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Keynote Speech by H.E. Zhang Jun, Ambassador of R.R.China to the Netherlands, on China-Africa Relations at the CDA-EFF Conference

It gives me great pleasure to participate in today’s seminar on China-Africa cooperation, organized by Eduardo Frei Foundation of the CDA. My great appreciation goes to Mr. Van der Linden for the enormous efforts he exerted in this seminar. I should say today’s topic is very significant. For China, relations with Africa form a very important part of our foreign policy. For Africa, strengthening cooperation with China has become a general consensus among African countries and carries great practical significance in its development. For the whole world, how to help Africa to further promote its development is one of the most important issues in achieving global prosperity and peace. Against such a backdrop, China-Africa cooperation yielded substantial results in recent years, thanks to the efforts of both sides. Especially under the circumstances of international financial crisis, China-Africa cooperation has withstood the difficult global economic slump and reached accelerated development, which brings a gratifying bright touch in the current international development and cooperation.

Nevertheless, the rapidly developing China-Africa relationship inevitably caused uneasiness and anxiety among some people. Some western politician, media and NGO focus their spotlight on every single action of Chinese government, enterprises and even individuals in Africa, trying to search and magnify any possible minor fault that Chinese might make in Africa. Some accuses China of digging for natural resources and market there and even equates China’s act as “neo-colonialism”. Some critics also pointed their fingers to the principle of “non-intervention of internal affairs” that China always upholds, saying this principle is actually a kind of support in disguise for the so-called “rogue states” or “failed states”, and that it doesn’t go in line with democracy, human rights and movement of anti-authoritarianism and anti-corruption the the Western countries tried so hard to realize in Africa. It is obvious that some of the critics are originated from not knowing the facts; some is because of misunderstanding while some others are purely based on bias. Taking this opportunity, I would like to share with you some of my views:

First, China-Africa relationship enjoys a very long history and our cooperation is based on similar historical experiences, identical developing tasks and comprehensive common interests that we share. Our relationship enjoys a sound foundation. What should be made clear first is that it was not just a few years ago that China suddenly appeared in Africa. 600 years ago, Zheng He, a famed Chinese navigator of the Ming Dynasty, reached the east coast of Africa four times with a large convoy which sailed across the ocean. China was very powerful back then, however, what they brought to Africa was purely desire for peace and friendship, rather than swords, guns, plunder or slavery. Neither did they occupy a single inch of African soil. After the funding of P. R. China, China-Africa relations entered a new stage of fast development. The reasons are: firstly, China understands the sufferings of African people. For more than 100 years in modern history, China was subjected to colonial aggression and oppression by foreign powers and we went through similar sufferings and agony that the majority of African countries endured. Because of this, Chinese people could fully understand the desire and wish of African people. During 1950’s and 60’s, Chinese government and people provided political, material and moral support to the fight of African people against colonialism, hegemony and apartheid. Secondly, China understands the development need of African countries. Both China and African countries are developing countries. We understand each others’ feeling when it comes to economic development and poverty alleviation. Thus China is willing to make its contribution in the hard endeavor of African countries in the revival of their national economies. Especially during 1970-76, China helped construct the Tanzania-Zambia railway with an aid valued 600 million US dollars and with over 50,000 workers and engineers sent over there, when we were coping with economic hardship ourselves. This railroad not only becomes an economic life line for the countries alongside, but also an important symbol of China-Africa friendship. Thirdly, China understands the importance of Africa in the world. China and Africa hold comprehensive common interests in major international issues. We firmly hold that the development of the world will not be true without the development of Africa and it’s impossible to maintain peace and stability of the world without the peace and stability of Africa. Therefore, China is committed to cooperating with Africa. China supports African people in independently choosing their social systems and development paths that suit their national conditions. China also supports African countries in strengthening democratic and legal construction and good governance. In the meantime, China has always been actively participating in UN peacekeeping operations in Africa. Since 1990, China has contributed more than 10,000 military and civil personnel in UN peacekeeping operations in Africa, and there are still 1,600 Chinese personnel in the field currently. Of course, the support is reciprocal. We often say that it’s the African brothers who carried China back into the United Nations. When the Beijing Olympic torch relay got disturbed in Europe and other countries, it was very successful in Africa. When a devastating earthquake hits Sichuan, African people made generous donations to the victims. These all give full expression to the friendship of the African people towards the Chinese people. It’s proved by facts that China-Africa friendship can stand the test of time. We in China take great pride in our friendship with the African people. We will never impose our wils upon African countries, nor will we do anything that might harm the African countries and people.

