Chinese party and state chairman Hu Jintao announced on the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation’s 5th ministerial-level meeting’s opening ceremony in Beijing on Thursday that China would provide 20 billion US dollars in loans to African countries during the next three years. This is twice as much as China’s commitment of three years ago, writes the BBC‘s Mandarin website. China had offered loans both on the Cooperation Forum’s 2006 and 2009 ministerial-level meetings. These two-days events are held every three years.
In 2006, Hu had announced 500 million US dollars in loans, and in 2009, chief state councillor Wen Jiabao announced ten billion (probably – the BBC apparently forgot a number of zeros) US dollars. Before the meeting this year, Chinese trade minister Chen Deming (陈德铭) wrote in an article that Sino-African bilateral trade had reached a historic record high of 166 billion US dollars.
Foreign ministers, officials in charge of foreign trade, and UN Secretary General Ban Kyi-Moon, as well as the African Union’s outgoing chairman Jean Ping took part in the opening ceremony on Thursday.
From the script of Hu’s speech in full, as published by Phoenix Media (Hong Kong):
China and Africa have cooperatively set up 29 Confucius Institutes or Confucius Classrooms. In a “20+20 cooperation plan”, twenty renowned universities from China and twenty renowned universities from Africa have built relationships between each other. China and Africa help each other in international affairs, united collaboration has become closer, the two sides cooperate closely on issues such as United Nations reform, reacting to climate change, sustainable development, the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round and other major issues, to protect developing countries’ common interests, to promote the democratization of international relations, to promote a direction in the international order which will be fairer and more reasonable.
Compared with six years ago, the international situation has changed greatly. Peace, development and cooperation remain the trends of our times, but there are clearly unstable and undetermined factors in the international trends. They remain affected by the global financial crisis, rising and falling international and regional hotspots, and an unfair and unreasonable international political and economic order which still affects and restricts global peace and development. Many developing countries’ development momentum is growing, but also facing difficulties and challenges.
After remarks of China being the world’s biggest developing country, and Africa consisting of the world’s greatest number of developing countries, as well as words of gratitude for African support in China’s development during the past six decades, Hu stated a number of promises, many of which are mentioned in a report on the BBC Mandarin website.
China also pledged to help in African human-resource training and provides 18,000 government scholarships, as well as dispatching medical staff to Africa, writes the BBC Mandarin website. China would [continue to] help to increase African agricultural technology and to improve individual countries’ customs systems and trade facilitation, Hu is quoted. China would also support African-Union peace-keeping missions, provide financial support for military development [to that end], and provide training for African-Union peace and security staff.
Hu called for a new situation in a Sino-African strategic partnership:
China and Africa should closely coordinate their cooperation in international affairs. We want to jointly protect the UN Charter’s purposes and principles, advocate the democratization of international relations, promote harmonious and balanced global development, oppose bullying of the weak by the strong, the strong bullying the weak, leaning on ones wealth to suppress the poor, we will strengthen discussion and coordination, take care of each others mutual concerns, join hands in reacting to global climate change, food security, sustainable development and other global challenges.
People-to-people diplomacy plays a role, too. As the fourth item of five, non-governmental or
people-to-people friendship shall establish a solid public-opinion basis. China proposes to carry out “Sino-African people-to-people friendship actions”, to support and encourage bilateral non-governmental organizations, cooperation in the exchange between women and the young, to create a “Sino-African News Exchange Center” in China, to encourage exchanges and activities between Sino-African bilateral news media people, support the exchange of news people between news organizations of both sides, to continue the implementation of “Sino-African joint research and exchange plan”, and sponsorship of 100 projects of exchange and cooperation between academics and researchers.
Not everything is as smooth as Hu’s speech on Thursday might suggest. Zimbabwe, one of China’s closest allies (and whose president, Robert Mugabe, is definitely more interested in democratization of international relations), is investigating persistent reports of rampant abuse of workers by Chinese employers. But then, the statement came from Zimbabwe’s minister of labor and social welfare, who is a member of the Movement of Democratic Change (MDL) – and the MDL is definitely the weaker half of Zimbabwe’s uneasy “coalition” government between president Mugabe’s cronies and the once oppositional MDL.
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