White paper documents the Sino-Africa experience
The growing relations between China and Africa cannot be gainsaid. The unprecedented success of this partnership in a span of about 20 years has become a benchmark of true multilateralism where each side appreciates what the other has to offer, and meets them halfway.
The release of a white paper, titled "China and Africa in the New Era: A Partnership of Equals," documents the extraordinary journey that the two have travelled over the years and the strong bond of friendship this has created. Instead of pulling them further apart, challenges, both internal and external, have only served to entrench their resolve to make the relationship work better and to redefine it to suit the changing times.
The rediscovery of the centuries-old bond between the two has come at a time when the world is searching for a new way of doing things, as the old order suffers entropy. Although its adherents are loath to admit it, the liberal democratic capitalist system has naturally hit a dead and can only be revived at great cost to humanity. But with increased enlightenment, the world is not ready to go back to a dark past characterized by survival of the fittest where life is short and brutish.
There can be no denying the fact that there have been times of experimentation, of trying out new approaches to solve age-old problems and move ahead. But this is almost standard procedure when partners are daring enough to explore a world teeming with possibilities. China is the largest developing country in the world while Africa has the highest number of developing countries. The two, therefore, share the same needs and a common destiny too.
Sino-Africa cooperation has been based on simplicity and not economic fads that are insensitive to developing countries. As espoused by Chinese President Xi Jinping in his new era philosophy, these include the virtues of “sincerity, real results, amity and good faith, and pursuing the greater good and shared interests”
At policy level, the white paper documents the five core principles that have made China a resilient partner with the continent. These are: no interference in African countries’ choice of a development path that fits their national conditions; no interference in African countries’ internal affairs; no imposition of its will on African countries; no attachment of political strings to assistance to Africa; and no pursuit of selfish political gains through investment and financing cooperation with Africa.
The release of the white paper on November 26 acts as a curtain raiser for the forthcoming Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) ministerial forum that will be held in Dakar, Senegal from November 29 to 30. It sets the tone for a meeting of longtime friends who have vowed to work together in creating a new future where everyone belongs regardless of their past or current circumstances.
FOCAC remains the flagship cooperation platform between the two countries and has continued to deliver tangible social and economic results. Another strong vehicle, the Belt and Road Initiative is opening up huge untapped socio-economic in the continent.
The cooperation white paper addresses the need to build an even stronger China-Africa community with a shared future, strengthening mutual support and breaking new ground in the partnership. This does not in any way imply that the partnership has weakened or needs a boost. It is simply a natural progression, the imperative to move to the next level so that both sides can release their potential and deliver more not just for their peoples, but for the whole world as well.
Despite its devastating socio-economic effects, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a moment of truth for Sino-Africa relations. While other partners of the continent looked from the sidelines waiting for the its doom, China rose to the occasion from the onset by offering African countries both medical supplies and the knowledge to prepare for the worst, if it came. African countries also offered a lot of moral support as China battled one of its biggest challenges in modern history.
China has offered the highest number of COVID-19 vaccines to the continent and is partnering with a select number including Egypt and Ethiopia to construct vaccine manufacturing plants in the continent. This internal drug making capacity will be invaluable in combating the high incidence of some diseases in the continent once the pandemic is overcome.
Indeed, China and Africa have a soft center for each other. Even at the height of the pandemic, Chinese engineers and technicians did not abandon the workplaces in the continent which ensured that 1,100 cooperation projects continued adding to the continent’s much needed economic growth. China is still Africa’s largest trading partner for the twelfth year running. In 2020 alone, direct Chinese investment in Africa reached US$ 3 billion.
According to the white paper, the comprehensive China-Africa relations will continue thriving in an environment characterized by mutual political trust, rapidly expanding economic cooperation, growing cooperation on social development, people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and Cooperation on peace and security.
The writer is the Executive Director of South-South Dialogues, a Nairobi based research and development communication think tank.