Expanding China-Africa friendship and cooperation

On August 18, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi chaired, by video link from Beijing, the Coordinators’ Meeting on the Implementation of the Follow-Up Actions of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

At this meeting, Wang announced that China is forgiving 23 interest-free loans for 17 African nations. Writing on Multipolarista, the website he edits, Benjamin Norton notes:

“This is in addition to China’s cancellation of more than $3.4 billion in debt and restructuring of around $15 billion of debt in Africa between 2000 and 2019. While Beijing has a repeated history of forgiving loans like this, Western governments have made baseless, politically motivated accusations that China uses ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ in the Global South.”

Wang Yi’s speech contained a wealth of detail on the progress in China-Africa cooperation since the ministerial meeting was held last November, including that:

  • China has completed major projects in Senegal, Kenya, Cameroon and Egypt.
  • Provided emergency food assistance to Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea.
  • Provided 189 million doses of anti-Covid vaccines to 27 African countries, with joint production capacity in Africa having now reached around 400 million doses.
  • Undertaken resilient and sustainable development initiatives in Zambia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Seychelles, Madagascar and Mozambique.

Presenting a number of proposals to develop the cooperation still further, Wang welcomed the initiative by Tanzania and Zambia to restart the Tazara railway, a huge project built by China in the 1970s to help those countries get out from the vice-like economic grip exercised by the countries to their south that were still under white racist and colonial rule.

On August 22, the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post reported that, “the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation has been appointed to carry out a feasibility study on the project, the Chinese embassy in Zambia announced.

“‘China is making every effort to prepare for the reactivation of the railway upon Zambian and Tanzanian request again,’ Chinese ambassador to Lusaka Du Xiaohui said, adding that Beijing will engage the Zambian and Tanzanian governments to explore ways to make Tazara profitable.”

Noting that some 70 Chinese workers and engineers sacrificed their lives in the course of building the railway, the newspaper further reported that, on August 10, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema commissioned a memorial park in their honour in Chongwe, near to the national capital, Lusaka.

We reprint below the article by Benjamin Norton and the full text of Minister Wang Yi’s speech. They were originally carried respectively by Multipolarista and the website of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

China forgives 23 loans for 17 African countries, expands ‘win-win’ trade and infrastructure projects

The Chinese government has announced that it is forgiving 23 interest-free loans for 17 African nations, while pledging to deepen its collaboration with the continent.

This is in addition to China’s cancellation of more than $3.4 billion in debt and restructuring of around $15 billion of debt in Africa between 2000 and 2019.

While Beijing has a repeated history of forgiving loans like this, Western governments have made baseless, politically motivated accusations that China uses “debt-trap diplomacy” in the Global South.

The United States has turned Africa into a battleground in its new cold war on China and Russia. And Washington has weaponized dubious claims of Chinese “debt traps” to try to demonize Beijing for its substantial infrastructure projects on the continent.

For its part, China has pushed back against the US new cold war.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a meeting with leaders from various African countries and the African Union on August 18.

In the conference, Wang condemned the West’s “zero-sum Cold War mentality.” He instead proposed a model based on “multi-party cooperation” with Africa that brings “win-win results” for all sides.

“What Africa would welcome is mutually beneficial cooperation for the greater well-being of the people, not major-country rivalry for geopolitical gains,” he said.

Wang revealed that Beijing will support the African Union in its efforts to join the G20.

The foreign minister also announced that “China will waive the 23 interest-free loans for 17 African countries that had matured by the end of 2021.”

Beijing pledged to strengthen trade with Africa, and has made agreements with 12 countries on the continent to remove tariffs for 98% of the products they export to China, increasing the competitiveness of African goods.

Wang said Beijing will continue to provide food, economic, and military aid to Africa, while offering assistance in the fight against covid-19.

Emphasizing the importance of “development cooperation,” China offered billions of dollars of investment in infrastructure projects as “a strong boost to Africa’s industrialization process.”

Africa plays an important role in Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, a global infrastructure project aimed at interconnecting the Global South and moving the center of the world economy back east.

