People use smartphones to film fireworks exploding at Tiananmen Square as part of a gala evening commemorating the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China. Picture: Andy Wong/AP
Johannesburg - On October 1, 1949, Chairman Mao declared: “The Chinese people, one-quarter of humanity, have stood up From now on no one will insult us again.” Seventy years later China celebrated the same day that the Chinese Communist Party under Mao declared as marking the end of a century of humiliation at the hands of Japan and imperialist powers in the West.

To mark the 70 years of freedom, President Xi Jinping clearly stated: “No force can shake the status of our great motherland, no force can obstruct the advance of the Chinese people and Chinese nation.”

What does China’s 70th anniversary mean for Africa? President Xi Jinping has made four visits to Africa, in addition to many more that he took before acceding to the presidency. The frequency of his visits underscores the importance that he attaches to this continent. He has not forgotten the common bonds that bind China and Africa and he emphasised this appropriately at the Focac Conference (Forum on China-Africa Co-operation) in September last year when he asserted: “With similar fate in the past and a common mission, China and Africa have extended sympathy to and helped each other throughout all the years. Together, we have embarked on a distinctive path of win-win co-operation.”

At the same conference, China once again demonstrated its commitment to Africa by pledging $60 billion (R919bn) to Africa in the form of assistance, investments and loans.

The Belt and Road Initiative, which was proposed in 2013 by President Xi, is a far-reaching project, straddling the globe and inviting more than 60% of the global population. This infrastructure project will not only be a material web connecting so many regions and people; it will also be an ideal construction, fostering the exchange of culture, enhancing economic growth and promoting connectivity that will also encourage environment friendly innovations. The Belt and Road Initiative has noticeable facets that are in tandem with the AU’s Agenda 2063, especially in terms of improving intra-continental trade and intra-continental people-to-people exchange.

From the time of the Cold War to the present, China-Africa relations have evolved. The two partners are no longer striving to cast the chains of colonial control. Political sovereignty has been attained but it will remain intolerably circumscribed if not accompanied by economic progress. As China has shown, technological advancement is intrinsic to economic progression. Knowledge production is crucial to China-Africa relations and more so for Africa because it continues to lag behind. Knowledge production, the installation of manufacturing and transport infrastructure, even changing the mode of discharging every day activities, will be crucial for the ensuing international system. The world today stands on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution which will blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres. Africa will have to respond to the emerging change.

China is no longer relying on the long history of liberation struggle as the case in Africa to satisfy its people. In 70 years, the country has managed to wage new struggles in agriculture, the manufacturing sector and high tech industries. This year’s celebration of 70 years of freedom was not marked by empty rhetoric but the unveiling of the new Beijing Daxing International Airport.

* Monyae is a senior political analyst at the University of Johannesburg.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.