China's bond of commitment

Updated: 2012-07-25 13:20

By He Wenping (China Daily)

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New round of assistance to Africa will benefit its development and help promote peace and stability across the world

China's latest measures to boost ties with African countries, as outlined by President Hu Jintao at a forum in Beijing on Thursday, are expected to enrich Sino-African cooperation and open up new avenues for further development of the decades-long partnership.

The fifth Ministerial Meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation that concluded on Friday appraised the implementation of the plans and measures adopted by the forum's fourth ministerial meeting two years ago, and passed a declaration and an action plan aimed at mapping out Sino-African development over the next three years.

Addressing the opening ceremony of the two-day meeting, President Hu put forward five priority areas to expand interaction with African countries and announced that China will provide $20 billion credit loans to help them develop infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing, and small and medium-sized enterprises.

China will also help African countries enhance their capacity for overall development, and work to promote peace and stability in Africa to create a secure environment for the continent's development. China's assistance measures for Africa also include a program to train 30,000 personnel in various sectors, offering 18,000 government scholarships, sending more Chinese medics and health workers to the continent and taking up projects to provide safe drinking water to the African people.

Compared with previous measures, the latest ones involve broader areas and will be a strong driving force for the development of Sino-African ties, just as Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said at the closing ceremony of the meeting. Held against the backdrop of African countries' having endured the repercussions of the global financial crisis and the social disturbances in some North African nations, the meeting has drawn special attention of the international community.

The African economy as a whole has maintained a comparatively rapid development momentum for more than a decade after the mid-1990s, with a per capita annual growth rate of nearly 6 percent. Under the impact of the global financial crisis, African economic growth, however, fell below 2 percent in 2009. But thanks to cooperation with China and other emerging economies the African economy's growth rose to 4.6 percent in 2010.

Unfortunately, the continuous social and political turbulences that swept across North Africa have pushed the continent's economic development toward the bottom again. At a time when European countries are bogged down in a debt crisis and thus cannot offer any help to Africa and when the tendency for a neo-interventionism into African affairs keeps increasing, African countries have higher expectations from expanded cooperation with China in the fields of economics and trade as well as security.

In this context, the new cooperation measures announced by President Hu are in line with the expectations of and calls from African countries and have the potential to take Sino-African cooperation to new heights.

The $20 billion loans promised by China to African countries - twice the amount offered by China in 2009 - will encourage more Chinese enterprises to pursue cooperation with African enterprises in infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing, and other development projects. According to Ministry of Commerce figures, the number of China's enterprises with investments in Africa exceeds 2,000 and the number is expected to rise considerably in the next three years.

The launch of Africa-bound assistance projects closely related to local people's livelihood will help enhance mutual understanding between Chinese and African peoples, and refute the canards spread by some Western countries that China's expanded cooperation with Africa is mainly aimed at establishing "neo-colonialism" and plundering the continent's resources. That apart, improved livelihood of the local people because of China's help will further consolidate the foundation of Sino-African cooperation among African people.

Having suffered numerous wars, internal chaos and conflicts, the African people have realized that any development effort without the guarantee of peace and security will not last long.

Besides the deaths of innumerable local people and rampant destruction in Libya, lingering social disturbances also forced the withdrawal of 35,000 Chinese personnel from that country in 2011. And the conflicts between various factions in Sudan led to the killing or kidnapping of some Chinese employees. These developments prove that Africa's security is closely related not only to local development, but also to the fate of Africa-based Chinese enterprises and their employees.

Helping African countries create a peaceful and secure environment will benefit the continent's development. It will also serve the interests of China and be beneficial to peace and stability across the world.

The author is a researcher with the Institute of Western Asian and African Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.