China's foreign minister Wang Yi at a media briefing in Pretoria in 2018. File picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)
China's foreign minister Wang Yi at a media briefing in Pretoria in 2018. File picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Chinese Foreign Minister’s 31-year tradition helps to keep China-Africa friendship solid and strong

By Opinion Time of article published Jan 11, 2021

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By Chen Xiaodong

Over the past 31 years, Africa has been the destination for Chinese foreign ministers’ first overseas visit each year. At the beginning of 2021, Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi continued this fine tradition and visited Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Botswana, Tanzania and Seychelles in six days with a tight schedule and fruitful outcomes.

Despite the raging Covid-19 in Africa, the Chinese foreign minister still chooses face-to-face exchanges, which demonstrates the high importance China attaches to its relationship with Africa, the unbreakable friendship between China and its African brothers, and China’s firm support for the development and revitalisation of African countries.

This visit has sent out four clear messages on China and Africa working together through thick and thin to build a closer community with a shared future.

First, China firmly supports Africa in fighting Covid-19. We will never forget that facing the sudden outbreak of the pandemic, Africa rendered strong support to China’s anti-Covid-19 battle. China has also provided PPE to 53 African countries and the AU when they were in urgent need of medical supplies. In June last year, President Xi Jinping hosted the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against Covid-19, which provided important strategic guidance for China and Africa joining hands to fight the virus.

China will implement the outcomes of the summit by continuing to provide medical supplies and send medical experts to African countries in need, sharing experiences in diagnosis and treatment with African countries, promoting co-operation between pairing-up hospitals, and building the headquarters of African CDC, so as to enhance Africa’s public health emergency response capacity. Meanwhile, China is committed to making vaccines more accessible and affordable in Africa to help the African people defeat the pandemic as soon as possible.

Second, China firmly supports Africa’s efforts to accelerate economic recovery. During this visit, China signed bilateral BRI co-operation agreements with the DRC and Botswana respectively, bringing the total number of African BRI partner countries to 46. China will establish the fast lane for personnel exchanges with African countries in need, speed up BRI co-operation and resume the construction of major co-operation projects in Africa in an orderly way so as to help Africa stabilise its economy, ensure employment and improve people’s livelihood. China applauds the official launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area and stands ready to support Africa’s integration process. We will encourage Chinese enterprises to increase investment in Africa, support Africa’s industrialisation and help Africa achieve self-sustainable development.

Third, China firmly supports the upgrading of China-Africa co-operation. Despite the impact of Covid-19, more than 70% of the outcomes of the 2018 Focac Beijing Summit have been implemented. The Eight Major Initiatives have achieved remarkable outcomes, and the industrial promotion initiative, infrastructure connectivity initiative, public health initiative and people-to-people exchanges initiative are warmly welcomed by Africa. As agreed upon by China and Africa, the next Focac meeting will be held in Senegal in the fourth quarter of 2021.

We are ready to work with African countries to ensure that the goals of the Beijing Summit will be achieved as scheduled and make good preparations for the next Focac meeting, so that China-Africa co-operation in the post-Covid-19 era will be elevated to a higher-quality level to better meet the needs of both sides and and deliver greater benefits to our two peoples.

Fourth, China firmly supports Africa’s efforts to increase its international influence. As the world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century, China and Africa are natural partners for co-operation. Facing the volatile and changing international situation, China is ready to strengthen strategic communication with Africa on major international and regional issues in a timely manner, hold high the banner of multilateralism, safeguard the common interests of developing countries, oppose external interference, uphold fairness and justice, and make the international order more just and equitable.

As a major Africa country with important influence, South Africa has always been at the forefront of the development of China-Africa relations. Over the past year, under the personal guidance of President Xi Jinping and President Cyril Ramaphosa, China and South Africa have deepened political and strategic mutual trust, advanced practical co-operation in various fields, and strengthened communication and co-ordination on international affairs through anti-pandemic co-operation. The comprehensive strategic partnership between our two countries has continued to grow in depth.

Looking ahead to 2021, we will focus on the implementation of the important consensus reached by the two heads of state and give priority to the following four areas under the framework of China-Africa co-operation.

First, China and South Africa shall continue to deepen anti- pandemic co-operation and jointly build a China-South Africa and China-Africa community of health for all. We will continue to provide PPE and share anti-pandemic experience in light of the needs of South Africa and Africa. The fourth batch of China’s medical supplies, including 360 000 detection and extraction reagents, will soon arrive in South Africa. We will also share vaccines through Covax and other multilateral and bilateral channels, so that Chinese vaccines will benefit the South African people at an early date.

Second, China and South Africa shall synergise development strategies and support the development of African Continental Free Trade Area. We will speed up the alignment between China’s 14th Five-Year Plan and Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035 with the AU’s Agenda 2063 and South Africa’s Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan. We will promote the high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative and strengthen co-operation in such key areas as public health, people’s livelihood, employment, people-to-people exchange, peace and security and debt sustainability.

Third, China and South Africa shall work together to ensure the success of the next Focac meeting and draw a new blueprint for China-Africa co-operation. South Africa once served as the African co-chair of Focac and has made important contributions to the development of Focac and China-Africa relations. It is hoped that South Africa will continue to play an important leading role to discuss ways to promote co-operation in the three key areas of anti-pandemic co-operation, economic recovery and transformation and development, and jointly hold a successful Focac meeting in Senegal so as to make a good start for China-Africa co-operation in the next 20 years.

Fourth, China and South Africa shall continue to strengthen co-ordination and co-operation on multilateral affairs to further enrich the strategic significance of our bilateral relations. Both China and South Africa oppose unilateralism, protectionism and bullying, and support the international system with the UN at its core, the international order underpinned by international law, the multilateral trading regime and an open world economy. Through jointly safeguarding the common interests of developing countries, China and South Africa shall get more deeply involved in global governance and work together to build a community with a shared future for mankind.

* Chen is the Chinese ambassador to South Africa.

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

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