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Spotlight: Xi charts course for upgrading China-Africa ties at landmark summit

from:新华网2015-12-05 18:39

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) shakes hands with South African President Jacob Zuma during the opening ceremony of the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Johannesburg, South Africa, Dec. 4, 2015. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)

JOHANNESBURG, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed here Friday that his country and Africa lift their relations to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership and join hands to open a new era of win-win cooperation and common development.

In order to forge the new relationship, Xi, in a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the second summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), called for concerted efforts to strengthen "five major pillars" and announced 10 major plans to boost bilateral win-win cooperation.

The address, punctuated by rounds of applause, resonated among officials and observers, who say that it will lead the friendship and cooperation between the world's largest developing country and the continent that is home to the largest number of developing countries to an even brighter future.

FIVE MAJOR PILLARS

Describing China and Africa as good friends, good partners and good brothers with a common future, Xi said the two sides have always been a community of common destiny, with similar historical experiences having generated a profound friendship between their people.

Under the new circumstances, he pointed out, the two sides need to translate the strengths of their traditional friendship into driving forces to boost solidarity, cooperation and development, so as to deliver more tangible benefits to both peoples.

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) on Dec. 4, 2015. (Xinhua)

"In conducting China's relations with Africa, we adhere to the principles of sincerity, practical results, affinity and good faith and uphold the values of friendship, justice and shared interests," Xi told the audience, which included dozens of heads of state or government.

He suggested that China and African countries focus on reinforcing "five major pillars" in their joint efforts to foster the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.

In politics, the two sides should remain committed to political equality and mutual trust, said Xi, stressing that China strongly believes that Africa belongs to the African people and African affairs should be handled by the African people.

"We should respect each other's choice of development path and not impose our own will on the other," Xi said.

In the economic realm, China and Africa should remain committed to win-win cooperation, Xi said, suggesting that the two sides fully leverage the strength of political mutual trust and economic complementarity and focus on cooperation in production capacity, construction of regional transport networks and industrialization.

Meanwhile, China and Africa, which both boast a long and splendid civilization, should learn from each other in culture, and particularly focus on boosting people-to-people exchanges between the youths, women, think tanks, media organizations and universities, Xi said.

Photo taken on Dec. 4, 2015 shows a view of the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two-day summit kicked off on Friday. (Xinhua/Zhai Jianlan)

Also, the two sides need to close ranks and help each other in security, said the president, stressing that Beijing supports Africa resolving African problems in African ways and stands ready to help Africa enhance its capacity in safeguarding peace and security.

In addition, Xi called upon the two sides to cement unity and coordination on international affairs and jointly defend their common interests, and pledged that China will continue to support Africa in playing a bigger role on the world stage.

"China, after reform and opening-up of over 30 years, now has the technology, equipment, professional and skilled personnel and capital needed to help Africa realize sustainable self-development," he said.

"In particular, China has the strong political commitment to supporting Africa in achieving development and prosperity. China and Africa share mutual needs and complementarities and face a rare historic opportunity in pursuing development through cooperation," added the president.

10 MAJOR PLANS

To realize the upgrade to relationship, Xi announced, China will carry out 10 major plans in the next three years to boost its cooperation with Africa.

The big package covers the areas of industrialization, agricultural modernization, infrastructure, financial services, green development, trade and investment facilitation, poverty reduction and public welfare, public health, people-to-people exchanges, and peace and security.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd L F) and his wife Peng Liyuan (1st L F) attend a welcome banquet for the summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Johannesburg, South Africa, Dec. 3, 2015. (Xinhua/Huang Jingwen)

To ensure smooth implementation of the initiatives, China will offer 60 billion U.S. dollars of funding support, Xi said, specifying that the sum includes 5 billion dollars of grant and interest-free loans, 35 billion dollars of preferential loans and export credit, 5 billion dollars of additional capital for the China-Africa Development Fund and the Special Loan for the Development of African SMEs each, and a China-Africa production capacity cooperation fund with the initial capital of 10 billion dollars.