Second, China-Africa cooperation is mutually beneficial cooperation based on equality and mutual respect, which is in conformity with the common interests and wishes of both sides. It is by no means asking and taking from one side. China-Africa cooperation differs in essence from the plunder, oppression and enslavement which colonists imposed upon African people for centuries in the past. State Councilor Dai Bingguo said once that “China will unswervingly follow the principle of mutual respect, equal treatment, mutually beneficial cooperation, and common development when handling the relations with Africa. China will never take the old path of the Western colonialism and imperialism. We have no such a policy, such a tradition, or such a gene. What we have is only a warm heart of cordial friendship to Africa which always remains the same.” Over the past 60 years, in order to help African countries improve self-development capacity, China has provided various types of assistance to 53 African countries, and trained over 30,000 professionals in various areas under the framework of South-South Cooperation. Over the years, in our cooperation with and assistance to Africa, the emphasis has always been on infrastructure, agriculture, education, health and social programs. In the past 50 years, China helped Africa carry out over 900 economic development projects such as agricultural projects, infrastructures, schools and hospitals. We have built a total of about 3,300 km of roads and 2,200 km of railways and we are now helping Africa build telecommunications networks. We have sent a large number of medical teams to Africa who have treated over hundreds of millions patients. President Hu Jintao announced at the 2006 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), on behalf of the Chinese government, 8 measures to further strengthen China-Africa practical cooperation and support the development of African countries. Last November, Premier Wen Jiabao announced 8 news measures during the next three years at the opening ceremony of the Fourth FOCAC Ministerial Conference, which covers a wide range of areas on economic and social development, including building 100 clean energy projects, carrying out 100 joint demonstration projects on scientific and technological research, opening up China’s market to African products, phasing in zero-tariff treatment to 95% of the products from the least developed African countries having diplomatic relations with China, increasing the number of agricultural technology demonstration centers built by China in Africa to 20, sending 50 agricultural technology teams to Africa, providing medical equipments and anti-malaria prevention and treatment centers built by China, increasing the number of Chinese government scholarships to Africa to 5,500 by 2012 and training a total of 20,000 professionals of various fields for Africa. We believe that the implementation of these new measures will greatly contribute to the sustainable development of Africa and bring more benefit to African people. At this moment, there are over 1,600 Chinese enterprises operating in Africa. They have not only created more employment opportunities for African countries, but also brought modern technologies to Africa and greatly promoted the local productivity. There is no doubt that these measures will contribute to a solid ground upon which Africa could achieve long-term sustainable development in the future. African Development Bank’s latest report indicates that, as I read from Dutch People’s Daily, although Africa takes up only 3% in global trade volume, the export to China doubled in the past 7 years, and is still growing. Africa is benefiting from cooperation with China. President Zuma of South Africa said during his recent visit to China that, “China has engaged in trade, cooperation and assistance in Africa, China-Africa cooperation answers for the wishes, interests and expectations of African people and is beneficial for Africa’s long-term development. China has never conducted ‘colonial’ activities on the African continent. It is groundless to view some investments and economic activities made by China as neo-colonialism.”

Third, China-Africa cooperation is a comprehensive one; it covers every aspect of African economic and social development. It is not merely targeted at energy and resources. China-Africa cooperation covers areas such as politics, economy, trade, technology, education, people-to-people exchanges, to name but a few, not merely making deals on energy or natural resources. One week ago, Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi held consultations with foreign ministers and representatives from 42 African countries in New York and the joint communique adopted thereafter covers nearly all aspects including politics, economy, trade, environment and climate change. In political front, as a result of frequent high-level exchanges, diplomatic consultations and strategic dialogues, our political mutual trust has been further enhanced. China and Africa maintain close cooperation and coordination with each other on major international and regional issues and jointly safeguard the common interests of developing countries. Especially during the past 10 years, the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which plays a leading role in promoting China-Africa Strategic Partnership, has become a platform in deepening friendship and cooperation between the two sides. In economic front, China-Africa trade volume has increased by 35% annually for the past 10 years, and rose from 10 billion US dollars in 2000 to 106.8 billion US dollars in 2008. Nowadays, China becomes Africa’s second largest trade partner, right after the EU. China’s investment towards Africa grew from 50 million US dollars in 2001 to 1 billion US dollars annually in recent years. In the area of people-to-people exchanges, exchanges and cooperation in culture, education, health and human resources training have been greatly enhanced. Interactions among the youth, women and sister provinces and cities are increasing. China now provides over 4,000 government financed scholarships to African students annually. China and Africa are forming a new type of Strategic Partnership, based on political equality and mutual trust, economic win-win cooperation and cultural exchanges. The content of China-Africa cooperation has been greatly enriched and materialized. We would like to seize the opportunity together with our African friends, to pursue sustainable development of China-Africa friendly cooperation on a higher level and to achieve common prosperity.