“In the face of the various forms of hegemonic and bullying practices, China and Africa have stood with each other shoulder to shoulder,” Wang stressed, calling to “safeguard international fairness and justice.”

US diplomats visit Africa, pressure it to cut ties with China and Russia

China’s comments and promises to deepen “mutually beneficial cooperation” with Africa could hardly have been any more different from those made by top US diplomats.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, visited Uganda and Ghana in the first week of August. There, she threatened the continent, telling African nations they cannot do trade with Russia, or they will be violating Western sanctions.

Thomas-Greenfield warned in Uganda, “As for sanctions that we have on Russia – for example, oil sanctions – if a country decides to engage with Russia where there are sanctions, then they are breaking those sanctions; they’re breaking our sanctions and in some cases they’re breaking UN sanctions with other countries, and we caution countries not to break those sanctions because then, if they do, they stand the chance of having actions taken against them for breaking those sanctions.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken subsequently visited South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda from August 7 to 11, as part of a trip aimed at weakening Africa’s relations with China and Russia.

‘The Chinese “debt trap” is a myth’

One of Washington’s most powerful weapons in its information war on China is its evidence-free accusations that Beijing is supposedly trapping African nations in debt.

Yet as Multipolarista previously reported in an analysis of Sri Lanka’s economic crisis, Western governments, financial institutions, banks, and vulture funds are responsible for the vast majority of debt that Global South countries are trapped in.

The UK government’s own state media outlet BBC investigated allegations of “debt trap diplomacy” in Sri Lanka and reluctantly concluded that they are false.

“The truth is that many independent experts say that we should be wary of the Chinese debt trap narrative, and we’ve found quite a lot of evidence here in Sri Lanka which contradicts it,” BBC reporter Ben Chu said in a dispatch.

Similarly, mainstream academics at Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Business School acknowledged in Washington’s establishment magazine The Atlantic that “the Chinese ‘debt trap’ is a myth.”

Scholar Deborah Brautigam wrote that the US government-sponsored narrative is “a lie, and a powerful one.”

“Our research shows that Chinese banks are willing to restructure the terms of existing loans and have never actually seized an asset from any country,” she added.

Brautigam found that, between 2000 and 2019, China cancelled more than $3.4 billion and restructured or refinanced around $15 billion of debt in Africa, renegotiating at least 26 individual loans.

This past debt forgiveness is in addition to the 23 interest-free loans for 17 African countries that Beijing has announced it will pardon.

China and Africa: Strengthening Friendship, Solidarity and Cooperation for a New Era of Common Development

Remarks by State Councilor Wang Yi at the Coordinators’ Meeting on the
Implementation of the Follow-up Actions of
The Eighth Ministerial Conference of
The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)

18 August 2022

Your Excellency Madam Aïssata Tall Sall, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Senegal,
Your Excellencies representatives of the sub-regional members of the  Bureau of the Assembly of the African Union and representatives of  the African Co-Chairs of FOCAC,
Your Excellency Madam Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission,
Your Excellencies African Diplomatic Envoys in China,

Welcome to the Coordinators’ Meeting on the Implementation of the Follow-up Actions of the Eighth FOCAC Ministerial Conference. I am so happy to meet you, my African brothers and sisters online. 

Last November, with the concerted efforts of China and Africa, the Eighth FOCAC Ministerial Conference was successfully convened in Dakar, Senegal. We adopted four outcome documents including the Dakar Declaration. President Xi Jinping announced the launch of nine programs for China-Africa cooperation. It was a highly cordial and results-oriented conference, one of great significance for growing our traditional friendship, cementing our solidarity and cooperation, and building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era. 

It has been over half a year since the conference was held. We are pleased to see that, despite the evolving international situation, rising global challenges and repeated external disturbances, China and Africa have stayed our course in enhancing solidarity and focusing on cooperation. We have made good progress in implementing the outcomes of the conference. The people in Africa are getting real benefits.  

—Together, we have safeguarded international fairness and justice. In the face of the various forms of hegemonic and bullying practices, China and Africa have stood with each other shoulder to shoulder. China appreciates the firm commitment of African countries to the one-China principle and your strong support for China’s efforts to safeguard sovereignty, security and territorial integrity. China has also spoken up for our African brothers at the UN and other multilateral settings, upholding justice and opposing unwarranted interference and unilateral sanctions against Africa. In solidarity and coordination, China and Africa have become a pillar force in defending the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries, upholding the purposes of the UN Charter, and advocating multilateralism and international fairness and justice. 

