President Xi Jinping’s keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation provides important guidance for the future development of China-Africa relations
On 29 November 2021, President Xi Jinping attended the opening ceremony of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) via video link, and delivered a keynote speech entitled “Uphold the Tradition of Always Standing Together and Jointly Build a China-Africa Community with a Shared Future in the New Era”. Upon the conclusion of the Conference, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi took an interview with state media on President Xi Jinping’s participation in the Conference and the major initiatives and propositions President Xi Jinping put forward and their important significance. The following is his takeaway:
This Conference is another reunion of the big family of China-Africa friendship after the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit. It is the largest physical diplomatic event China co-hosted abroad since the start of COVID-19, and also another major diplomatic initiative of China with other developing countries. Following the 2018 Summit and the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19 held in 2020, President Xi Jinping joined African leaders once again at the FOCAC meeting to jointly explore ways to grow the China-Africa relationship and steer its future development, which is of crucial importance to deepening China-Africa comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership, promoting solidarity and cooperation among developing countries as well as global cooperation against COVID-19, and making the international order and global governance system more just and equitable.
Currently, COVID-19 continues to spread and re-emerge, global economic recovery remains weak, and international cooperation encounters headwinds. In such a context, China-Africa cooperation also faces real challenges including the impact of COVID-19 and the need for transformation and upgrading. In his speech, President Xi Jinping showed a keen understanding of the changes and the pandemic both unseen in a century, and a firm commitment to the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind. With a view to delivering benefits to Chinese and African peoples and safeguarding the common interests of developing countries, President Xi Jinping, with his strategic foresight and profound thinking, put forward the vision of building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era, summarized the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation, and announced the nine programs of China-Africa practical cooperation. By doing so, President Xi Jinping has set out the blueprint for and consolidated the consensus on promoting steady and sustained development of China-Africa relationship, upgrading China-Africa cooperation, and advancing the long-standing friendship between Chinese and African peoples. It demonstrates the commitment of the leader of a major country who values friendship and pursues the greater good.
First, steering the trend of the times and building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era.
China is the world’s largest developing country, and Africa is the continent with the largest number of developing countries. This year marks the 65th anniversary of the start of diplomatic relations between China and African countries. As President Xi Jinping stated, over the past 65 years, China and Africa have forged unbreakable fraternity in our struggle against imperialism and colonialism, and embarked on a distinct path of cooperation in our journey toward development and revitalization. Together, we have written a splendid chapter of mutual assistance amid complex changes, and set a shining example for building a new type of international relations. During his very first trip to Africa as President in 2013, President Xi Jinping made the insightful observation that China and Africa have always been a community with a shared future. He put forward the principle of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith and the principle of pursuing the greater good and shared interests. At the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit, President Xi Jinping solemnly proposed the building of a China-Africa community with a shared future that features joint responsibility, win-win cooperation, happiness for all, common cultural prosperity, common security, and harmonious co-existence, identifying the overall layout of such a community. President Xi Jinping’s important assessment of China-Africa relations and policy orientation toward Africa are in line with the essence of China-Africa friendship and the basic norms governing international relations. They are a vivid reflection of the rock-solid China-Africa solidarity, and provide the fundamental guidance for carrying forward China-Africa friendship from generation to generation.
Facing the new issues and challenges brought by the once-in-a-century changes and pandemic, President Xi Jinping made four proposals on building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era: first, fight COVID-19 with solidarity, put people first, and bridge the immunization gap; second, deepen practical cooperation, share development opportunities and jointly pursue economic recovery; third, promote green development, combat climate change and preserve green mountains and clear waters for shared benefits; and fourth, uphold equity and justice, offer strong mutual support and safeguard common interests. These policy propositions reflect the common aspirations of China and Africa, point out the priorities, fundamental path and goals for building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era, and chart the right course for the development of China-Africa relations. Entering the new era, China and Africa will continue to work in solidarity, firmly support each other on issues involving each other’s core interests and major concerns, advance China-Africa cooperation as a pacesetter of international cooperation with Africa and global development cooperation, and set an example of the times for building a community with a shared future for mankind, establishing a new type of international relations, and promoting the well-being of all humanity.
Second, passing on the genes of friendship and carrying forward the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation.
As time goes by, China-Africa friendship has kept growing from strength to strength. This friendship has a great tradition and rich content. As President Xi Jinping pointed out, the key for such a close China-Africa relationship and a deep bond of friendship lies in an everlasting spirit forged between the two sides featuring sincere friendship and equality, win-win for mutual benefits and common development, fairness and justice, and progress with the times and openness and inclusiveness. This is the first systematic review of the nature of the spirit of China-Africa relations, and an insightful summary of the essential features of China-Africa cooperation. It will provide important guidance for building a new type of international relations. At this critical moment and with the ever-changing international landscape, the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation points the right way forward for state-to-state relations.
