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What is China’s soft power?

Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma will co-chair the Focac gathering.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma will co-chair the Focac gathering.

Published Dec 2, 2015


#Focac: China will never forget the brothers in Asia, Africa and Latin America. This is actually the biggest soft power of China’s foreign policy. Just as Chinese President Xi Jinping addressing the annual high-level general debate of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly on September 28, 2015: China will always vote for developing countries in the United Nations!

The unique features of China's diplomacy as a major country originate from the rich and profound Chinese civilisation.

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In its five thousand-year history, the Chinese nation has developed the political philosophy of valuing virtue and balance, the peaceful approach of love, non-offense and good-neighbourliness, the idea of peace being of paramount importance and harmony without uniformity as well as the personal conduct of treating others in a way that you would like to be treated and helping others succeed if you want to succeed yourself.

These traditional values with a unique oriental touch provide an endless source of invaluable cultural asset for China's diplomacy and soft power.

The Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) to be held in South Africa this December will be a boost to carry out China’s Africa policy of “sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith” which was put forward by President Xi Jinping, to further promote the “Six Major Projects” and “Three Major Networks” proposals on cooperation with Africa, raised by Premier Li Keqiang during his visit to the continent last year.

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In history, China and Africa have always been in a community of common destiny. In the future, China will enhance cooperation with African countries on three pressing issues, namely industrialisation, sanitation and safeguarding security and peace.

The Chinese are willing to work with African brothers and convert traditional Sino-African friendship into fruit of mutual benefit and cooperation, and help African countries turn their development potential into real strength.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, in his visit to Africa last year, had raised such initiatives as six major cooperation projects and three major transport networks, which won extensive endorsement from African countries.

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China will further promote China-Africa comprehensive cooperative partnership which is characterised by equality, mutual trust, mutual benefit and win-win outcomes, and to continue to firmly support each other on major issues bearing on respective core interests.

China is ready to transform the friendly tradition between the two sides into the motive force of development and cooperation and hopes to help African brothers transform manpower and resource potential into the advantage of economic development as soon as possible.

In the future, China proposes to focus on expanding cooperation in several fields, namely, agricultural modernisation, infrastructure construction, industrial transfer, renewable energy, ecological environmental protection, cultural tourism and the maintenance of peace and security.

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China’s plans above consider both the development demand of Africa and China's own ability and conditions.

Actually, the strength of China’s African relations and the source of much of its soft power stems from more than just the relatively recent growth in trade and investment.

Different from many western countries, China has always committed to contributing to the development of human resources in Africa by establishing funds jointly administered and used by various Chinese ministries (Foreign Affairs, Commerce, Education, Science and Technology, Agriculture, Health) in order to train African personnel.

So far, thousands of Africans have been trained as part of the program. Many African students are annually awarded by China, while many Chinese universities have established relationships with African institutions.

China has also promoted “health diplomacy” with African partners, establishing a relationship between Chinese doctors and millions of ordinary Africans, and saving many African’s lives.

Last year, in the face of the Ebola epidemic, China sent more than 1,000 epidemic control experts and medical workers to Africa and built in a timely fashion treatment centres in the affected areas.

Early this year, the last Ebola patient in Liberia was discharged from a treatment centre which China helped to build.

In all, China also provided four batches of assistance worth a total of 750 million yuan ($122 million) to the affected countries and their neighbours in Africa.

Moreover, China’s model of a strong government and its focus on economic growth is looked upon by many African leaders and ordinary people, as an example to follow.

Frustrated with decades of instability and corruption, which many African people tend to blame on the West and its liberal democratic model, the continent’s elites are fast embracing the Chinese model.

China has always been willing to help African countries build major infrastructure projects such as mega dams, high-speed railways and telecommunications in the continent which no Western country was willing to fund in history.

Of course, as China continues to develop, many friends from Africa and other developing countries may ask, will an ever stronger China still be part of us?

Will it still work together with us hand in hand just like before?

China will always remember where its root is. When our brothers in Africa who fought together with us for national independence have not yet been lifted out of poverty, China shares their feelings; when our friends in Africa who once carried China to the United Nations are still beset by wars and turbulence, China shares their feelings.

China has never separated itself from other developing countries and will never do so. In the future, China will do its best to establish a community of shared destinies with other developing countries.

Brothers and sisters from Africa and other developing countries can always believe that whenever you need China, China will always be there, ready to help!

Dr. Yao Yao is Director of the centre for National Soft Power Research at China Foreign Affairs University.

This article first appeared in an Independent Media supplement.

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