Arise, Africa! Roar China! Interview with Gao Yunxiang

‘Arise Africa, Roar China’ is an important book exploring aspects of the historic linkages between progressive African Americans and the Chinese revolution. Published by the University of North Carolina Press in December 2021, the author, Dr. Gao Yunxiang was born and grew up in the People’s Republic of China and is now Professor of History at Canada’s Toronto Metropolitan University.   Her book explores the close relationships between three of the most famous twentieth-century African Americans, W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and Langston Hughes, and their little-known Chinese allies during World War II and the Cold War—journalist, musician, and Christian activist Liu Liangmo, and Sino-Caribbean dancer-choreographer Sylvia Si-lan Chen. Charting a new path in the study of Sino-American relations, Gao Yunxiang foregrounds African Americans, combining the study of Black internationalism and the experiences of Chinese Americans with a transpacific narrative and an understanding of the global remaking of China’s modern popular culture and politics. Dr. Gao reveals interactions between Chinese and African American progressives that predate those that flourished in the 1960s and early 1970s in particular.

To introduce the book, we are pleased to republish this two-part interview with Dr. Gao conducted for the popular Sixth Tone website by Liu Zifeng, a doctoral candidate in Africana Studies at Cornell University in the US.  

Liu Zifeng: How did you get interested in the ties between Chinese and African Americans? What inspired you to write “Arise Africa! Roar China!”?

Gao Yunxiang: While conducting research on my first book, “Sporting Gender,” I came across laudatory articles on W. E. B. Du Bois and Shirley Graham Du Bois in The People’s Daily. They reminded me of some things I read in my childhood: specifically, an old newspaper article and a propaganda poster.

In my childhood home in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, our ceiling was a flat lattice of wooden boards pasted over with old newspapers purchased in bulk. After I learned to read and write, I was confronted every night by a headline pasted right above my pillow — until it was covered by a new layer of old newspapers the following Lunar New Year. Since I read those words daily, they were inscribed in my brain: “Robert Williams and Madam Du Bois Fervently Acclaim Chairman Mao’s Statement Supporting Black Americans’ Struggle Against Violent Repression.”

That title is in turn connected to the memory of a poster that hung in our little classroom for 18 students between grades one to three. Advocating solidarity in the liberation struggle, the poster featured indignant men and women of various ethnicities, all dressed in vibrant clothing and charging forward, with a muscular Black man holding a gun at the center.

“Sporting Gender” was released in 2013. Around the same time, I published an article in the journal Du Bois Review that explored how W. E. B. and Shirley Graham Du Bois’ endeavors in Maoist China added new dimensions to Sino-American relations and Black internationalism. Working on that article, I naturally came across Paul Robeson, a close ally of the Du Boises. Then, while researching the fascinating yet unknown dynamics between Paul Robeson and China, I came across his Chinese allies: Liu Liangmo and Sylvia Si-lan Chen.

Of course, I was immediately curious about who they were. While looking into Chen, I learned that Langston Hughes was her lover. So, I traced these figures just like interlocked chains.

Liu: What attracted African American intellectuals, artists, and activists to China? How did they encounter Chinese and China? What were their impressions of these encounters?

Gao: Solidarity between people of color globally and their shared destiny of anti-racism and anti-colonialism attracted these figures’ attention to China. As a minority facing overwhelming state-imposed systematic racism and white supremacy, Black intellectuals and activists looked toward the similarly oppressed China for inspiration and strength.

These figures’ ties with leftist Chinese and China were built on a profound emotional and intellectual foundation. They shared a faith in Sino-Afro racial, linguistic, philosophical, and artistic kinship. Hughes observed Chinese to be “a very jolly people, much like colored folks at home”; Du Bois lauded Chinese as “my physical cousins.”

Both Du Bois and Robeson consistently articulated the linkage between African and Chinese civilizations and cited famous Chinese cultural giants such as Confucius and Laozi to argue for the sophistication of African civilization, counter negative stereotypes associated with perceived African “primitivism,” and debunk white supremacism.

Cultural kinship necessitated a political alliance. By embracing China’s revolutions as vehicles for the social and economic uplift of nonwhites, Black intellectuals directly linked the struggles of African Americans with those of nationalist Chinese. Hughes’ 1933 journey to “incredible” Shanghai made him the first Black intellectual celebrity to set foot on Chinese soil. He was profoundly sympathetic to China’s suffering under colonial oppression, especially Japan’s latest aggressions. Hughes would pen a passionate poem, “Roar, China!” following Japan’s full-scale invasion of China in 1937, lionizing China’s resistance.

The Communist victory in 1949 made China a pillar of nonwhite peoples’ revolutionary struggles and a model for millions to beat colonialism. Robeson romantically imagined that the nonwhite world would view the rising China as a “new star of the East… pointing the way out from imperialist enslavement to independence and equality. China has shown the way.”

During his epic China trip in 1959, Du Bois repeatedly proclaimed Chinese and African dignity and unity in the face of Western racism, colonialism, and capitalism: “Africa, Arise, and stand straight, speak and think! Turn from the West and your slavery and humiliation for the last 500 years and face the rising sun … China is flesh of your flesh and blood of your blood.” He predicted that the “darker world” would adopt socialism as “the only answer to the color line,” and that the status of African Americans would thereby be elevated.

Despite withdrawing from radicalism due to anti-Communist hysteria in the United States, Hughes nevertheless remained confident of the power of the People’s Republic of China. His suppressed inspiration, drawn from the Chinese Communist Party, resurfaced in his fury at the brutal racial violence African Americans suffered. “Birmingham Sunday,” Hughes’ eulogy to the four Black girls killed in the dynamiting of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on Sunday, September 15, 1963, connected his rage with the rage one once felt by oppressed Chinese.

