China – Africa relations now in a “golden period” – says vice foreign minister

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 March 2013

africa chinaWhilst President Obama is today busy looking for ways to positively engage with Black Africa, the Chinese are busy counting their profits and looking for ways to further expand their economic and political interests in the continent.

Has president Obama missed the boat?

Speaking at the ‘Forum on Chinese Businesses in Africa’ last Monday – the vice foreign minister of China Zhai Jun, said that; “as an important part of China-Africa relationship, cooperation in economy, trade and investment has yielded fruitful results. China has been the largest trading partner of Africa since 2009.

“Two-way trade grew from about US$10 billion in 2000 to almost US$200 billion in 2012. Africa is China’s second largest project contracting market and the fourth largest investment destination.

“As of April 2012, China’s accumulative investment in Africa had reached US$15.3 billion, compared to almost no investment from China just over a decade ago. China-Africa cooperation has boosted the economic and social development of both sides and contributed significantly to global prosperity and stability”

“We cannot just rest on our laurels; rather, we should make new achievements. With consistent efforts, entrepreneurs should help cement the basis for the sustainable growth of China-Africa relations and pass on China-Africa brotherly relations from generation to generation” – Zhai Jun told delegates.

It seems while the Americans are paying lip-service to real development and investments in Africa and talking about democratic freedoms, the Chinese are getting on with the busy of ‘mutually assured development’ for both China and the continent.

When Barack Obama was elected president of America in 2007, his first foreign visit was Egypt, where he spoke about his values and hope of a better future for the world, through peace, democracy and liberty.

Trade and economic development in Africa was not on his agenda.

That visit came on the back of the highly vaunted ‘Arab Spring’ – a euphemism for regime change in the Arab World and North Africa, costing the American people billions of dollars.

Many believe that such spending could have gone a long way in achieving the same goal, had that money been spent on economic development, education and health, throughout Africa and in the poorer Arab nations.

africa china1America it seems, has forgotten the fundamental principles of international marketisation and liberal economics.

The Chinese on the other hand have picked up the text book, written by America, and are now showing the World how to win hearts and minds, through the new concept of ‘mutually assured development (MADe).’

This is what the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister – Zhai Jun told the ‘Forum on Chinese Businesses in Africa’:

“Today, we are gathered here to review the experience of Chinese companies in Africa and explore ways for achieving sustainable development. This meeting today is therefore very important for the growth of both the business community and China-Africa relations.

“In a few days, Mr. Xi Jinping, the new President of China, will set foot on the African continent for a visit to Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of the Congo. He will also attend the Fifth BRICS Leaders Meeting and the dialogue between BRICS and African leaders.

“This is another important diplomatic action taken by China in relation to Africa in the new situation. It reflects the importance the Chinese government attaches to growing this relationship.

“I am sure this visit will play an important role in deepening China’s relations with the relevant countries in all respects, strengthening solidarity and cooperation among developing countries, and expanding China-Africa relations.

“With the concerted efforts of both sides, China – Africa relations are now in a “golden period” of rapid and all-round development. The two sides enjoy frequent high-level exchanges and fruitful cooperation in various fields.

“Coordination in international and regional affairs is increasing and people-to-people and cultural exchanges are becoming more vibrant. The Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was successfully held in Beijing last year.

“Leaders of the two sides jointly mapped out the blueprint of China-Africa cooperation in the next three years. The Chinese government introduced a series of new measures to boost cooperation with Africa, which lent a new impetus to the growth of the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership.

“As an important part of China-Africa relationship, cooperation in economy, trade and investment has yielded fruitful results. China has been the largest trading partner of Africa since 2009.

“Two-way trade grew from about US$10 billion in 2000 to almost US$200 billion in 2012. Africa is China’s second largest project contracting market and the fourth largest investment destination.

china africa map of investment

“As of April 2012, China’s accumulative investment in Africa had reached US$15.3 billion, compared to almost no investment from China just over a decade ago. China-Africa cooperation has boosted the economic and social development of both sides and contributed significantly to global prosperity and stability.

“Entrepreneurs are a strong force for practical cooperation between China and Africa, and also immediate beneficiaries of such cooperation. As China-Africa economic cooperation and trade grows, more and more Chinese companies are now going to Africa.

new president of china - 2013“You have worked hard and forged ahead with an enterprising spirit. You have played a positive role in promoting economic and social development in Africa, deepening China-Africa friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation, and enhancing understanding and friendship between people of the two sides. Your efforts are truly commendable.

(Photo: The newly elected president of China – Mr. Xi Jinping).

