Another milestone of China-Africa cooperation

08:19, November 12, 2009      

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The 4th Ministerial Conference of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum (FOCAC) wrapped up in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday. The meeting, capped by two final documents, augured a promising future of comprehensive China-Africa cooperation in the coming years.

Chinese and African leaders and ministers reiterated during the event their commitments to the long-standing friendship between the two sides, expressing the hope that China and the continent would maintain the mutual support and mutual benefit in the time of uncertainty.

The traditional friendship and the latest developments in the multilevel cooperation were lauded by 18 heads of state and government who attended the conference, as well as scores of ministers of foreign and economic affairs.

It is no easy task to fulfill eight promises on comprehensive cooperation made three years ago, when the financial crisis had yet to bite, as stated by the leaders and ministers. With renewed pledges on plans of fund, trade, culture, social development and climate change, it is destined to be another milestone after the Beijing Summit in 2006.

Nowadays, a large number of projects, including roads, hospitals, schools, telecom network and agricultural technology demonstration centers are being carried out on the vast continent. The two sides are also working on six economic and trade cooperation zones that would facilitate enterprises. Thanks to bilateral resolution and action, these substantial steps have strengthened the partnership between China and the continent.

"Chinese people cherish the sincere friendship towards the African people, and China's support for Africa's development is concrete and real," said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in a keynote speech of the meeting.

"Whatever change may take place in the world, our policy of supporting Africa's economic and social development will not change," Wen stressed.

According to the eight new measures announced by Wen, China will help Africa build up financing capacity, and will provide 10 billion U.S. dollars in concessional loans to African countries and support Chinese financial institutions in setting up a special loan of 1 billion dollars for small- and medium-sized African businesses.

The new commitments, which made headlines across the African media the next day, epitomized the all-weather friendship based on sincerity, equality, pragmatism, efficiency and mutual-trust. These values merit ovation since the economic turmoil, though in remission, still festers.

China's approach to Africa has long been habitually disliked by a handful of sceptics, so no wonder the forum was once overshadowed by the accusations of "exploiting" and "neocolonialism" against the country. These accusations, while sensible prima facie, are far less persuasive than imagined.

China's dependence on African oil is still dwarfed by Western energy giants, according to the latest statistics. Now China is not the largest importer of Africa's oil. Its import takes up only 13 percent of Africa's oil export and its investment in Africa's oil and natural gas accounts for less than 6.25 percent of the global investment in this field.

History tells us that China's relations with the continent have gone beyond makeshift considerations on energy or other resources, as a Chinese poem cited by Premier Wen said, "A time-honored friendship is like the gold. After repeated smelting, it keeps its true color."

Nine years after the first version, the FOCAC has become an effective platform for China-Africa dialogue, an engine that powers bilateral cooperation and a new brand of South-South relations. What the whole world has witnessed after the Beijing Summit was consistent, efficient and solid actions. It has every reason to expect more in the future.

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