RPP is our code for the weekly blog post, op-ed by the School’s celebrity economist / pundit / opinionista, but he will probably only start writing in August, so in the meantime we are filling in with some guest posts.
This week: Carike Claassen on The dragon and the lion: Whither China-Africa relations?
The Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), was founded in 2000 and aims to enhance economic and cultural ties between China and Africa. The Forum meets once every three years, and is due to meet in Beijing later this month for its fifth summit. Chinese ambassador to South Africa, Mr. Tian Xuejun, addressed a speaker’s meeting of the South African Institute of International Affairs this past Wednesday, and the School of Economics was there! Here are some of the highlights of the Ambassador’s speech, which presents important clues as to how China-Africa economic relations are likely to unfold in future.
First, the Ambassador explained how China views its relations with Africa, by answering three questions, namely: What is China’s perception of Africa, what has China been doing in Africa, and what is the driving force behind China-Africa relations? In short, the Ambassador assured guests that China views Africa in a very positive light, as a continent that is alive with hope, vitality and potential. This is highlighted by the number of high level state visits that Chinese officials make to Africa – more than to any of its other trading partners.
With regards to China’s activities in Africa, the Ambassador stated quite clearly that China is not intent on “plundering” or “stealing jobs” from Africa. China’s main activities in Africa have been investing in mining, tourism, agriculture and construction. More or less 600 infrastructure projects have been concluded by Chinese firms in Africa, building 2200km of railway, 3400km of high ways, and more than 100 hydropower stations on the continent.
The Ambassador views China’s centuries old relationship with Africa as the driving force behind increasing China-Africa relations, emphasizing the fact that China always has and always will adhere to the principles of mutual respect, equality, common development, mutual benefit and non-interference in its dealings with Africa.
Against this background, the focus of FOCAC V later this month will be on drawing up a blueprint to further enhance cooperation between China and Africa. The theme of FOCAC V is to “build on past achievements and open new prospects for new types of China-Africa strategic partnerships.” The Ambassador ended by quoting an African proverb which says: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
There can be no doubt about the fact that China views Africa as a very important economic and political partner. It must be remembered though, that political discourse on the matter is always accompanied by a good deal of rhetoric, and things are not always quite as rosy as politicians would have us believe. That’s where solid, objective research on the matter comes in – the School of Economics takes an active interest in China and other BRIC countries, and their relations with Africa. So stay tuned for further insights from our team of researchers!