Liu: How about the Chinese intellectuals and activists you profile? Who were they? What prompted them to reach out to African Americans and what did they do to build Sino-Black solidarity?

Gao: The Chinese intelligentsia had, through literature and drama, long connected the shared “enslavement” of the Chinese nation as a semi-colony state and the enslavement of African Americans. In the introduction to their 1901 translation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Lin Shu and Wei Yi argue that the tortures “yellow” people faced were even worse than those endured by Black Americans. Chinese people needed to read the book, Liu and Wei write, because “slavery is looming for our race. We had to yell and scream to wake up the public.”

In the face of harassment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, as well as racial terror and segregation, Liu Liangmo’s and Sylvia Si-Lan Chen’s brave journeys to the United States brought Sino–African American cultural alliances into new historical settings. Liu was a talented musician, prolific journalist, and Christian activist who initiated the trans-Pacific mass singing movement for war mobilization during World War II. He was a pioneer among Chinese for his close collaboration with African Americans, lauding Black greatness without reservation and later facilitating the reception of the Du Boises and Robeson in the People’s Republic. Among the numerous areas in which Liu and Robeson collaborated, they helped to globalize the signature piece of the mass singing movement: “Chee Lai” or “March of the Volunteers.”

In 1941, Robeson, Liu, and the Chinese People’s Chorus, a group Liu had organized among members of the Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance in New York City’s Chinatown, recorded an album for Keynote Records titled, “Chee Lai: Songs of New China.” Liu’s liner notes for the album relay that he saw the collaboration as “a strong token of solidarity between the Chinese and the Negro People.”

Robeson’s notes read: “Chee Lai! (Arise!) is on the lips of millions of Chinese today, a sort of unofficial anthem, I am told, typifying the unconquerable spirit of this people. It is a pleasure and a privilege to sing both this song of modern composition and the old folk songs to which a nation in struggle has put new words.”

The song would be adopted as the national anthem of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Chen was the world’s first “modern Chinese/Soviet dancer-choreographer” with an international reputation, according to contemporary American media accounts. She was a daughter of Eugene Chen, China’s foreign minister in the 1920s, and his French Creole wife. She was also a cousin of Dai Ailian, the acclaimed “mother of China’s modern dance.”

The Chens and Dai were all born in Trinidad and barely spoke Chinese. Chen encountered Hughes romantically in Moscow, fanning his interest in China, connecting him with the international Communist network, and helping to propel him into Shanghai’s leftist cultural circles. Chen captured the fanciful imaginations of Hughes and Robeson, who saw her as personifying the “perfect” union of Black and Chinese. Meanwhile, her own journey to choreograph and dance ethnicity, war, and revolution around the globe illustrates the complex racial and political twists of such an interracial union.

Liu: How did the African American intellectuals profiled in your book shape Chinese perceptions of Blackness and visions of the world order? And how did China’s engagement with the Africana world, at least in the cases of Liu Liangmo and Sylvia Si-Lan Chen, inform African American understandings of Chinese politics and culture and Black radical thought more generally?

Gao: W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, and Paul Robeson’s presence in China and their alliances with Chinese sojourners helped facilitate a shift in the dynamics of Pan-Africanism and Pan-Asianism and ultimately inspired the “color line” of Mao Zedong’s Third World theory.

The transformative process started with gradual changes in the images of Blacks in the Republic of China (1912-1949). Stung by its humiliating reputation as the “sick man of Asia” and alarmed by Nazi racism and Japan’s imperialist ambitions, China was acutely frustrated by the repeated defeats of Chinese athletes at the 1932 and 1936 Olympics. Thus, Chinese media celebrated the “natural” physical prowess of the boxer Joe Louis and track-and field athlete Jesse Owens on behalf of the world’s people of color.

The front cover of an issue of China’s leading cartoon magazine, Modern Sketch, devoted to the 1936 Olympics, drew inspiration from Owens’s triumph. The magazine’s back cover featured a drawing of a muscular Black woman resembling the American chanteuse Josephine Baker, clad in a banana skirt, captioned, “Victory of Colored People at the Olympics.”

Those two images exemplified Chinese portraiture of African Americans. Du Bois, who visited China around that time, announced that the race “must be represented, not only in sports, but in science, in literature, and in art.” Jazz musicians in nightclubs, who were dismissed as “foreign musical instrument devils” — yangqin gui — or else caricatured in advertisements for toothpaste and white towels, dominated Black representation in Republican Chinese media. The presence of Du Bois, Hughes, and Robeson, whose intellectual capacities Chinese critics described as “genius,” started to alter such stereotypes.

During his trip to Shanghai, Hughes was quickly embraced by the city’s leftist cultural circles, led by the author Lu Xun. Their magazines hailed him as the “first established Black revolutionary writer,” who was “howling and struggling for the oppressed races.” Hughes’ visit triggered ongoing interest in his work and Black literature in China.

The final step of connecting Blackness with revolution occurred during the People’s Republic of China. The narrative on the globally famous Robeson was quickly transformed from that of an exotic entertainer to a heroic model and inspiration for the country’s socialist citizens. He was introduced in state media as “the Black King of Songs” for the oppressed masses in the world, who “embodied the perfect marriage between art and politics.”

