China-Africa to inject stability, positive energy to turbulent world: Chinese defense minister

By Guo Yuandan, Leng Shumei and Chen Qingqing (Global Times) 10:37, August 30, 2023

Positive China-Africa cooperation can inject more stability into the world, Chinese State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Li Shangfu said at the Third China-Africa Peace and Security Forum that kicked off on Tuesday in Beijing. Some defense officials and military officers from African countries also hailed the China-proposed Global Security Initiative (GSI), noting the deepened China-Africa cooperation could help tackle security challenges the continent is facing.

Unlike some former colonial powers in the West such as France that continue to intervene in various ways in Africa, supporting different political factions and inciting conflicts, China respects Africa's independent development and its political wisdom in choosing its own development path, and China actively participates in meetings in tackling hotspot issues and urging regional countries to resolve divergences through negotiations, some observers said.

At present, Africa has become a stage for large-scale geopolitical confrontation, being confronted with many forms of security threats such as terrorism, imperialism and hegemony. The forum, injecting new impetus to the GSI, opposes foreign interference and advocates political settlement of conflict, fundamentally reducing Africa's dependence on external intervention and not creating opportunities for external forces to intervene in the continent, they noted.

Four 'no change'

In a keynote speech delivered at the forum, Li stressed that, as to the cooperation between China and Africa, the principle of equality will not change, the tradition of helping each other will not change, the direction of practical cooperation will not change and the spirit of valuing righteousness will not change.

China is the biggest developing country and Africa is the continent home to the largest number of developing countries. China and Africa share weak and woe, and China is ready to firmly stand with the African people to implement the GSI and build a China-Africa community with shared future, Li said.

In the future, China will enhance military cooperation with Africa in various fields including joint exercises, peacekeeping and escorting, military education as well as professional training in order to inject more certainty, stability and positive energy to a turbulent world, Li noted.

It is the first time the forum was held offline in a post-COVID pandemic setting. Representatives from nearly 50 countries and regional organizations in Africa attended the forum.

The core of Li's speech touches upon the biggest concern of our country and our military, which is the security issue in a turbulent world, Colonel Aboubarca Serme from Mali told the Global Times on Tuesday at the forum. He noted that it is an undoubted consensus of China and Africa that we should enhance cooperation based on dialogue in order to deal with competition.

"Experience proves that the expansion of some alliances has exacerbated the insecurity in the world. Thus we have to change our mind and methods to safeguard global security. This is what African countries, especially Saharan countries, care most about. And cooperation on this should not be limited between African countries and Saharan countries, but should be expanded to all countries with the same goal," Serme said.

Ambassador Bankole Adeoye, commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of African Union Commission, announced at the forum that a joint China-Africa naval exercise will be held in 2024.

"The current global peace and security situation is constantly changing, and Africa's peace and security face challenges. These complex factors include terrorism, violent extremism, and climate change, all of which pose challenges to peace and security. These threats and challenges partially affect national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and unity," Adeoye said during his speech at the forum.

For the African Union, it is crucial to establish a mutually beneficial partnership with China. China and Africa have a lot of cooperation potential in the field of peace and security, he noted. He also said that he hopes African countries can further enhance capacity building, such as strengthening early warning mechanisms and taking prompt action.

Currently, there are numerous security challenges in Africa, like regular migration and maritime security, Gambian Defense Minister Sering Modou Njie told the Global Times on Tuesday at the forum. He noted that Africa is also working with China to address these problems.

Njie spoke highly of the China-proposed GSI. "It is a wonderful initiative. I think China is partnering with Africa to address global security challenges. And the African continent is appreciative of China's effort. China and Africa have been doing a lot of work in enhancing cooperation in many sectors, especially in the security sector. Today's forum will add an impetus to that initiative."

The China-Africa security cooperation is mainly driven by the African side, as issues on the continent have to be solved by Africans themselves, which is in stark contrast to Western approach of intervening in internal affairs of the African countries, He Wenping, director of the African Studies Section under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"The Sahel region is now the frontline of the counter-terrorism battle, but what we can see is that the US-led Western counter-terrorism moves in some countries did not end up well, leading to poverty and less development," He said. She noted that the China-proposed GSI upholds a comprehensive security perspective, helping to build a more sustainable peace.

Example for global cooperation

During the latest China-Africa Leaders' Dialogue co-chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Johannesburg, South Africa, Xi said China will launch the Plan for China-Africa Cooperation on Talent Development, planning to train 500 principals and high-caliber teachers of vocational colleges every year, and 10,000 technical personnel with both Chinese language and vocational skills for Africa.

As China will enhance military cooperation with Africa including military education, some military representatives to the forum said personnel training and military education echoed the needs of African countries, particularly, when terrorism that fills the main roads in Africa is not just an African business but a global threat.

"The cooperation between China and Africa is a successful example for international cooperation," Colonel Serme said. He told the Global Times that a very important point is that China adheres to the principle of not to interfere in other countries' domestic affairs while African countries value independence so much.

"China treats every country equally, it is exactly because of this that we can better understand cooperation with China and I hope all our cooperation can achieve good results in the future," he said.

Gambian Defense Minister Njie said the China-Africa cooperation is expected to be enhanced in numerous fields, such as counter-terrorism. Rather than security and defense, the two sides have also been collaborating in many other important fields like agriculture, health and infrastructure.

"I think this is what we need to do. Africa and China have to collaborate to make sure that the realization of these important initiatives is achieved," he said.

The development and growth of the Chinese military not only provides a solid guarantee for the security of China but also makes significant contributions to maintaining international peace and stability, Zhao Xiaozhuo, a researcher of international military relations at the PLA Academy of Military Science, told the Global Times on Tuesday. "African countries hope to draw from China's development experience and they also want China to take measures to assist African nations in enhancing their security governance capabilities."

These measures include China assisting in personnel training, enabling these individuals to possess military management and command capabilities, as well as the ability to respond to and handle emergencies, he said.

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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