, Tanzanians, Zambians and other friends across the African continent.

We now live in a different world, yet the friendship between China and Africa remains as strong as ever, and captures new dimensions in this new era.

Earlier this week, Chinese and African leaders gathered once again in Beijing for the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). Chinese President Xi Jinping announced significant measures for further cooperation with Africa. China will launch, in close collaboration with African partners, eight major initiatives in the coming three years and beyond, namely, industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, green development, capacity building, health care, people-to-people exchange, and peace and security.

To make sure that these initiatives are well implemented on the ground, China will extend US$60 billion of financing to Africa in the form of government assistance as well as investment and financing by financial institutions and companies.

The Beijing Declaration adopted by the Forum points out that China and Africa will enhance collective dialogue, strengthen traditional friendship, deepen practical cooperation, and work together to build a stronger China-Africa community with a shared future.

The defining feature of China-Africa cooperation is sincerity and equality. China and Africa are closely bound by their similar historical experience, common aspirations for the future, and shared commitment to make progress together. China sincerely hopes that Africa could achieve greater prosperity and that its people lead a better life. China always bears in mind Africa’s concerns and priorities, and works constantly to enhance cooperation with Africa as equals, with a view to contributing to the development of this land of great promise. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently commended China-Africa cooperation for its exemplary role in South-South cooperation “which makes important contributions to world peace and development with demonstrative significance”.

China-Africa cooperation has produced notable results. Take railway for example. In the past four decades since the TAZARA was completed, China has and is building over 6,200 kilometers of railway in Africa through assistance, investment and financing. The Mombasa-Nairobi railway in Kenya is a stellar example in this regard. Over the past year since its inauguration, trains running along the line have attained an occupancy rate of over 95 percent. The project has lowered cargo transportation cost by 80%, and pushed up Kenya’s GDP by around 1.5%. It has created nearly 50,000 local jobs and helped train nearly 1,000 transport professionals. Local people fondly call it the “road to prosperity”. Personally, I had the great privilege to be awarded Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear by President Uhuru Kenyatta for my contribution to this project. It is with tangible outcomes that China-Africa cooperation has won the trust of African people.

Before coming to Brussels, I worked on Africa for years. Africa has been a frequent topic in my conversations with European colleagues. Most people speak positively of China-Africa cooperation, yet I still hear some skeptical and even accusatory voices. The best way to address such misunderstanding is to listen to what African people say for themselves, or to personally go to the continent to see what China is exactly doing on the ground.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, while addressing the FOCAC, recognized that the Forum serves as an effective platform for South-South cooperation focused on the tangible improvement of the quality of lives of all the people of Africa. “In the values that it promotes, in the manner that it operates and in the impact that it has on African countries, FOCAC refutes the view that a new colonialism is taking hold in Africa, as our detractors would have us believe.” President of Rwanda Paul Kagame, Chairperson of the African Union, believed that the so-called China “debt trap” is a fabricated concept and an attempt to discourage relations between China and Africa. “The relationship between Africa and China is based on equality, mutual respect and a commitment to a shared well-being. Today the Forum (FOCAC) has grown into a powerful engine of cooperation fully aligned with Africa’s Agenda 2063 and Sustainable Development Goals.”

We are pleased to see that many countries are revisiting their Africa policy and are increasing their input by leveraging their strength. To African countries, this is indeed a welcome development. Only when Africa gets better off, can the whole world become a better place. Only when Africa gets stronger, can the whole world become more peaceful, prosperous and stable. This point must resonate well with Europe due to its geographic proximity and traditional links with Africa.

China has an interest to join forces with the EU to explore more ways of dialogue and cooperation in relation to Africa. Our cooperation with Africa stands to benefit all sides and contribute to Africa’s peace and development.

About the author

The author is Ambassador and Head of Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the European Union. He served as Vice Foreign Minister in charge of African affairs from 2013 to 2017.

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