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Ambassador Liu Guijin: Beijing Summit a Meeting of Equals


Business Day (Johannesburg)
November 1, 2006

By Liu Guijin


THE Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (Focac), though still in its formative years, has become an effective mechanism for collective dialogue between China and Africa and an important platform to carry out pragmatic co-operation. It is gaining momentum.

The third ministerial conference of Focac in Beijing this weekend will be the highest-level and largest meeting to date between Chinese and African leaders.

Both China and Africa attach great importance to the cosponsored Beijing Summit. The two sides have, through consultation, set the theme of the summit as "friendship, peace, co-operation and development".

Centring on this theme, leaders at the summit will review friendly co-operation between China and Africa over the past five decades and the achievements of Focac over the past six years, and will plan for future pragmatic co-operation.

They will also exchange views on some major international issues and explore the way to boost a new type of China-Africa strategic partnership, featuring political equality and mutual trust, win-win economic co-operation and a culture of exchange and mutual emulation.

The message here is very clear. Both China and Africa have a strong desire to engage seriously with each other and are making joint efforts to achieve common development goals in a co-operative, action-oriented way. To deepen a mutually beneficial co-operation between China and Africa also enhances the solidarity of developing countries, the south-south co-operation, and worldwide peace and development.

This is exactly why Focac is certainly not just a diplomatic show.

Focac is a vehicle for equal co-operation. Sharing similar historical experience, China and Africa have all along sympathised with and supported each other in the struggle for national liberation, and forged a profound friendship. True friendship comes from true equality. China always regards African countries as equal partners and is committed to consolidating and expanding its co-operation with Africa. This is the long-term strategy pursued by China.

Moreover, Focac is a vehicle for action-oriented co-operation. China cares about what African countries need and takes them seriously. China's priority in Focac is to help African countries improve their own development ability. Thus, China's African policy paper identifies poverty reduction, infrastructure development, agriculture, human resources, skills training, disease prevention and treatment, and disaster relief, among other things, as areas of co-operation. Also, Focac has made a strong commitment to co-operate with the New Partnership for Africa's Development.

More concrete measures to help Africa will be announced during the Beijing Summit.

Focac is a vehicle for inclusive co-operation. Co-operation between China and Africa is neither closed nor exclusive. It does not affect our respective co-operation with third parties and poses no threat to the interests of any third party. We welcome the participation of other countries, regional and international organisations, and media as well.

There are, however, some noises in some media about China-Africa co-operation. Some people even go so far as to label China a "neocolonialist" in Africa.

China could have been a colonialist hundreds of years ago, if it had ever wanted to be one.

Some 600 years ago, Zheng He, the famous navigator of China's Ming Dynasty, led the then largest fleet in the world -- more than 200 ships and 27800 people -- and made seven voyages to the "Western Seas", reaching more than 30 countries and regions in Asia and Africa. His voyages were 87 years earlier than Columbus, 92 years earlier than Vasco da Gama and 114 years earlier than Magellan. But what Zheng He took to the places he visited were tea, chinaware, silk and technology. He did not occupy an inch of any newly discovered land or set up any military fortresses.

China never put a finger in the notorious slave trade.

China did not forgo such dirty things for lack of power. Even as late as 1820, it is estimated that China still produced one-third of the world's output. To colonise others is simply against the Chinese traditions and values. In no way does China deserve the title of "neocolonialist".

The Chinese way of treating others is to be equal friends, sincere brothers and co-operative partners.

It is in this spirit that China and Africa are making Focac a continuing success story.

China-Africa relations should be better understood against this broader picture.

Focac will not fail Africa. Neither will China.

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