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African experts: China respects continent's sovereignty

African experts say China has no intention to colonize Africa and it does not want to trap Africa in debt.

During a seminar on China-Africa cooperation in governance, peace and security in Nairobi on Friday, experts from China and African countries discussed a series of issues concerning the cooperation between China and Africa.

Addressing one of the hot topics of recent years, Peter Kagwanja, CEO of Nairobi-based pan-African think tank Africa Policy Institute, which organized the forum, said the idea of Chinese colonizing Africa is kind of a hate propaganda.

Kagwanja said the current engagement between China and Africa is the dialogue between two civilizations and the meeting of two dreams. He said Africa's relations with China are centuries old. China has never exhibited any imperial tendencies in terms of acquiring territories, occupying villages or eradicating its population. Since the birth of ties, the focus has always been on trade.

"What we see in our museums is a robust trade between China and Africa, exchange of intellectual ideas. Some African scholars have studied in China for several years and they did not find any evidence of Chinese colonization or architecture of imperial domination or hegemonic relationship," said Kagwanja.

Kagwanja said the Chinese never looked at the population of Africa as slaves. And during thousands of years of interaction, the Chinese came in big ships but never shipped Africans back to work for them.

He said the debate of Chinese colonization is new. In fact, both China and Africa share a history of humiliation particular in the recent centuries. China was conquered in a certain way, lost territory, freedom and integrity. Between the Opium War and 1949, China was a poor nation because it was occupied by different powers for different reasons and with different results.

Africa was also occupied from the times of the Portuguese to the times of English and colonized. China didn't participate in the process of Africa's colonization. Instead, China and Africa cooperated in the de-colonization of Africa. Between 1960s and 1970s, China was struggling with its own development but at the same time it also helped many African countries gain their independence and development.

After the Cold War, particular after the reform and opening-up in China, the world began to see a rising nation of China. And with its rise, China began to share its new wealth and experience with Africa. Nowadays, Africa is not growing poor, it is growing richer. And China is part of that narrative of African rising. The rise of China has grown with the rise of Africa.

Li Xuhang, charge d'affaires of Chinese embassy in Kenya, stressed in his opening speech that China has always respected the sovereignty of the countries when participating in African security affairs. "It is always China's sincere wish to promote peace and stability in the country and the region, never to seek geopolitical interests."

"China has always advocated the leading position of the United Nations, the African Union and relevant regional organizations in resolving peace and security issues in Africa. China supports the idea of African people using African ways to solve African problems."

Participants pose for a group photo during the seminar held in Nairobi on Friday. [Photo by Liu Hongjie/China Daily]

According to Li, "China believes that the root cause of instability and conflict lies in poverty and underdevelopment. Thus development is the key to solving all problems, including security issues. Only by supporting African countries in achieving coordinated economic and social development and promoting national integration and unity can we fundamentally eradicate the breeding ground for instability."

Martin Kimani, director of Kenya's National Counter-terrorism Center, agreed with Li. He said many African countries have showed interest in the Chinese model of addressing root causes of instability, including poverty and inequality.

"The Chinese development model that has focused on wealth creation and elimination of mass unemployment is at the core of Africa's bid to promote peace and security," said Kimani.

Christopher Chika, director of Asia and Australasia Directorate at Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that China's participation in Africa's peace and security agenda has redefined bilateral ties with the continent in recent times.

"The emerging consensus is to realign China-Africa engagement with our continent's peace and security agenda as we aspire to silence the guns," said Chika.

"China has invested heavily in Africa and therefore it is in its interest to promote peace and security that is key to improve the business environment," he added.

As to the so-called debt trap, Kagwanja said it is an insult to the conscience of the African people, which means the African cannot make choices and can only being trapped with debts.

Anzetse Were, an African development economist and commentator, agreed with Kagwanja.

"Allegations of China's business model in Africa and around the world being a debt trap, or Chinese nationals being racists or out to exploit natural resources of African countries, is a deliberate smear campaign against the success of China's development agenda on the continent," said Were.

Mwangi Wachira a consultant in economic development, said African countries prefer development loans from China compared to countries and institutions from the West because such loans do not come with unfair conditions.

Kagwanja said China's no strings attached support to Africa's socio-economic transformation agenda is providing durable solution to the crisis of poverty and youth unemployment that has fueled civil strife and insecurity in the continent.

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