—Together, we have kept our focus on development cooperation. We have pushed forward our cooperation on infrastructure, and completed several major projects since the Dakar Conference, including the Foundiougne Bridge in Senegal, the Nairobi Expressway, the Kribi-Lolabe Highway in Cameroon, and the 10th of Ramadan LRT in Egypt. All these have lent a strong boost to Africa’s industrialization process. China is making steady progress in implementing all the pledges it made in Dakar, despite various difficulties and disturbances. Over three billion has been delivered out of the 10 billion US dollars of credit facilities pledged to African financial institutions, and nearly 2.5 billion US dollars of loans were channeled to Africa’s priority programs. More than two billion of the 10 billion US dollars of trade finance has been allocated, and China’s import of African goods within seven months reached 70.6 billion US dollars. Chinese companies have invested 2.17 billion US dollars in Africa. We are prepared to, through the IMF’s two Trusts, re-channel 10 billion US dollars of its SDR to Africa, and encourage the IMF to direct China’s contributions to Africa. 

—Together, we have tackled the global food crisis. So far this year, China has signed exchange of letters with 12 African countries on zero tariff for 98 percent of their export items to China. We have provided emergency food assistance to Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea. More African agricultural produce has reached the Chinese market through the “green lanes”. The first four China-Africa joint centers for modern agro-technology exchange, demonstration and training were launched. Chinese businesses are increasing their investment in Africa’s agricultural sector, growing more grains, and through the initiative of “100 companies in 1,000 villages”, helping create jobs, reduce poverty and improve livelihood for the rural households in Africa. 

—Together, we have built a strong shield against COVID-19. China has provided 189 million doses of vaccines to 27 African countries. Joint production of vaccines in Africa now has an annual capacity of about 400 million doses. The Africa CDC Headquarters building has topped out and is expected to be completed early next year. We have concluded upgrading the China-Guinea Friendship Hospital and completed the preliminary procedures for hospitals in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Chad, and Malawi to pair up with Chinese hospitals. China has made 332 appointments of medical personnel to Africa; the nearly 1,000 Chinese medical experts in Africa have provided services on 250,000 clinical cases, conducted more than 30,000 operations, treated patients in 4,500 critical cases, and trained 3,600 participants from the local medical and healthcare community. African students taking courses in Chinese colleges are returning to their campuses in China. Fourteen Chinese vocational schools have forged partnerships with 13 African higher education institutions. 

—Together, we have advanced resilient and sustainable development. We have expanded our cooperation on solar, wind and other clean energy sources. A number of key projects, including the Kafue Lower Gorge Power Station in Zambia have entered into operation. We have held an excellent seminar on building Africa’s Great Green Wall. In countries including Botswana and Burkina Faso, we are carrying out South-South cooperation for addressing climate change. In Seychelles, we are building a low-carbon demonstration zone. In Madagascar and Mozambique, we have supported their response to hurricanes, and helped enhance capacity for disaster preparedness and relief.

—Together, we have enhanced regional peace and stability. China has put forward the Outlook on Peace and Development in the Horn of Africa, appointed its Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Affairs, and supported countries in the region in holding the Horn of Africa Peace Conference. The second China-Africa Peace and Security Forum and a workshop on security in the Gulf of Guinea were successfully held. China has continued to provide military aid to countries in Sahel, the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Guinea, and policing equipment to countries including the Central African Republic and Namibia. All of this has helped boost the capacity of countries in the region for preserving peace and stability with their own strength. 

Dear colleagues and dear friends, these achievements in our cooperation have not come easily. And we have much more to look forward to in the future. Fruitful China-Africa cooperation will add fresh impetus to global development, generate positive energy for world stability, and bring new hopes to people around the world. We are confident that China-Africa friendship will stand any test of winds and storms. It will continue to be the backbone in South-South cooperation and a fine example in international relations.  