“Sincere friendship and equality” is the principle basis of China-Africa friendship and cooperation. From the eight principles for foreign assistance put forward by Premier Zhou Enlai during his visit to Africa in the early days of New China to the principle of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith and the principle of pursuing the greater good and shared interests proposed by President Xi Jinping, China-Africa relations have always been a paradigm of mutual respect, mutual understanding, and equality among big and small countries.
“Win-win for mutual benefits and common development” is the distinct feature of China-Africa friendship and cooperation. From the construction of the Tazara Railway that China helped build by “tightening the belt” to the big family of Belt and Road cooperation participated by almost all African countries and the African Union (AU) Commission, China and Africa have worked to synergize development strategies, promote the growth of China-Africa cooperation from strength to strength, and contribute significantly to the development and revitalization of both China and Africa.
“Fairness and justice” is the sense of morality and responsibility in China-Africa friendship and cooperation. From China’s support for the just cause of Africa’s struggle against imperialism and colonialism for national liberation to many African countries’ support for the restoration of China’s lawful seat in the United Nations (UN), China and Africa have always supported each other and coordinated closely on the international stage. China-Africa cooperation has all along been a banner for opposing hegemony and power politics, practicing multilateralism, and defending the common interests of developing countries.
“Progress with the times and openness and inclusiveness” is the trendsetting hallmark of China-Africa cooperation. From mutual brotherly support between developing countries to a leading role in international cooperation with Africa, China-Africa cooperation has never been exclusionary to others, but always been open, confident, groundbreaking and innovative. It not only brings opportunities for Africa’s economic and social development, but also creates better conditions for international cooperation with Africa.
The spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation is a shining name card of China-Africa relations and a valuable asset for the Chinese and African peoples. As President Xi Jinping pointed out, China will never forget the profound friendship of African countries, and remain guided by the principle of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith and the principle of pursuing the greater good and shared interests. China will work together with African friends to promote and carry forward the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation from generation to generation. We will act on the call of President Xi Jinping and work with African friends to live up to this spirit, firmly oppose and reject moves that harm China-Africa friendship, and make cherishing China-Africa friendship a widely-held consensus and habit, with a view to creating more splendid chapters in China-Africa relations.
Third, standing together through thick and thin and jointly overcoming COVID-19.
The sudden onslaught of COVID-19 has posed a grave threat to the life and health of people of all countries and put international relations and cooperation to a major test. In these trying times, the strength of China-Africa friendship was once again revealed, with China and African countries extending a helping hand to each other to tide over the difficulties together. This is a vivid illustration of what a China-Africa community with a shared future truly means. In the initial period of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, African countries and regional organizations including the AU rendered strong support and valuable assistance to China through various means. When Africa was hit by the pandemic, China provided emergency assistance to Africa in an all-covering manner, including many batches of medical supplies and vaccines to 53 countries and the AU. This has contributed significantly to African countries’ efforts to contain COVID-19 and stabilize the economy, winning extensive applaud from African countries as well as the international community.
Lack of accessibility to vaccines and low vaccination rate present serious challenges to African countries’ efforts to fight the virus and protect people’s life and health. President Xi Jinping has solemnly announced that, to help the AU achieve its goal of vaccinating 60 percent of African population by 2022, China will provide another one billion doses of vaccines to Africa, including 600 million doses as donation and 400 million doses to be provided through such means as joint production by Chinese companies and relevant African countries. This is the largest vaccine assistance program undertaken by a single country toward Africa and a significant initiative in the international anti-COVID cooperation. It will inject new impetus to bridging Africa’s immunization gap and defeating the virus globally. China will do its level best to deliver the solemn commitments made by President Xi Jinping by scaling up vaccine assistance to Africa, further supporting waiving the intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines and expanding local production, to promote vaccine accessibility and affordability in Africa and support its early victory against COVID-19 with concrete actions.
Fourth, deepening practical cooperation and jointly promoting economic recovery and sustainable development.
African countries on the whole are facing economic difficulties caused by the pandemic, and have high expectations for China-Africa cooperation to boost economic recovery. Over the past 20 years since the inception of FOCAC, China’s trade with and investment in Africa have expanded by 20 times and 100 times respectively. For 12 years in a row, China has been Africa’s largest trading partner. After the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit, China and Africa, while overcoming the impact of COVID-19, kept forging ahead together and delivered on almost all the follow-ups of the Summit including the eight major initiatives. From January to October this year, China-Africa trade reached US$207.1 billion, and Chinese direct investment in Africa surpassed US$2.6 billion, up by 37.5 percent and 10 percent respectively year on year. This has greatly contributed to cushioning the impacts of COVID-19 on the African economy. At the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly, President Xi Jinping put forward the Global Development Initiative, which dovetails with the AU’s Agenda 2063 and the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It’s been welcomed and supported by African countries who have also shown a keen interest in participation.