After Du Bois shifted his favorable gaze from Japan to the People’s Republic of China as the new pillar of the colored world, he was treated as an icon by a China aspiring to leadership in the “Third World.” During their visits, he and his wife received unprecedented state hospitality. The couple frequently rubbed shoulders with China’s top leadership, became the first Westerners to grace the Tiananmen Square podium during the country’s National Day celebrations, and frequently occupied the front pages of major newspapers. Du Bois’ birthdays were celebrated as major state events.

Liu and Chen, meanwhile, linked the burning issues facing Chinese Americans and African Americans — such as the poll tax, the Chinese Exclusion Act, Jim Crow laws, and the lynching of African Americans — while urging their abolition.

Liu Zifeng: How did the Cold War international order, Sino-Soviet relations, and shifts in Chinese and U.S. foreign policy impact relations between Chinese and African Americans?

Gao Yunxiang: Following its rough birth amid the intensifying Cold War atmosphere, the infant People’s Republic of China was forced to confront a superpower armed with nuclear weapons in the Korean War. By this point, the singer, actor, and activist Paul Robeson was enshrined as a fearless and reliable friend of China, and for Robeson, China was a strong source of support that he sorely needed.

April 20, 1949 marked the start of Robeson’s political downfall in the United States. On that day, he famously told the International Congress for Peace in Paris that it was “unthinkable that American Negroes would go to war on behalf of those who have oppressed us for generations against the Soviet Union.” That statement quickly drew widespread condemnation, including from Jackie Robinson, the famous African American baseball star, whom Robeson had helped to integrate the game.

Joining W.E.B. Du Bois in standing firmly behind Robeson was the Chinese Communist Party. The People’s Daily condemned Robinson and defended Robeson. The paper reported Robeson’s speech, highlighting the standing ovation the star received from the event’s 2,000 attendees, including Nobel Laureate and nuclear scientist Frederic Joliot-Curie and Robeson’s friend, the artist Pablo Picasso. Treating the organized regional and world peace movement as a powerful popular rebuke of U.S. involvement in China’s Civil War and later the Korean War, Chinese state media reported intensively on the involvement of Du Bois and Paul Robeson in the pacifist movement.

The United States quickly accelerated its attacks on Robeson. The most significant and ugliest example was the so-called Peekskill riots, in which right-wing mobs brutally attacked a Robeson concert in August 1949. Soon, the U.S. State Department cancelled Robeson’s passport and stalled his brilliant career. As is well documented in both Robeson’s writings and Chinese state media coverage, Robeson and the People’s Republic lent each other unyielding support during their most trying moments.

By the late 1950s, in the wake of the disastrous Great Leap Forward, China had immediate reasons to welcome public support from African American cultural giants. The CCP needed a new domestic perspective to reinvigorate the revolution and socialize the nation. In addition, it required new diplomatic defenders and tactics as it contested Soviet dominance of world communism and aspired to leadership of the “Third World” that bound the destinies of China with former agricultural colonies in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

The CCP was already reaching out to Africa, but the newly independent African states met Chinese overtures with caution and reserve. The stature of these African American figures among the African diaspora helped China open doors for alliances across the continent. Du Bois’ reputation and endorsement particularly meant a great deal. Chinese outreach to Africa through diplomatic exchanges, aid, and propaganda peaked following the Du Boises’ 1959 visit to China. For diplomatic and economic reasons, China continued to maintain a large presence in Africa, which the Du Boises helped to foster.

During the 1960s, Mao Zedong was interested in contacts with radical Blacks, who he valorized as true revolutionaries. Influential Black activist Robert Williams, author of “Negroes with Guns,” was mentioned in a People’s Daily headline plastered on the ceiling of my childhood bedroom, for instance. At the same time, Black Americans were impressed by Mao’s anti-American imperialism as well as his emphasis on violent struggles and cultural change as a revolutionary force.

Liu: As often happens in cases of transnational exchange, the intellectual and cultural interactions between China and African America that you chart were fraught with misunderstandings, ambiguity, and conflict. What were some of the complexities and contradictions of the internationalist politics of the five central figures in your book?

Gao: Caught in between the murky, sometimes treacherous, and shifting trans-Pacific political and ideological waters, all five citizens of the world I profile — W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Liu Liangmo, and Sylvia Si-lan Chen — experienced their share of ambiguity and conflict. For instance, in 1962, state media and publishers in the People’s Republic of China suddenly fell silent on Robeson, who had been promoted as a heroic revolutionary model for China’s socialist citizens throughout the 1950s. After the Sino-Soviet split came into the open, Robeson’s position of advocating for peaceful coexistence fell on the wrong side of Chinese politics amid a shift in dynamics between the trans-Pacific powers.

The official press took an alternative approach toward Hughes. Outlets awkwardly remained silent on Hughes’s public renunciation of his radical past at the peak of McCarthyism and the Korean War; instead, they fixed their gaze on the writer he was in the 1930s, an “established Black revolutionary writer,” as if he were preserved in a time capsule. Liu and Chen, meanwhile, were marginalized and even attacked during the radical Maoist years by a regime they had long idealized.

W.E.B Du Bois’ treatment of imperial Japan — which brutalized China and Asia — as a pillar of “the darker word” turned out to be the most controversial. Du Bois visited the segregated treaty port of Shanghai in 1936. Pampered by the Japanese authorities, he stayed at the luxurious Cathay Hotel on the Bund. At the University of Shanghai, Du Bois “occupied a seat on the dais,” listening as a Rockefeller Foundation representative spoke about scholarships to the United States.