Later this year, the Communist Party of China will hold its 20th National Congress, thus ushering in a new journey of building a modern socialist country in all respects. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of the African Union (AU), and Africa will embrace new development opportunities. At this new historical starting point, China and Africa need to stand even closer with each other, press ahead toward common development and rejuvenation, and truly build a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era. Here I wish to take this opportunity to share with you the following five suggestions:

First, we need to uphold sincerity, real results, amity and good faith and enhance solidarity and mutual support. China will continue to follow the principles of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith and pursuing the greater good and shared interests, put forth by President Xi Jinping. China will always be Africa’s partner of mutual respect, equality and sincere cooperation. We will firmly support African countries in pursuing your own development paths and seeking strength through unity. China supports the AU in joining the G20 and supports Uganda in hosting a successful high-level meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement. We will work with Africa to carry forward the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, practice true multilateralism and jointly safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries.

Second, we need to take concrete actions to promote common development. China keeps its word with real actions, and will continue to take meeting Africa’s needs as the purpose of our cooperation with Africa. We will work with Africa to fully implement the “nine programs” and advance high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. China will waive the 23 interest-free loans for 17 African countries that had matured by the end of 2021. We welcome and support the decision of Tanzania and Zambia to reactivate the Tazara Railway. China will continue to actively support and participate in the construction of major infrastructure in Africa through financing, investment and assistance. We will also continue to increase imports from Africa, support the greater development of Africa’s agricultural and manufacturing sectors, and expand cooperation in emerging industries such as the digital economy, health, green and low-carbon sectors. 

In response to the shared aspiration of developing countries, President Xi Jinping has proposed the Global Development Initiative, and announced that China will upgrade the South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund to a Global Development and South-South Cooperation Fund and further replenish the Fund. China has started developing a pool of global development projects, and welcomes application from African countries with prospective projects. We will also publish a China-Africa action plan on shared development in due course.

To help address food shortage in Africa, the Chinese government has decided to provide, within this year, a new tranche of food assistance to the 17 African countries in need, and will encourage more Chinese firms to invest in agricultural production and processing in Africa to help realize food self-sufficiency.

Third, we need to uphold independence and jointly promote peace in the region. China will continue to support solving African issues in the African way. We oppose interference by outside forces in African countries’ internal affairs, and oppose stoking confrontation and conflict in Africa. China will speed up the delivery of military aid to the AU and regional countries, help Africa enhance the capacity for countering terrorism and maintaining stability, and contribute to the early realization of the “Silencing the Guns” initiative. China wishes to work with Africa to jointly implement the Global Security Initiative, and will increase its input to the UN Peace and Development Trust Fund and help improve the UN operations for stability and peace in Africa.

Fourth, we need to deepen our friendship and forge a stronger bond between the peoples. China will overcome the difficulties caused by COVID-19 and actively facilitate the return of African students who wish to come back to China to resume their studies. We will also resume short-term in-person training programs in China in an orderly way, and steadily increase commercial flights to facilitate personnel interflow and business travels between our two sides. China is actively preparing for the China-Africa Youth Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition. We support think tanks, media organizations, people’s groups, the youth and women in enhancing exchange and cooperation to deepen friendship between the Chinese and African peoples.

Fifth, we need to uphold openness and win-win results and promote the sound development of international cooperation with Africa. China welcomes continued interest in and support for Africa from the international community. We would also like to, with the consent of our African brothers, carry out trilateral or multi-party cooperation in Africa. What Africa wishes for is a favorable and amicable cooperation environment, not the zero-sum Cold War mentality. What Africa would welcome is mutually beneficial cooperation for the greater well-being of the people, not major-country rivalry for geopolitical gains.

The FOCAC mechanism has traveled a journey of over two decades and has played a positive role in charting a right course for international cooperation with Africa. Under the new circumstances, China will continue to work with African friends to enhance the institution-building of FOCAC to jointly boost its well-established credentials. We will actively consider institutionalizing the coordinators’ meeting and work to mobilize more resources in favor of Africa. With our joint efforts, FOCAC will continue to be a standard-bearer of cooperation with Africa.

Thank you.

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