China's President Xi Jinping (L) and his Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete (R) attend official talks on bilateral issues at the State House in Dar es Salaam in 2013. File picture: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters
China's President Xi Jinping (L) and his Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete (R) attend official talks on bilateral issues at the State House in Dar es Salaam in 2013. File picture: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

China commemorates eighth anniversary of key Africa speech by Xi Jinping

By Opinion Time of article published Mar 26, 2021

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Helmo Preuss

The Chinese government is highlighting the eighth anniversary of a key speech on China-Africa relations that Chinese President Xi Jinping gave in Dar es Salaam Tanzania on March 25, 2013. The reason for this is because, in Chinese culture, “eight” is a significant number as “eight” in Chinese is pronounced "ba" and sounds similar to “fa”, which means "well-off" or "getting rich in a short time".

That is why the official start of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing was at 8 seconds past 8pm local time on the 8th day of the 8th month.

The importance of Africa was highlighted by the fact that Xi flew to Tanzania from Russia, with whom China shares its longest land border, and then to South Africa, where he attended a summit meeting in Durban of the BRICS emerging countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

He told his audience in Tanzania that his government remained committed to strong ties with African countries, a policy that has been followed consistently since the Chinese Communist Party achieved power in 1949. China has long boasted of its role under Mao Zedong as a supporter of African efforts to throw off Western colonialism and was a supporter of many liberation movements.

“This will not change at all because of China’s own growth and rising international stature. I can clearly tell all my friends here that, under new circumstances, the importance of Sino-African relations will not decline, but will instead rise,” he said then and he has reiterated that stance in numerous speeches since then.

“We will strengthen mutually beneficial co-operation with African countries in agricultural, manufacturing and other spheres, helping these countries convert their resource advantages into developmental advantages,” he said in the March 25, 2013 speech, which was broadcast on Chinese television, so that his country’s residents could see the importance he attached to relations with Africa.

It is to strengthen the ties between Africa and China that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi embarked on official visits to Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Botswana and Seychelles from January 4 to 9.

The visit to African countries at the start of the year is a tradition that goes back to January 1991 and is aimed at solidifying the solidarity between African people and the Chinese people. It is also a striking example of how highly the Chinese value their relationship with Africa. This year’s visit in particular is aimed at supporting African countries in economic recovery, debt relief and the fight against the epidemic, as well as promoting the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative to build a closer China-Africa community with a shared future.

President Xi and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa were in early communication with each other, and jointly initiated the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against Covid-19. In the early stages of the pandemic, when China was the epicentre, South Africa provided valuable moral and material support, and many South African enterprises made generous donations to China. In return, the Chinese side donated more than six million masks and hundreds of thousands of detection reagents, as well as ventilators, PPE suits and other anti-pandemic materials worth millions of rand. More importantly, they shared their knowledge on how to prevent infection and how to treat those patients who had to be hospitalised.

Shared knowledge and shared resources are the most powerful weapons against the virus. Both China and South Africa firmly uphold multilateralism and support the World Health Organization in its role as the leading authority in co-ordinating the global anti-pandemic efforts and mobilising the international community to share resources and knowledge.

“China has and will continue to work alongside African countries to take practical measures to appropriately solve problems in trade and economic co-operation, so that African countries gain more from that co-operation,” Xi said then at a conference centre built with Chinese loans and support, a symbol of the mutual prosperity he sought to emphasise.

The eighth anniversary of that speech highlights how China has worked with African countries to combat the global coronavirus pandemic and support its partner nations in the recovery this year from the unprecedented downturn in economic activity last year.

* Preuss is an economist at Forecaster Ecosa.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

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