“Since the beginning of the new century, Africa has on the whole maintained peace and stability. The African economy has entered a period of rapid growth, expanding by 4.8% in 2012 despite the global economic downturn.

“It is expected that Africa will extend its relatively fast growth into the next decade. African countries are actively promoting infrastructure development, vigorously developing infrastructure in agriculture, manufacturing and other sectors, and stepping up efforts to attract capital and technologies.

“The talk of African economic opportunities is getting more popular, making Africa another hot destination for investment in the world today.

african minerals railway 2“Though China and Africa are at different stages of development, our economies are highly complementary.

“Guided by the principle of mutual benefit and the goal of common development, China and Africa have engaged in practical and efficient cooperation over the years, which have contributed to the economic and social development of both sides.

(Photo: China’s stake in Sierra Leone’s mining industry is growing).

“The Chinese people are making unremitting efforts to meet the goals set forth at the 18th National Congress of the CPC.

“The African people are also working hard to seek strength from unity and achieve the revitalization of the African continent. As our economies grow faster, there will be more internal drivers for our cooperation, and our common interests will also expand. China and Africa should help each other in realizing their respective dreams.

“It should also be noted that the fast-expanding China-Africa economic cooperation and trade is also experiencing some growing pains. The volume is increasing fast, but the quality is not catching up.

“As China’s strength rises, our African friends’ expectations for China and China-Africa cooperation are also growing.

“However, there is a gap between these expectations and China’s capabilities. It hasn’t been very long since Chinese businesses started investing overseas, and they lack international experience.

“There is still room for improvement in promoting localized operation and fulfilling social responsibilities.

“Under the new circumstances, the Chinese government will continue to encourage Chinese companies to do business in Africa and provide them with necessary convenience and support.

“We also hope that the Chinese entrepreneurs could seize the opportunities to further advance China-Africa relations while pursuing their personal success and the development of their companies.

foreign affairs ministry office freetown“We hope they can uphold and promote China-Africa relations, and help raise people’s awareness about the benefits of this relationship. To this end, the business community could make the following efforts:

“Upholding sincerity, friendship and equality. China-Africa traditional friendship is a unique advantage for Chinese companies to expand business in Africa.

(Photo: New Sierra Leone government foreign ministry office in Freetown – built by the Chinese).

“Entrepreneurs should take good care of this friendship as they would of their own eyes.

“They should cherish and make good use of this valuable asset. In people-to-people exchanges and business operation, entrepreneurs should remember by heart that the African people are our good friends, good partners and good brothers.

“They should operate their business under the principle of mutual respect and equality consistent with China’s policy on Africa. Entrepreneurs should not only seek profits but also uphold ethics and justice.

“We cannot just rest on our laurels; rather, we should make new achievements. With consistent efforts, entrepreneurs should help cement the basis for the sustainable growth of China-Africa relations and pass on China-Africa brotherly relations from generation to generation.

Ernest Bai Koroma,  Hu Jintao“Pursuing mutual benefit and common development. The Chinese government has always urged companies to promote their business growth by contributing to the development of the host countries and match their corporate development strategies with Africa’s development strategies.

(Photo: President Koroma and former Chinese president – Hu Jintao).

“Every visionary entrepreneur will understand that mutual benefit and win-win outcome is the only path leading to the sustainable development of their companies.

“The practice of abandoning the country immediately after taking some quick returns is nothing but short-sightedness. It is even more unethical to “drain the pond in order to catch all the fish”.

“The immediate priority of African countries is to enhance the capacity for self-development, achieve industrialization and improve people’s lives. They are eager to deepen cooperation with China in infrastructure development, agriculture, manufacturing, personnel training and technology transfer.

“Chinese entrepreneurs should think more about how to promote cooperation in these areas.

“Building a better corporate image. Every Chinese company and individual is a spokesperson for China. Chinese businesses in Africa are generally doing well in terms of participating in and promoting the development of local communities; but they are certainly not without shortcomings.

“I hope Chinese businesses will further strengthen self-discipline, improve internal management and win the market with integrity and quality, rather than only seeking one-off deals.

“I want to see a Chinese business community that complies with local laws, respects local customs and traditions, understands the importance of improved labour practices and environmental protection, enables more local participation in operation, and readily gives back to the local communities.

“I hope the Chinese business community in Africa will be a stable source of positive energies for China-Africa relations, instead of a place where those with ulterior motives look for negative proofs to slander and discredit China-Africa cooperation.”

The Chinese it seems are ‘walking the talk – not talking the walk’. Has America missed the boat?

 

 

 

 

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