Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 15, March 2010
China, Africa relations withstand the test of time

Relations between China and Africa have grown from strength to strength because they are based on equality, mutual trust and respect.

Speaking at a recent China-Africa briefing held in Harare, a member of the Foreign Affairs Policy advisory group of the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry, Ji Peiding said if such cooperation is kept intact, the friendship will link "our people together for generations to come" and become a model for other partnerships to emulate.

He said contrary to some western reports, China’s foreign policy on Africa is not aimed at seizing natural resources from the continent, but rather to help Africa develop its various socio-economic sectors such as agriculture and mining.

The relationship is also open and inclusive as it does not impair the cooperation between Africa and other countries or continents of the world.

"Our relationship is based on mutual trust, come rain or shine," Ambassador Ji said, adding that despite the relationship expanding to other new areas, "we have never strayed from the fundamental principle of enhancing friendship and treating each other as equals."

He said the friendship between China and Africa dates back to the colonial days when China supported African countries in their pursuit for national independence and liberation.

However, to cope with the changes in the international scene and challenges of economic globalization, China and Africa decided to set up the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000.

FOCAC, which meets after every three years seeks to chart the course of action for the development of China and Africa.

At the recent meeting held in Egypt, the two agreed on a new plan of action for the next three years in a bid to strengthen cooperation.

The Sharm el-Sheikh Action Plan 2010-2012, which was adopted together with the Sharm el-Sheikh Declaration focuses on trade, agriculture, infrastructure, climate change and social welfare among other issues.

Under trade cooperation, China announced a US$10 billion loan to Africa and plans to support Chinese financial institutions in setting up a special loan of US$1 billion for small and medium enterprises on the continent.

China also pledged to further open its market to African products and phase in zero-tariff treatment to 95 percent of the products from the least developed African countries starting with 60 percent of the products within 2010. This development is expected to boost China-Africa trade over the next few years.

FOCAC also pledged to establish a China-Africa partnership in addressing climate change.

China said it would build 100 clean energy power stations in Africa to increase the uptake of solar power, bio-gas and small hydro-power.

On agriculture, China said it would increase the number of agricultural technology demonstration centres in Africa and send more agricultural technology teams to the continent.

Ji said China is committed towards meeting its promises made at FOCAC, adding that history has shown that the country attaches greater value in honoring its pledges.

"This year mark the beginning of the various follow-up actions of the fourth ministerial conference of FOCAC," he said.

"China’s assistance to Africa is never a rubber cheque. China always acts on its words," he added, saying the construction of the Tanzania-Zambia railway line in the 1970s is ample evidence of this.

The acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Zimbabwe, Hon. S.I.G. Mudenge concurred, saying China is a true friend of Africa

He said assistance from China is never attached to any political strings, but is meant to help Africa develop its economy. He said this strong commitment has led to China canceling debts of many African countries.

"China is a true friend of Africa," Mudenge said. "As Zimbabwe we wish to reiterate our unwavering support for the one-China policy. This derives from our own cherished principles of upholding sovereignty and territorial integrity."

The Briefing on China-Africa Relations was organized by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the embassy of the People's Republic of China.

The briefing was attended by scholars, senior officials, and African diplomats based in Zimbabwe.

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