It is true that our cooperation also includes the cooperation on energy and natural resources; however, it goes far beyond that. Some accuses China of being only interested in natural resources in Africa. All I want to say is that, in those years when we helped Africa build Tanzara railways and sent to Africa large numbers of medical teams, we did not take away a single drop of oil or a single ton of mineral ores from Africa. Even nowadays, China falls far behind Europe and US when it comes to investment and cooperation in the area of exploitation of energy and resources in Africa. Our import of Africa’s oil takes up only 13% of Africa’s oil export. China’s investment in Africa’s oil and natural gas accounts for less than 1/16 of the global investment in this field. CNPC is China’s largest petroleum company, yet its annual turnover in Africa is less than 1/3 of ExxonMobil. I also want to emphasize that being part of the China-Africa cooperation, our energy and resources cooperation has always followed international patterns and market regulations. China buys the resources against market price from Africa, giving Africa rights to make equal choices and therefore the position to negotiate prices, and ultimately helping Africa turn the resources edge into development edge, with the beneficiary being the African people. This is totally different from what the colonists did in Africa. According to most African elites, China’s participation in the development of Africa is a whole new chance for Africa. Ordinary African people also welcome the arrival of Chinese people, because they are the direct beneficiaries from the trade activities with China.

Fourth, China-Africa cooperation is open and transparent. It’s a part of the global endeavor in seeking common prosperity and development under the circumstances of globalization. It is not against a third party. China-Africa cooperation is completely open and we have nothing to hide. We respect the right of African countries to independently choose their social systems and support the African people in exploring development paths they choose that suit their national conditions. We firmly believe that Africa is fully capable of solving its own problems in an African way. And we never interfere in the internal affairs of African countries. All these conform to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and basic norms of international relations. We always treat African countries as equals and conduct cooperation with them on the basis of mutual benefit and win-win results. We provide Africa with sincere and friendly assistance with no political strings attached. We always believe that the assistance and support between China and Africa are mutual. We always integrate our development into the development of Africa and advance the development of African countries with our development. All of these are consistent with the need in seeking common development and cooperation under the circumstances of globalization. We believe that Africa is the African people’s continent, and we never seek for the so-called “sphere of influence” in Africa nor have any intention to have malicious competition with other countries in Africa. We would like to see other countries in the world treat African countries on an equal basis, help Africa’s development in good faith, and promote stability and prosperity in Africa with a sincere attitude. China would like to see other countries actively participate in Africa’s development and construction, jointly promote the peace, development and progress in Africa. We hope those countries and individuals, who tend to view China-Africa cooperation with suspicions, could participate in the cooperation more constructively so as to achieve mutual benefits and common development.

All in all, I would like to point out that China-Africa relations have withstood the test of changes in the world and maintained the momentum of robust growth. That’s because our relationship is based on mutual support, particularly during times of adversity. It is because our relationship is guided by the principle of mutual respect and equality. It is also because our relationship is driven by our joint endeavor to pursue mutually beneficial cooperation and common development. China firmly believes that cooperation between the two sides will enable us to bring our respective strengths and achieve common development; cooperation between us will encourage the international community to pay greater attention to Africa and help it attain the Millennium Development Goals at an early date; cooperation between us will also promote South-South cooperation and enhance the collective standing of developing countries in the international political and economic architecture; furthermore, cooperation between us will promote democracy in international relations and justice in the international order and contribute to the effort of building a harmonious world of enduring peace and common prosperity. In the course of fast growth of China-Africa cooperation, it is natural that new issues and new challenges may arise. Yet, compared with the larger interests of China-Africa cooperation, these issues, which occur in the course of advance, can surely be resolved through friendly consultation and deepened cooperation. I am confident that with our concerted efforts, China-Africa cooperation will continue to enjoy steady progress.

Just as Premier Wen Jiabao pointed out in his speech at the 65th General Assembly of the United Nations, China is still a developing country with a huge population, weak foundation and uneven regional development. We rank around 100th place in terms of GDP per capita which accounts for about 1/10 of the developed countries. We are faced with heavy task of economic development and social welfare improvement. Nevertheless, we always bear in mind the old virtue of helping the distressed and extending care to those in need, while trying to realize self development. We will continue trying our best, being sincere and selfless in providing various aids to developing nations including Africa. We’ll further strengthen and improve our foreign assistance, including those to Africa, and contribute to our due share to an early realization of the MDG’s throughout the world. We hope all the countries in the world could participate in the development of Africa more actively and enterprisingly. Let’s work hand in hand for a more developed, more prosperous and more peaceful Africa.

Thank you for your attention.

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