“I said to the president that I should like to talk to a group of Chinese and discuss frankly racial and social matters,” Du Bois recalled. He soon “plunged…recklessly” into a luncheon at the Chinese Bankers’ Club at 59 Hong Kong Road on November 30. He wanted to know, in his own words, “Why is it that you (Chinese) hate Japan more than Europe when you have suffered more from England, France, and Germany than from Japan?” If Japan and China worked together, Du Bois continued, perhaps Europe could be eliminated permanently from Asia. Du Bois calmly reported, “There ensured a considerable silence, in which I joined.”

His dismayed hosts responded that whatever problems China suffered, Japan’s militarism hindered any progress. Unconvinced, Du Bois commented later that “the most disconcerting thing about Asia is the burning hatred of China and Japan (for each other).” As he sailed from Shanghai aboard the S. S. Shanghai Mari to Nagasaki on December 1, 1936, Du Bois hurled a final insult, claiming that the Chinese Nationalists were “Asian Uncle Toms,” likening them to the willing Black menials of white racism in the United States.

Du Bois repeated his belief in the virtues of Japanese rule and firmly urged a Sino-Japanese alliance, which would “save the world for the darker races.” He steadfastly maintained such views even after Japanese forces occupied Beiping (today’s Beijing) and Shanghai. To the news of the Nanjing Massacre, Japan’s genocidal occupation of China’s then-capital in late 1937 and early 1938, Du Bois responded that few of the white Americans expressing horror at the killing had said much about Italy’s recent depredations in Ethiopia.

Liu: What lessons do the stories recounted in your book offer for understanding China-U.S. relations?

Gao: While most scholarship on Sino-American relations treats the United States as default white, “Arise, Africa! Roar, China!” cuts a new path by foregrounding African Americans. It allows us to reimagine Sino-American relations by decentering Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon in the discourse, understanding Afro-Asian history as central to world history, and focusing on global anti-imperialism and popular movements which are still relevant today. My book combines the study of Black internationalism and the experiences of China and Chinese Americans with a trans-Pacific narrative. It reveals earlier and widespread interactions between Chinese and Black leftist figures prior to the better-known alliance between Black radicals and Maoist China in the 1960s.

It also shows the global remaking of China’s modern popular culture and politics. The book traces China’s transnational entanglements even during periods when the nation has commonly been regarded as insular and unconnected to the wider world.

The intertwined lives of these five citizens of the world, usually perceived as inhabiting non-overlapping domains, stand as powerful counters to narratives that foreground racism and alienation. Their endeavors across racial, national, cultural, and linguistic boundaries illustrate that the world always remains connected despite political, legal, immigration, and diplomatic hurdles. Their stories offer a view into the power and potential of Black internationalism and Sino–African American collaboration. “Arise, Africa!” and “Roar, China!” as articulated by Du Bois and Hughes, respectively, match the shared struggles of a nation and a nation-within-a-nation. Their power and promise resonate to this day.

The enduring friendship between China and Zambia

Two significant events on May 31st underscored the deep, traditional friendship between China and Zambia.

In a phone call with Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, Chinese President Xi Jinping pointed out that China and Zambia are “all-weather friends” enjoying traditional and amicable relations and unbreakable friendship. He stressed that China and Zambia are both developing countries, and promoting solidarity and cooperation with Zambia and other African countries is China’s long-term and firm strategic choice and went on to suggest that they deepen cooperation in healthcare, poverty mitigation and agricultural development, trade and investment, green development, digital economy and other fields, help boost economic recovery and sustainable development in Africa, and promote the building of a China-Africa community with a shared future.

For his part, President Hichilema thanked China for its long-term and significant support for Zambia’s national development. Zambia, he said, is ready to strengthen exchanges with and learn from the Communist Party of China (CPC) and consolidate and deepen the traditional friendship forged by the elder generations of leaders of Zambia and China.

The same day, the Kenneth Kaunda International Conference Centre, an ultra-modern facility financed by China, with its main hall having a 2,500 seating capacity, and built to host the next mid-year summit of the African Union (AU), was opened in the Zambian capital Lusaka.

At the opening ceremony, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema thanked China, saying his government was grateful to the support given to the country’s infrastructure development which dates back to the 1970s through the construction of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA).

“This was a critical point in our history, when Zambia had no access to oceans and, therefore could not import or export goods due to the blockade in Southern Rhodesia,” he said.

Kenneth Kaunda, who passed away on June 17th last year at the age of 97, was the father of independent Zambia, the pioneer of Zambia/China friendship and an outstanding leader of the African liberation struggle. He made numerous visits to China from the 1960s to the 2010s and forged deep friendships with generations of Chinese leaders from Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai and Comrade Deng Xiaoping to their successors, including President Xi Jinping. As one of the ‘frontline states’, Zambia under Kaunda’s leadership made great sacrifices to support the liberation struggle against apartheid, racism and colonialism throughout southern Africa. For example, the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa maintained its headquarters in Lusaka through many years of exile and underground struggle. The TAZARA railway played a significant role in making this possible.

The following reports were originally published on the websites of the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Xinhua News Agency.

Xi Jinping Speaks with Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema on the phone

On the afternoon of May 31, 2022, President Xi Jinping had a phone conversation with Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema.

Xi Jinping pointed out, China and Zambia are “all-weather friends” enjoying traditional and amicable relations and unbreakable friendship. In the past year, China-Zambia relations have maintained a positive momentum of development, with two-way trade volume hitting a record high and Zambia becoming the country attracting the most Chinese direct investment in Africa. The cooperation between the two countries enjoys huge potential and bright prospects. China attaches great importance to China-Zambia relations, and stands ready to work with Zambia to consolidate and deepen the China-Zambia friendship, and push bilateral ties to higher levels and broader areas.

