China and Africa are marching forward hand in hand on the road to modernisation
By Chen Xiaodong
On January 1, 2021, the African Continental Free Trade Area was officially launched, marking an important step forward on Africa’s road toward industrialization and modernization.
The year 2021 will also be a crucial year for China to win the decisive battle against poverty and embark on a new journey toward building a modern socialist country. China’s 14th Five-Year Plan and the Long-Range Objectives Through the year 2035 have drawn up a blueprint for its modernization drive.
The AU Agenda 2063 and its first ten-year implementation plan have mapped out a beautiful vision for Africa’s pursuit of modernization. Both China and Africa have made great explorations and scored major achievements in their modernization drive. In spite of being at different stages, the modernization process of China and Africa share many common features and enjoy broad prospects.
Firstly, both China and Africa are modernizing with huge populations. China’s modernization, in the final analysis, is for the benefit of its 1.4 billion people. Over the past 40 years, China has lifted over 700 million rural people out of poverty, laying a solid foundation for its modernization drive. From the end of 2012 to the end of 2019, China has lifted more than 10 million people out of poverty annually for seven consecutive years, and over 93 million Chinese people have shaken off poverty, contributing more than 70% to global poverty reduction.
Now the African continent has a population of over 1.2 billion. It is expected that by the year 2025, the population of Africa will surpass that of China. When such a huge population enters the modern society, its size will be larger than that of the developed countries combined, which will reshape the map of the modern world and become a landmark of far-reaching significance and influence in the development of human society.
Secondly, the modernization of China and Africa is people- oriented. President Xi Jinping stressed that the essence of modernization is the modernization of people. The Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee has put forth for the first time that “more substantial progress shall be made for the common prosperity of all the people”, so as to ensure that the fruits of reform and development shall be shared by all in a more equitable way.
The formulation of the AU Agenda 2063 followed a people-centered approach and fully solicited the opinions of the African people. The Agenda’s first ten-year implementation plan identifies the priority areas and expected outcomes of Africa’s development. In particular, it lists the “flagship projects” which could deliver tangible benefits to the African people.
Thirdly, the modernization of China and Africa emphasizes harmony between man and nature. Ecological conservation is an important part of China’s modernization drive. President Xi Jinping said that “clear waters and green mountains are as valuable as mountains of gold and silver”. President Xi announced that China will increase its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC). We aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060, so as to contribute to the global fight against climate change.
For Africa, the first Session of the World Summit for Sustainable Development was successfully held in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2002, which has sowed the seeds of sustainable development in the African continent.
The AU Agenda 2063 advocates building a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development, which speaks volumes about Africa’s pursuit of harmony between man and nature in its modernization process.
Fourthly, the modernization of China and Africa follows the path of peaceful development. The modern history of Western capitalism is full of bloody colonial conquest and resource plundering. Their modernization was at the expense of other countries’ backwardness. Unlike the Western countries, China’s path of modernization pursues mutual benefit and win-win cooperation and follows an independent path of peaceful development.
It is not in the DNA of the Chinese people to seek hegemony or engage in militarism. China will never seek hegemony or expansion no matter what development achievements it has scored. China and Africa fought side by side against imperialism, colonialism and apartheid, and the yearning for peace has long been in the blood of the Chinese and African people.
The AU Agenda 2063 emphasises that Africa shall realise peace and security, and Africa’s road to modernization is bound to be one of peaceful development.
Fifthly, the modernization of China and Africa is characterized by pursuing material and cultural progress in a coordinated way. China’s modernization drive upholds core socialist values and carries forward the fine traditional Chinese culture.
President Xi Jinping, in light of the general trend of today’s world and based on the essence of traditional Chinese culture, put forward the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind in keeping with the spirit of peace, development, cooperation and win-win outcomes. President Xi believes that countries shall help each other with sincerity, treat each other as equals, stick together in trying times and strive for common development, rather than engage in a zero-sum game.
The Ubuntu philosophy, which is leading Africa on the road toward modernization, is highly consistent with the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind.
With the core value of “I am because we are”, the Ubuntu philosophy highlights win-win cooperation, respect for differences, fairness and justice. The AU Agenda 2063 points out the spiritual dimension of Africa’s modernization, namely building an Africa of equity and democracy which respects human rights, justice and the rule of law.
As good friends, good partners and good brothers, China and Africa are marching forward hand in hand on the road toward modernization. China is the largest developing country, and Africa is the continent with the largest number of developing countries. Our two sides are natural partners with complementarities.
With the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area, the China -Africa cooperation enjoys huge space and potential. Up to now, 46 African countries and the African Union Commission have signed BRI cooperation documents with China. Six of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa. China has full confidence in the prospect of Africa’s modernization and rise. China is willing to synergise its 14th Five-Year Plan and Long-Range Objectives.
Through the year 2035 with the AU Agenda 2063, support the construction of the African Continental Free Trade Area, and build a healthy, inter-connected, digital, green and secure Africa which is a strong manufacturer and enjoys a bumper harvest, so as to help Africa achieve connectivity and modernization.
China is ready to work closely with South Africa to support South Africa’s development into a locomotive leading Africa’s industrialization and a production base underpinning Africa’s modernization, so as to make the China-South Africa comprehensive strategic partnership deliver more benefits to our two peoples and forge an even closer China-Africa community with a shared future.
* H.E. Chen Xiaodong is the Ambassador of China to South Africa
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.