The programs, stressed the president, will focus on helping African countries break the three development bottlenecks of backward infrastructure, talent shortage and inadequate fund, accelerate industrialization and agricultural modernization, and realize independent and sustainable development.

As regards the lack of skilled personnel, Xi said China will establish a number of regional vocational education centers and several capacity-building colleges for Africa, train 200,000 technicians for African countries, and provide the continent with 40,000 training opportunities in China.

Meanwhile, China will offer African students 2,000 education opportunities with degrees or diplomas and 30,000 government scholarships, he said, adding that each year his country will also invite 200 African scholars to visit China and 500 African youths to study in China each year and train 1,000 media professionals from Africa.

Local medical staff receive training from Chinese doctors on Ebola treatment in Monrovia, Liberia, Dec. 3, 2014.(Xinhua/Yang Guoyu)

On poverty reduction, Xi said China will launch 200 "Happy Life" projects and special programs focusing on women and children, and cancel outstanding debts in the form of bilateral governmental zero-interest loans borrowed by the relevant least developed African countries that mature at the end of 2015.

In order to help Africa accelerate agricultural modernization, China will carry out agricultural development projects in 100 African villages to raise rural living standards, send 30 teams of agricultural experts to Africa, and establish a "10+10" cooperation mechanism between Chinese and African agricultural research institutes, he added.

"China is greatly concerned about the poor harvest caused by El Nino in many African countries and will provide 1 billion yuan (156 million dollars) of emergency food aid to the affected countries," he said.

On security cooperation, Xi announced that China will provide a total of 60 million dollars in free aid to the African Union (AU) to support the building and operation of the African Standby Force and the African Capacity for the Immediate Response to Crisis.

"China will continue to participate in UN peacekeeping missions in Africa and support African countries' capacity building in areas such as defense, counter-terrorism, riot prevention, customs and immigration control," he said.

Officers of Chinese peacekeepers of UN Mali Mission chat with an elder after bringing medicines to villagers in Gao, Mali, May 27, 2015. (Xinhua/Han Lijian)

ENTHUSIASTIC RESPONSES

Xi's address was warmly welcomed by other leaders at the Johannesburg summit of the 15-year-old FOCAC, which groups China, 50 African countries that have established diplomatic ties with China, and the Commission of the AU, and has immediately drawn an enthusiastic response from officials and observers from across the region.

In their respective speeches at the opening ceremony, South African President Jacob Zuma, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who also holds the rotating AU chair, and AU Commission Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma spoke highly of Africa-China relations and the raft of cooperation measures Xi announced.

Echoing Xi's proposal to raise the Africa-China relationship to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, they vowed to work with China to steer bilateral interaction into an even brighter future.

"We have been very impressed by the speech of President Xi, because it is a very concrete proposal and a road map for the cooperation between China and Africa," said Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, president of the Commission of the Economic Community of West Africa States.

With the 10 areas of cooperation listed in Xi's speech corresponding to the priority of Africa, "we believe that is a starting point of a very successful cooperation between China and Africa," he told Xinhua.

Members of China's Tianjin Performing Art Troupe take part in a parade with local children in Grahamstown, South Africa, July 9, 2011.(Xinhua/Liang Quan)

Tlohang Sekhamane, foreign minister of Lesotho, noted that Xi's speech covers almost all fields of China-Africa cooperation.

"From infrastructure building to offering technical training, from poverty reduction to cooperation in the security sector, the measures announced by Xi are badly needed by African countries," said Sekhamane.

"It is clear that China wants to be a partner looking for cooperation with Africa and it seeks opportunities of real win-win cooperation instead of looking for a situation of dominance," added the minister.

Adji Ayassor, minister of state in the Togolese Ministry of Economy, Finance and Development Planning, told Xinhua that the Chinese president's speech told "the truth about the cooperation between China and Africa."

Contrary to what some claim in the West, China "is not colonizing Africa," he said. "We believe that is the best way to develop Africa. ... It (China) is taking a real path of Africa's development. It is a real cooperation."

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