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China Focus: New features highlight Sino-African relations

(Xinhua)

08:10, July 19, 2012

BEIJING, July 18 (Xinhua) -- After a decades-long friendship that highlighted political support from the start, cooperation between China and African nations now features a focus on fostering the continent's ability to self-develop, analysts have said.

"Sino-African cooperation has shown new characteristics in the new century, which include a shift to economic cooperation, an emphasis on mutual benefit and a focus on strengthening the continent's independent development capacity," said Prof. Qi Jianhua of the China Foreign Affairs University.

With a shared mission of fighting for national independence, China and African countries first rendered political support to each other after World War II. Later, the shared task of achieving national prosperity has led them to form tight economic ties, Qi said.

China and African countries boosted their cooperation further after the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000, which has become an important platform for collective dialogue and an effective mechanism for practical cooperation between China and Africa.

Bilateral trade rocketed to 166.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2011 from 12 million U.S. dollars in the 1950s, making China Africa's biggest trade partner for three straight years.

Aside from trade, China has dedicated itself to promoting the continent's self-development, as both China and African economies will require sustainable development in the face of a complex global economic situation in the new century, Qi said.

One of China's most significant contributions is its training of large numbers of technical personnel, Qi noted. Data from the Ministry of Commerce showed that China trained 15,000 African personnel from 2006 and 2009.

Premier Wen Jiabao vowed to train 20,000 African personnel from 2010 to 2012 at the FOCAC's fourth Ministerial Conference held in 2009.

An eight-point plan announced at the forum, which highlighted a China-Africa partnership in addressing climate change and cooperation in science and technology, underscored China's efforts to boost Africa's self-development and help the continent realize sustained growth.

However, booming China-Africa ties have invited criticism of China for alleged "plunder" of resources on the continent.

"Take a trip to African countries. See and feel on your own. You'll understand that 'China's development will bring opportunities' is how most African people view Sino-Africa cooperation," said He Wenping, a research fellow on African studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

Different from exploitation of Western powers in Africa over the past century, China has paid equal emphasis on local infrastructure construction and invested heavily in the continent, such as railways and highways, He said.

China has also adopted a string of measures to facilitate mutually beneficial cooperation. They include expanding imports of high value-added products in Africa, imposing zero tariffs on African exports and increasing aid and investment in Africa, Qi said.

In 2011, China saw a record 20.1-billion-U.S.-dollar trade deficit with African countries. China's direct investment in Africa rose from 210 million U.S. dollars in 2000 to 1.44 billion U.S. dollars in 2009.

China and African cooperation has also weathered the storm of the 2008 economic crisis, which has led to a decrease in trade and investment from developed economies.

Despite political turmoil in North Africa and a persistent global economic slump, China's trade with six North African countries has remained vigorous, with trade with Sudan and Egypt last year surging by 34 percent and 27 percent, respectively, from the previous year.

"The efforts China has dedicated to poverty relief and development in Africa are the reasons why China-Africa relations have endured the test of time," He said, adding that the complementary economies of China and Africa have created a foundation for their partnership.

The FOCAC's fifth Ministerial Conference will be held from July 19 to 20 in Beijing.

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