Given the new dynamics in the post-COVID era and global development, it has become a strong consensus between China and Africa to upgrade our cooperation. President Xi Jinping pointed out that we need to open new prospects of China-Africa cooperation, expand trade and investment, share experience on poverty reduction, strengthen cooperation on digital economy, and promote entrepreneurship by young Africans and the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In the face of climate change, which is a major challenge to all humanity, we need to advocate green and low-carbon development, actively promote solar, wind and other sources of renewable energy, work for effective implementation of the Paris Agreement and keep strengthening our capacity for sustainable development. Based on these new ideas and insights, President Xi Jinping proposed nine programs on which China and Africa will work together in the future, i.e. medical and health, poverty reduction and agricultural development, trade promotion, investment promotion, digital innovation, green development, capacity building, cultural and people-to-people exchange, and peace and security. This provides an ambitious blueprint for China-Africa cooperation in the next three years and has been highly commended by African countries. Within the framework of the nine programs, China will launch 80 major assistance projects; open “green lanes” for African agricultural exports to China, and further increase the scope of products enjoying zero-tariff treatment for the least developed countries in Africa, in a bid to reach US$300 billion in total imports from Africa in the next three years; establish a platform for China-Africa private investment promotion and encourage Chinese businesses to invest no less than US$10 billion in Africa in the next three years; provide credit facilities and trade finance for Africa and channel to African countries a portion of China’s share of the IMF’s new allocation of Special Drawing Rights; support the development of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA); and support the development of the “Great Green Wall”.
These concrete measures meet African countries’ most pressing development needs, dovetail with China’s new development paradigm, and comply with the general trend of international development cooperation. They speak volumes about China’s sustained input in Africa and the enduring momentum in China-Africa cooperation, and will inject fresh impetus into Africa’s post-COVID economic recovery. China stands ready to work with African friends to fully implement the major measures announced by President Xi Jinping, further upgrade China-Africa cooperation and ensure that it is high-quality, people-centered and sustainable.
Fifth, upholding multilateralism and safeguarding international equity and justice.
The changes unseen in a century call for true multilateralism, and improving global governance requires safeguarding international equity and justice. For quite some time, certain countries have acted wantonly to interfere in the domestic affairs of others under the excuses of so-called democracy and human rights and stoke ideological confrontation, undermining the environment for the rise of developing countries and the harmonious atmosphere for international cooperation. Democracy is not a special right reserved to an individual country, but a right for the people of all countries to enjoy, and still less should it be used as a tool to interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs or bully the weak. On this point, President Xi Jinping stressed that the world needs true multilateralism. Peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom are common values of humanity and represent the abiding aspirations of both China and Africa. We both advocate a development path suited to our national conditions and are both committed to upholding the rights and interests of developing countries. We both oppose intervention in domestic affairs, racial discrimination and unilateral sanctions. We need to unequivocally stand for the just propositions of developing countries and translate our common aspirations and interests into joint actions.
China and African countries have similar historical experience, and share strong political consensus and sense of responsibility in upholding equity and justice and practicing multilateralism. The clear call made by President Xi Jinping in the context of our times represents the shared desire of China and African countries, the legitimate aspiration to safeguard sovereignty, security and development interests, and the forceful response to unilateralism, power politics and hegemony in current international affairs. It will resonate far and wide among the vast number of developing countries. We will continue to hold high the banner of peace, development and win-win cooperation and join hands with Africa and all other developing countries. We will stand on the right side of history, support developing countries in playing a bigger role on the international stage, promote more just and equitable international order and global governance, and jointly build an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity.
A righteous journey is blessed with boundless prospects. President Xi Jinping’s speech has set out the lofty cause of building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era. It has pooled broad consensus among China, Africa and other developing countries in upholding their legitimate rights and interests, and contributed Chinese wisdom to the well-being of Chinese and African peoples and the building of a better world. The Conference adopted four outcome documents — most in FOCAC history — namely the Dakar Declaration, the Dakar Action Plan (2022-2024), the China-Africa Cooperation Vision 2035 and the Declaration on China-Africa Cooperation on Combating Climate Change. They embody the strong aspiration of China and Africa to pull through adversity and pursue common development together, and the great potentials and broad prospects of China-Africa cooperation. African countries spoke highly of President Xi Jinping’s important speech. They also expressed their satisfaction at the fruitful outcomes of the Conference and greater confidence in an even better future of China-Africa cooperation. Guided by the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy, we will continue to act on the principle of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith and the principle of pursuing the greater good and shared interests, carry forward the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation, and fully implement the outcomes of the Conference, through which we will contribute further to the joint efforts of China and Africa in combating COVID-19, strengthening solidarity and cooperation and achieving common development, and work unremittingly for a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era.
Source: Wang Yi (State Councilor and Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China)