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Working Together to Write a New Chapter of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in the New Era – Article by Minister Zhong Shan on People’s Daily
【2020-10-23】

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). President Xi pointed out that twenty years ago, FOCAC was established to answer the call of the times. Since then, it has grown strong and prospered as China-Africa cooperation continues to flourish. It has become a distinct symbol in international cooperation with Africa and in South-South cooperation. Twenty years on, in the pursuit of common development and greater cooperation based on the principle of mutual benefit and win-win results, FOCAC has made great headways with remarkable achievements. Standing at the new historic starting point, China is willing to work with Africa to stay true to our original aspiration, keep forging ahead to consolidate and strengthen the FOCAC mechanism, substantiate and deepen the Belt and Road cooperation, drive high-quality development of China-Africa trade and economic cooperation, and set a good example for the building of a community with a shared future for mankind in our times.

Ever-expanding benefits of FOCAC for the past two decades

China and the friendly countries in Africa cofounded FOCAC at the turn of the century to pursue common development and jointly tackle challenges. A total of three summits and seven ministerial conferences of FOCAC have been successfully held over the past twenty years. Attaching great importance to China-Africa relations, President Xi Jinping chaired the FOCAC Johannesburg Summit in 2015 and the Beijing Summit in 2018 and put forward a number of new thinking, proposals and measures. Recently, President Xi and the leaders of African co-chairing countries sent a congratulatory message on the twentieth anniversary of FOCAC, bringing the role and influence of FOCAC to a new height.

FOCAC has become a strong boost to the friendship between China and Africa. From the establishment of “the new type of partnership between China and Africa” announced in the first Ministerial Conference of FOCAC in 2000, to “the new type of strategic partnership” announced at the 2006 Beijing Summit, and to “the comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership” at the 2015 Johannesburg Summit, FOCAC, building on the traditional friendship between China and Africa, has brought their friendly relations to a higher level. At the 2018 Beijing Summit, President Xi expounded on the principle of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith and of pursing the greater good and shared interests. He proposed cooperation between the two sides to build a China-Africa community with a shared future that features joint responsibility, win-win cooperation, happiness for all, common cultural prosperity, common security, and harmonious co-existence, thus setting the direction for China-Africa friendly relations in the new era.

FOCAC has become an effective mechanism for China-Africa practical cooperation. FOCAC introduced a series of major measures to deepen practical cooperation and support the development of Africa, including the Program for China-Africa Cooperation in Economic and Social Development rolled out at the first Ministerial Conference in 2000, the eight measures announced at the 2006 Beijing Summit, and the ten cooperation plans announced at 2016 Johannesburg Summit. These measures have been fully implemented thanks to the joint efforts of the two sides. At the 2018 Beijing Summit, President Xi announced that guided by the vision toward an even stronger community with a shared future between China and Africa, China is willing to, on the basis of the ten cooperation plans, work closely with African countries on the eight major initiatives as the focus of China-Africa cooperation in the coming three years, which drew a grand blueprint for the common development of China and Africa.

FOCAC has become an important and vibrant platform for China-Africa collective dialogue. From the Workshop on Investment and Trade between China and Africa of the first Ministerial Conference in 2000, to the High-level Dialogue between Chinese and African Leaders and Business Communities of the 2006 Beijing Summit, and to the China-Africa Equipment Manufacturing Industry Exhibition of the 2015 Johannesburg Summit, FOCAC has broadened and deepened China-Africa collective dialogue. At the 2018 Beijing Summit, President Xi Jinping announced to open a China-Africa economic and trade expo in China. In June 2019, the first China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo was a full success, pulling together Chinese and African national and local governments, think tanks, enterprises and financial institutions for cooperation and exchanges.

Fruitful outcomes have been achieved in the 20 years of China-Africa economic and trade cooperation

Chinese and African economies are highly complementary. We enjoy comparative strengths in industrial systems, market demand, factors of production, and resources. The Chinese market with 1.4 billion people and the African market with 1.2 billion people boasts huge development potential. All these translate into solid foundations and strong momentum for China-Africa economic and trade cooperation. Guided by the measures of FOCAC for practical cooperation, our burgeoning economic and trade cooperation has witnessed historic breakthroughs. Together, we have composed a fabulous chapter of solidarity and cooperation between developing countries.

The scale of cooperation has been broadening. China has been Africa’s largest trading partner for eleven years in a row, and Africa has emerged as an investment destination for Chinese enterprises. In 2019, our total trade was US$208.7 billion, 20 times that of 2000; China’s stock direct investment in Africa reached US$49.1 billion, 100 times that of 2000. Major projects including the African Union Conference Center, the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway, the Abuja-Kaduna Railway, the China-Egypt Suez Economic and Cooperation Zone, and Doraleh New Port of Djibouti have been completed.