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China and Tanzania: a unique relationship

The “unique” relationship between China and Tanzania was highlighted by two important events last month.

On May 17th, Vice Foreign Minister Deng Li attended a symposium commemorating the centenary of the birth of Tanzania’s founding president Julius Nyerere via video link. The symposium was jointly hosted by the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation (MNF) and the Chinese Embassy in Tanzania.
Deng Li spoke highly of President Nyerere’s important historical role in the realisation of national independence, state construction and seeking strength through unity in Tanzania and Southern Africa. He stressed that the elder generation of Chinese leaders established a profound revolutionary friendship with President Nyerere, which jointly laid a solid foundation for China-Africa friendship.

The President of Zanzibar Hussein Ali Mwinyi and Executive Director of the MNF Joseph W. Butiku also spoke.

Meanwhile, Chinese State Councillor and Defence Minister Wei Fenghe held video talks with Tanzanian Defence and National Service Minister Stergomena Lawrence Tax on May 31st. Wei said that the two countries were, “devoted brothers, trustworthy friends and sincere partners”, while Tax noted that the relationship between Tanzania and China is unique and that Tanzania cherishes the profound friendship between the two peoples and the two militaries.

The following reports were originally carried on the websites of the Chinese Foreign and Defence Ministries.

Vice Foreign Minister Deng Li Attends Symposium Commemorating the Centenary of the Birth of Tanzania’s Founding President Julius Nyerere

On May 17, 2022, Vice Foreign Minister Deng Li attended the Symposium Commemorating the Centenary of the Birth of Tanzania’s Founding President Julius Nyerere via video link.

Deng Li extended congratulations on the smooth holding of the symposium and spoke highly of President Nyerere’s important historical role in the realization of national independence, state construction and seeking strength through unity in Tanzania and Southern Africa. He stressed that the elder generation of Chinese leaders established a profound revolutionary friendship with President Nyerere, which jointly laid a solid foundation for China-Africa friendship. Over the decades, China and Africa have respected and treated each other as equals, supported each other on issues concerning respective core interests, and cooperated with each other in good faith on the journey of achieving modernization. At present, in a world of profound changes unseen in a century, we need to learn from Nyerere and other elder generation of African leaders and think about the way to create an even better future for China and Africa. Guided by President Xi Jinping’s calls to carry forward the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation and build a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era, China will work with Africa to continue to firmly safeguard respective sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, safeguard the equal rights to development and promote the establishment of a more just and equitable new international order.

President of Zanzibar Hussein Ali Mwinyi and Executive Director of the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation (MNF) Joseph W. Butiku said, Nyerere firmly upheld the unity of the Tanzanian state and people and established the United Republic of Tanzania together with President of Zanzibar Abeid Karume, which has become a fine example of unity, self-improvement and economic prosperity for African countries. Nyerere made selfless contributions to the cause of national liberation in Southern Africa and actively developed friendly relations with China and other countries. They believe that this symposium will play an important role in carrying forward and developing the traditional friendship and deepening all-round friendly cooperation between China and Tanzania.

The symposium was jointly hosted by the Chinese Embassy in Tanzania and the MNF and attended by representatives of Tanzanian political and business circles, think tanks, media, non-governmental organizations and other circles, Nyerere’s family members and diplomatic envoys to Tanzania.

Chinese defense minister holds video call with Tanzanian counterpart

Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe held talks via video link with Tanzanian Minister for Defense and National Service Stergomena Lawrence Tax on Tuesday.

Wei said that China and Tanzania are devoted brothers, trustworthy friends and sincere partners. In June last year, President Xi Jinping and President Samia Suluhu Hassan exchanged phone calls, showing the right direction for the development of comprehensive partnership of cooperation between the two countries and presenting important opportunities for the development of China-Tanzania relations.

China is ready to work together with the international community including Tanzania, upholding the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, to implement the Global Development Initiative (GDI) and Global Security Initiative (GSI) with concrete actions, and contribute to building a world of lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity, said Wei.

China’s defense chief told his Tanzanian counterpart that the Chinese military will continue to strengthen strategic communication with the Tanzanian military, build and make good use of the cooperation mechanism, enhance the quality and effectiveness of joint exercises and training, carry forward the traditional friendship and push forward the relations between the two militaries.

Tax noted that the relationship between Tanzania and China is unique and Tanzania cherishes the profound friendship between the two peoples and the two militaries. The two militaries have maintained close cooperation and exchanges in such areas as joint training, equipment technology, mutual visits of delegations, and military medicine. Tanzania will continue to deepen military cooperation with China, Tax said.

The two sides also exchanged views on international and regional issues of common concern.

Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Leadership School holds cadre seminar

The Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Leadership School, a joint project of six progressive political parties in southern Africa, built by China and named in honour of the Founding Father of Tanzania, held a seminar for middle-aged and young cadres on May 25th. Participating in the seminar were the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the six parties served by the school, namely Tanzania’s Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) Party, the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa, the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) Party, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) Party of Namibia and the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). Opening speeches were made by Song Tao, Minister of the CPC’s International Department, and Daniel Chongolo, the Secretary General of Tanzania’s CCM.

The six parties were all the leading forces in their country’s national liberation struggle. They all have a long-standing friendship with China and the CPC and are today leading the struggle for the building of a new society in their respective countries.

