The Key to China-Africa Longstanding, Close Ties

Ma Xinmin
Chinese Ambassador to Sudan

China-Africa relations set a model for fostering a new type of international relations. Over the past 65 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Africa, the two sides have forged unbreakable fraternity in our struggle against imperialism and colonialism and embarked on a distinct path of cooperation in our journey toward development and revitalization. Together, we have written a splendid chapter of mutual assistance amidst complex changes. The key to the long-lasting relationship between China and Africa lies in several principles widely applauded by our African friends.

First, China never interferes with the internal affairs of African countries. China and Africa uphold political equity and mutual trust and always treat each other in good faith. Both sides respect each other’s choice to explore a development path suited to our national conditions, support each other on issues concerning each other’s core interests and major concerns, and remain united and coordinated in regional and international affairs. Together, we strive to safeguard the common interests and legitimate rights and interests of developing countries at large including China and African countries.

The West is inclined to interfere with the internal affairs of African countries and pursue hegemony, power politics, unilateralism, and bullying. Unlike them, China never seeks colonialism and refuses to impose its will on others, pursue selfish gains, engage in geopolitical rivalry, or carve out a sphere of influence.

Instead, China adheres to the principle of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs and upholds independence, mutual respect, and equal negotiation. China also respects African countries’ own choices and supports their respective sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. What’s more, China remains committed to increasing the voice and representation of Africa and the rest of the developing world in global governance and defending their right to common development and international fairness and justice, setting a good example for international cooperation with Africa.

As early as in the 1950s and 1960s, the Chinese people that just put an end to the hardship and abuse of the old days tightened the belt and helped African brothers free themselves from colonialism. In the 1970s, Algeria and other countries jointly tabled a resolution at the United Nations (UN), many African countries including Sudan firmly supported it, carrying China into the UN. In this way, the People’s Republic of China’s lawful seat in the UN was restored. Currently, under the principles of China’s Africa policy put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping, i.e. sincerity, real results, amity and good faith, and pursuing the greater good and shared interests, and with concerted efforts of Chinese and African leaders, China-Africa cooperation has been lifted to a new and unprecedented height. On the journey ahead, China and Africa are moving toward the goal of building a closer China-Africa community with a shared future.

Second, China attaches no political conditions to economic cooperation with and economic aid to Africa. China and Africa champion economic win-win cooperation and push for common interests and shared development and progress. China’s assistance to Africa is committed to sincere cooperation and aimed at assisting African countries with their economic development and improvement of people’s wellbeing, thus bringing a better life to their people.  

Western countries often put their interests above the interests of others. By contrast, China never seeks selfish interests through cooperation with Africa or takes a zero-sum approach. China neither makes its economic aid conditional upon the so-called “political reform” and “economic transformation” nor gives an empty promise. Instead, China holds that shared interests and the greater good are of vital importance, but more emphasis should be given to the latter. Acting in line with the traditional Chinese philosophy, “Do not do to others what you do not want others to do to you”, China always respects the sovereignty of recipient countries as well as their right to choose their development path and model. This creates a new model of mutually-beneficial cooperation between developing countries. 

China stays committed to a global economic system featuring openness, inclusiveness, and win-win cooperation. To this end, China shares development opportunities with African countries and deepens win-win cooperation with Africa through Belt and Road cooperation, 10 major cooperation plans, eight major initiatives, and nine programs, in a bid to make the pie of common interests bigger and our development a good opportunity for other countries to grow.

The outcomes of China’s assistance to Africa have been witnessed by all. Preliminary statistics show that from 2000 to 2022, China helped African countries build more than 13,000 km of railway, nearly 100,000 km of highway, 1,000 bridges, and 100 ports, plus over 80 large-scale power facilities, and funded over 130 medical facilities, 45 sports venues, and over 170 schools. Additionally, China trained more than 160,000 persons for Africa and created over 4.5 million jobs in aggregate. To quote an African friend, “Infrastructure built by China in Africa over the past two decades has outnumbered that by the West in the past several centuries.”

China-Africa cooperation means opportunities for development for African people, rather than the so-called “debt trap”. According to data from the World Bank, of the 696 billion USD external debt of 49 African governments with data, about three quarters is owed to multilateral institutions and non-Chinese private creditors. The average interest rate on loans from Western private lenders is almost twice that of Chinese lenders.

China has made a positive contribution to easing the debt burden of African countries. After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, China entered into debt suspension agreements or reached a consensus on debt relief with 19 African countries, as part of its efforts to implement the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI). The total debt service payments suspended by China are the largest among G20 members. Anyone that truly supports African development is aware that the so-called “Chinese debt trap” is pure disinformation created by those who do not hope to see African development pick up speed, in an attempt to keep African countries trapped permanently in poverty and underdevelopment.

Third, China never exports ideology to Africa. Both China and Africa boast their splendid civilization. The Chinese and African civilizations are an integral part of world civilization. China and African countries are committed to mutually enriching cultural exchanges and promoting the harmonious coexistence between civilizations.

Different from Western countries in support of the superiority of certain civilizations, China never imposes its values on others. China refuses to export ideology, instigate color revolution or democratic transformation or give condescending lecturing. China stresses respect and understanding in its cooperation with Africa and sticks to the principles of treating each other as equals and seeking common ground while shelving differences. This is conducive to our connection and complementarity. Together, the two civilizations open up a new chapter in sincere friendship and mutual learning.

China insists that no country is superior to others in the world. It is completely unreasonable to make a certain country’s standards the universal ones for the world. We need to promote humanity’s common values of peace, development, equity, justice, democracy, and freedom, and promote equal dialogue, mutual learning, and exchanges between civilizations. We must reject ideological lines or any value alliance tailor-made for certain countries, and resist the superiority of certain civilizations.

China sees Africa as a broad stage for international cooperation rather than an arena for competition among major countries. China-Africa cooperation is not an exclusive mechanism. Be it the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Global Development Initiative (BDI), or the Global Security Initiative (GSI), China looks forward to more countries and international organizations getting on board, particularly Africa’s traditional cooperation partners. This will enable us to pool the great synergy of the international community in supporting Africa’s development, thus helping African countries achieve peace, security, and development at an early date.

As the Chinese proverb says, “True gold fears no fire.” China and Africa are always a community with a shared future. Similar past experiences and shared development goals and strategic interests have brought China and Africa close together. Looking ahead, China stands ready to work with Sudan and other African countries to build on past achievements to create an even brighter future for China-Africa friendship and cooperation.

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