The areas of cooperation are increasing. Our cooperation has extended from trade in goods and development assistance to an all-dimensional and multi-tiered structure, incorporating broader areas including industrial investment, equipment manufacturing, construction, project operation and maintenance, e-commerce, shipping, and logistics. With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting China and Africa, health has become a highlight for our economic and trade cooperation. President Xi Jinping chaired the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19, and stressed that China would work with Africa to fully deliver the health care initiative adopted at the FOCAC Beijing Summit, and speed up the construction of China-Africa Friendship Hospitals and the cooperation between paired-up Chinese and African hospitals, to build a China-Africa community of health for all. China has provided assistance in kind to 53 African countries and the African Union and helped Africa to purchase medical supplies from China.

Our cooperation features new, innovative measures. Under the FOCAC framework, both sides have advanced with the time in exploring ways and modes to deepen our economic and trade cooperation. A series of innovative policy tools have thus been improvised and become famous brands for our economic and trade cooperation, including economic and trade cooperation zones, agricultural technology demonstration zones, the China-Africa Development Fund, the China-Africa production capacity cooperation fund, a special fund for financing imports from Africa, and the Special Loans to Support Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises in Africa. In recent years, we have also carried out useful experiments in free trade zone development, investment-development-operation integration, and third-party cooperation, which has delivered positive outcomes.

Jointly fostering a bright future for China-Africa economic and trade ties

China and Africa are good friends and partners sharing the same future and aspirations. In a world undergoing profound changes unseen in a century, we should enhance cooperation more than ever. China will follow through with the import message in the joint congratulatory note of President Xi Jinping and the leader of the African co-chair. Taking the opportunity of the 20th anniversary of FOCAC, we will work with Africa to plan for the future of this mechanism and advance cooperation in economy, trade, and pandemic response, so as to enrich China-Africa comprehensive strategic partnership and build a closer community with a shared future between China and Africa.

We will build the forum into a better cooperation platform that guides China-Africa cooperation. China will adhere to the principle of pursuing shared benefits through consultation and collaboration, and fully tap the enthusiasm, initiative and creativity of the 54 African members of the forum. In response to the evolving situation, we will explore new approaches and ways to develop the forum, constantly enrich and improve its mechanisms, and enhance its power to appeal, rally and inspire. We will give better play to the forum’s role in in planning for, steering and promoting China-Africa practical cooperation in order to inject lasting impetus into the development of China-Africa friendly relations, provide solid guarantee for enhancing China-Africa political mutual trust, and lend emotional support to consolidating China-Africa traditional friendship.

We will develop new cooperation models to make the pie of China-Africa commercial cooperation bigger. China will take helping Africa realize independent and sustainable development as a long term goal, better align China's two centenary goals with the AU’s Agenda 2063, deepen Belt and Road international cooperation, adopt more targeted policies and make more effective use of funds, give greater priority, as appropriate, to cooperation on public health, vaccines and pharmaceuticals, and people’s livelihood in order to bring more benefits to the Chinese and African people. On top of speeding up efforts to carry out the eight major initiatives, we will meet the respective development demands of China and Africa and the common aspirations of the people on both sides by designing better practical cooperation measures and following them through in the coming years, and jointly tapping the potential of China-Africa commercial cooperation.

We will improve the quality of cooperation for the sake of the dual-cycle development paradigm. China will advance opening-up at a higher level and foster a new, dual-cycle development paradigm with the domestic cycle as the mainstay and domestic and international development reinforcing each other, which will provide African countries with a broad market and numerous development opportunities. China stands ready to work with the African side to oppose unilateralism and protectionism, uphold the multilateral trading system, maintain smooth industrial and supply chains and build an open world economy. Under the FOCAC framework, China will support the building of the African Continental Free Trade Area and Africa’s efforts to enhance connectivity. We will not only further enhance cooperation in trade and investment, but also move faster to foster new growth points in the digital economy, clean energy, 5G and other areas so as to upgrade China-Africa business cooperation and improve its quality and efficiency.

As a Chinese saying goes, 20-years-olds are in the prime of youth and have a splendid journey unfolding before them. FOCAC symbolizes unity and strength, and breeds results and hope. Another Chinese saying reads, “when brothers share the same conviction, they can easily break a strong piece of metal.” We firmly believe that, with the concerted efforts on the Chinese and African sides, we will surely usher FOCAC in another two decades of glory, and China-Africa commercial cooperation will surely have a bright, splendid future and make a greater contribution to the realization of the Chinese dream of great rejuvenation and the African dream of unity and revitalization for the African people.