In his speech, Song Tao noted that: “The CPC and the six parties enjoy a long-term friendship and share similar concepts. In the face of the changes and the pandemic both unseen in a century, the CPC is ready to strengthen experience exchange in state governance and administration with the six parties, promote practical cooperation in various areas, practice true multilateralism, jointly oppose hegemony and power politics, safeguard the legitimate rights and interests and overall interests of developing countries, and promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.”

For his part, Daniel Chongolo observed that: “The six parties cherish their traditional friendship with the CPC, and wholeheartedly admire the remarkable achievements China has made under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core. They hoped to learn experience in developing economy, creating jobs, scientific and technological innovation, environmental protection and fighting corruption from the CPC, and build a closer China-Africa community with a shared future together with the Chinese side.”

The below report was originally carried on the website of the CPC International Department. We previously reported the congratulatory message of President Xi Jinping when the school opened on February 23rd.

Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Leadership School held here today this year’s seminar for middle-aged and young cadres of the six parties in southern Africa themed on “new development in the new era: exploration and communication of the CPC and the six parties in southern Africa”. A total of 120 middle-aged and young cadres of Tanzania’s Chama Cha Mapinduzi Party, the African National Congress of South Africa, the Mozambique Liberation Front Party, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola, the SWAPO Party of Namibia and the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front were present. Song Tao, Minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee (IDCPC), and Daniel Chongolo, Secretary General of Tanzania’s Chama Cha Mapinduzi Party, attended and addressed the opening ceremony of the seminar via video link.

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Xi Jinping says China and South Africa are comrades and brothers, and affirms unbreakable friendship with Cambodia

Whilst international media coverage understandably focused on President Xi Jinping’s March 18 telephone conversation with US President Biden, the Chinese leader also held two other important conversations that day with leaders of countries that have particularly friendly relations with China. 

Speaking with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Xi said that their two countries “share a special friendly relationship of comrades and brothers”. This phrase is particularly significant – whilst it has been used several times by the Chinese leadership to describe their ties with South Africa, it is highly unusual, if not unique, for China to describe its state relations with a non-socialist country as embracing comradeship. In this context, it is worth noting that the friendship between the Communist Party of China and the African National Congress of South Africa date back to at least 1953, when Nelson Mandela sent ANC Secretary General Walter Sisulu to China to gain support for the steadily building anti-apartheid struggle, following Sisulu’s participation in the fourth World Festival of Youth and Students in Romania. China consistently supported the South African people’s struggle against apartheid and for national liberation.

President Xi further said that the relationship with South Africa is of great significance both for China/Africa relations as well as solidarity and cooperation among developing countries. The two leaders also exchanged views on the development of the BRICS grouping, which links Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and which China chairs this year. They noted that their two countries share a very close position on the conflict in Ukraine, standing for dialogue and negotiation. There have been a number of suggestions that South Africa could play an important role in this regard. Clearly alluding to the US pressures that both countries are facing, the two leaders agreed that sovereign countries are entitled to independently decide on their own positions.

The same day, President Xi also spoke with Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen, with a key focus being their bilateral Belt and Road Cooperation. Xi stressed that China would pay particular attention to developing roads and education in Cambodia’s rural areas so as to help develop agriculture and lift farmers out of poverty. Noting that next year will see the 65th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, President Xi said that their ties had become even more unbreakable whilst Prime Minister Hun Sen described the two countries as true ironclad brothers. Discussion also centred on the prospects for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), to which both belong, and relations between China and ASEAN, a ten-country bloc of South East Asian nations that Cambodia chairs this year.

China ready to move ties with South Africa to deeper level

Originally published in Xinhua.

China stands ready to work with South Africa to move their ties forward toward a deeper level with higher quality and broader scope, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Friday afternoon.

Continue reading Xi Jinping says China and South Africa are comrades and brothers, and affirms unbreakable friendship with Cambodia

Speech of W.E.B. Du Bois in Beijing University in 1959

On the 154th anniversary of his birth, we are pleased to republish this speech given in Beijing by the great African-American communist, Pan-Africanist, scholar and freedom fighter W.E.B. Du Bois on the occasion of his 91st birthday.

By courtesy of the government of the 600 million people of the Chinese Republic, I am permitted on my 91st birthday to speak to the people of China and Africa and through them to the world. Hail, then, and farewell, dwelling places of the yellow and black races. Hail human kind!

I speak with no authority; no assumption of age nor rank; I hold no position, I have no wealth. One thing alone I own and that is my own soul. Ownership of that I have even while in my own country for near a century I have been nothing but a “nigger.” On this basis and this alone I dare speak, I dare advise.

China after long centuries has arisen to her feet and leapt forward. Africa, arise, and stand straight, speak and think! Act! Turn from the West and your slavery and humiliation for the last 500 years and face the rising sun.

Continue reading Speech of W.E.B. Du Bois in Beijing University in 1959

Xi congratulates inauguration of Julius Nyerere leadership school

President Xi Jinping’s message of greetings to the completion ceremony of the Julius Nyerere Leadership School in Tanzania, reported here by CGTN, powerfully demonstrates that China’s commitment to the liberation and development of Africa continues in the new era. President Nyerere was the Founding Father of Tanzania, as well as an outstanding leader of the African liberation movement and of the Global South. A great friend of China, he first visited the country in 1965 and forged a deep bond with Chairman Mao, Premier Zhou Enlai and successive generations of Chinese leaders. This new school, built by China and bearing Nyerere’s name, is a joint initiative of the six liberation movements and ruling parties of Tanzania, South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe. As President Xi notes, for a long time these six parties in southern Africa have united and led their people in the cause of national independence, construction and development. President Xi has taken a personal interest in the building of the college. He also sent his greetings to its groundbreaking ceremony in July 2018.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, on Wednesday sent a congratulatory letter on the inauguration ceremony of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Leadership School in Tanzania. 

The Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Leadership School, co-founded by six parties in southern Africa, is located in Kibaha, some 40 kilometers from the commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

The six parties are the Revolutionary Party of Tanzania, the African National Congress of South Africa, the Mozambique Liberation Front Party and the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola, the SWAPO Party of Namibia and the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.

Continue reading Xi congratulates inauguration of Julius Nyerere leadership school

Justin Podur: Why comparing Chinese Africa investment to Western colonialism Is no joke

We are very pleased to reproduce this article from FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) in which Justin Podur dissects a recent broadcast by South African comedian Trevor Noah, which made facile claims that China was colonising Africa. Whilst not hesitating to acknowledge shortcomings and mistakes, Podur presents a detailed refutation of Noah’s claims and, in so doing, draws apt comparisons between China’s contributions to Africa’s development and the truly murderous and rapacious history of imperialism and colonialism on the continent.

“Why China Is in Africa” (12/16/21) is a question Trevor Noah took up last month for Comedy Central‘s Daily Show. As with many of the topics taken up by the Daily Show, the issue is no joke: China has a large and growing economic presence in many African countries. The China/Africa deals cry out for analysis: Are they different from the deals on offer from Western countries like the US, Britain or France?

Post-independence Africa’s economic relationship with the West has been mediated through the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Funding for projects comes with a range of conditionalities; when Western loans come due, the IMF demands painful cuts to health and education programs as the price of refinancing. In the past, the IMF has taken outright control of African governments. At other times, the US has sponsored coupsassassinated leaders and fomented civil wars on the continent.

Continue reading Justin Podur: Why comparing Chinese Africa investment to Western colonialism Is no joke

President Isaias Afwerki on China-Eritrea friendship

Eritrea and China enjoy a deep bond and a strategic partnership, based on mutual respect and interests, and a healthy space for hashing out differing opinions and working towards common understandings. This friendship goes back to 1965 when China welcomed Eritrean freedom fighters and was the first foreign country to support the struggle with arms. China’s position at the time, even when it was not yet the powerhouse that it is today, was clear and had a notable appreciation for the Eritrean people’s struggle for freedom. It is important to keep in mind that this partnership did not develop because of China’s current standing in the world or for our own narrow interests. It is rather a longstanding relationship based on mutual interest and respect, one which highlights each country’s contributions and creates a platform for engagement in all strategic areas.

Eritrea: Interview of President Isaias Afwerki

Gyude Moore on the significance of China investments in Africa

In this informative speech, Gyude Moore – Senior Policy Fellow at the Center for Global Development and Liberia’s former Minister of Public Works – discusses the nature of the economic relationship between China and Africa. He draws on his personal experience of dealing with Chinese private and public investors to debunk the standard ‘debt trap’ myth that’s pervasive in the West, pointing out that China is extensively building infrastructure in Africa that’s essential for development and the improvement of living standards.

He notes that whereas the infrastructure built by colonisers was directed exclusively towards serving the economic needs of the European powers, the infrastructure being built by China is increasing connectedness between the different countries on the continent, allowing regional value chains to develop. Furthermore, Moore points out that China, as a developing country, tends to treat its African partners as equals rather than seeking to impose its authority in the way the imperialist countries are so used to doing.

Wang Yi’s Africa and Asia tour further debunks ‘debt trap’ conspiracy theory

This article by Stephen Ndegwa, first published in CGTN, discusses the ‘debt trap’ narrative in the context of Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s recent trip to several countries in Africa and Asia. Ndegwa notes that, although Western media and politicians often decry Chinese infrastructure loans as being exploitative, these accusations don’t stand up to scrutiny. Indeed, the debtor countries don’t share these criticisms and are highly appreciative of China’s support for their sovereign development.

One of the most popular rules of power says if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. Well, that could be so. But those who religiously apply this maxim, which purportedly emanated from Nazi Germany’s Joseph Goebbels, forget that it carries a rider. The lie can only be maintained for as long as the originator shields people from the truth.

This has been the case with the so-called debt trap, a phrase generally coined by Western countries that alleges that China ensnared developing countries with unserviceable debt to take over their national assets. China’s aim, so goes the lie, is to enable China to get a foothold in various strategic locations around the world.

Interestingly, even after the United States-led Western bloc’s warning that choices have consequences, China’s partners do not seem to be relenting in expanding and deepening their Sino cooperation. The stress-free partnership has given developing countries much-needed breathing space that has helped them make economic choices best suited to their needs, rather than experimenting with high-blown models that have no practicality.  

Continue reading Wang Yi’s Africa and Asia tour further debunks ‘debt trap’ conspiracy theory

Abayomi Azikiwe: Africa-China relations could serve as bulwark against imperialist hegemony

In this speech to a recent webinar entitled Africa/China Relations: Challenges of Cooperation and Development (organized jointly by the International Manifesto Group and the Group for Research and Initiative for the Liberation of Africa), Abayomi Azikiwe (editor of the Pan-African News Wire) discusses the evolving relationship of friendship and solidarity between China and Africa, and contrasts this with the behaviour of the imperialist powers of Europe and North America.

The full webinar can be watched on YouTube. The text was first published in Fighting Words.

A ministerial summit of the Forum on China and Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held on November 29-30 in Dakar, Senegal reinforced the continuing bonds between Beijing and the 55-member African Union (AU).

FOCAC was formed in 2000 during an important period which was marked by several years of substantial economic growth on the continent of Africa and in the People’s Republic of China.

Continue reading Abayomi Azikiwe: Africa-China relations could serve as bulwark against imperialist hegemony

Danny Haiphong: The West distorts the China-Africa relationship in order to justify its own imperialism

In this speech to a recent webinar entitled Africa/China Relations: Challenges of Cooperation and Development (organized jointly by the International Manifesto Group and the Group for Research and Initiative for the Liberation of Africa), Danny Haiphong explores the evolving win-win relationship between China and Africa, and exposes the West’s distortion of this relationship. The full webinar can be watched on YouTube.

China and Africa: The real story of Western hypocrisy

In this extensive interview and conversation between Brian Becker and Professor Ken Hammond, these two veteran activists dissect China’s policies towards and presence in Africa. Starting with the latest ‘fake news’ fabrication regarding China supposedly seizing control of Uganda’s main airport, they contrast China’s strategy of win-win cooperation to the rapacious record of imperialism on the African continent, and situate this within the changing dynamics of relations between the US and China.

Bertie Ahern: China’s infrastructure investment has been of major benefit to the people of Africa

In this short interview with CGTN in advance of the 8th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern gives his opinions on China-Africa relations. He praises the growing role of FOCAC, points to the transformative impact of China’s infrastructure investment, and debunks the idea that China has laid a ‘debt trap’ for African countries; indeed he notes China’s leading role in debt relief for poor and indebted nations. Video embedded below.

Keynote speech by Xi Jinping at opening ceremony of 8th FOCAC ministerial conference

We are very pleased to publish the full text of President Xi Jinping’s important speech to today’s opening ceremony of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. 

Noting that this year marks the 65th anniversary of the start of diplomatic relations between China and African countries, Xi notes that China and Africa have “forged unbreakable fraternity in our struggle against imperialism and colonialism”.

The Chinese President goes on to make four proposals, concerning fighting Covid-19, deepening practical cooperation, promoting green development and upholding equity and justice. 

He further notes that the two sides have jointly prepared the ‘China-Africa Cooperation Vision 2035’. Its first three-year plan features nine programmes, covering medical and health, poverty reduction and agricultural development, trade promotion, investment promotion, digital innovation, green development, capacity building, cultural and people-to-people exchange, and peace and security. 

Your Excellency President Macky Sall,

Distinguished Colleagues,

Dear Guests and Friends,

It is such a pleasure to attend the opening ceremony of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). Let me first express sincere appreciation to President Sall and the government of Senegal for their excellent organization, and extend a warm welcome to the colleagues and guests attending the Conference.

This year marks the 65th anniversary of the start of diplomatic relations between China and African countries. Over the past 65 years, China and Africa have forged unbreakable fraternity in our struggle against imperialism and colonialism, and embarked on a distinct path of cooperation in our journey toward development and revitalization. Together, we have written a splendid chapter of mutual assistance amidst complex changes, and set a shining example for building a new type of international relations.

Continue reading Keynote speech by Xi Jinping at opening ceremony of 8th FOCAC ministerial conference

China hails solidarity with Africa as cornerstone of its foreign policy

This article from CGTN provides a useful summary of the latest Chinese government White Paper on relations with Africa. China and Africa in the New Era: A Partnership of Equals was published by the State Council of the PRC on Friday, ahead of an important meeting of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

China and Africa trust each other, and their friendship is rock solid, a white paper on cooperation with the continent issued by China’s State Council Information Office said on Friday.
The report, titled “China and Africa in the New Era: A Partnership of Equals,” said shared past experiences and similar aims and goals have brought China and Africa close together and they will always be a “community of shared future.” 
Developing solidarity and cooperation with African countries has been the cornerstone of China’s foreign policy, as well as a firm and longstanding strategy, it said.

Continue reading China hails solidarity with Africa as cornerstone of its foreign policy

China, Africa to further boost ties

With the 8th ministerial meeting of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) opening in Senegal on Monday, this useful article from China Daily highlights how friendship, solidarity and cooperation with Africa have been a cornerstone of Xi Jinping’s foreign policy since he became President of China in 2013. His first foreign trip as head of state, days after taking office, took him to Russia, Republic of Congo, Tanzania and South Africa.

Development of relations guided by principles of ‘amity, real results’

Days after he was elected China’s president in March 2013, Xi Jinping embarked on his first overseas trip as head of state. Three of the tour’s four destinations were African countries.

When making a speech at the Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Xi said the trip was his sixth visit to the continent.

“When I visit Africa, I am always struck by two things,” Xi said. “One is its continuous progress. Each time I come to Africa, I am deeply impressed by new progress in development, which is most encouraging. The other is the warmth of the African people.”

Continue reading China, Africa to further boost ties

China calls on the US to remove its illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe

We are pleased to republish this article from Global Times, reporting on China’s support for the Southern African Development Community’s Anti-Sanctions Day initiative and its consistent opposition to the Western countries’ cruel and suffocating sanctions against Zimbabwe.

China stands in solidarity with Zimbabwe in a consistent call for the unconditional removal of Western sanctions. African ambassadors in Beijing thanked China for the positive support on the third Anti-Sanctions Day on Monday.

“While the guns of the revolution fell silent in 1979, sanctions are a continuation of an unwarranted and unprovoked war against Zimbabwe by the West… 20 years of sanctions have negatively impacted all sectors of the Zimbabwean economy and its people…and even undermined Zimbabwe’s credibility and national image,” Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to China Martin Chedondo said at the event at the Zimbabwean Embassy in Beijing.

Continue reading China calls on the US to remove its illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe