The year of 2020 bears great significance for China-Africa relations, as it not only marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), but will also shine in history for witnessing the joint efforts launched by the two sides to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, the number of confirmed cases in Africa is spiking when the virus rampages through the world. To cope with the situation, China has offered timely emergency aid to the continent despite the strains it has encountered at home, offering huge amount of medical supplies through various channels to the African Union (AU) and African countries, sharing its experiences, dispatching medical teams and assisting Africana countries to purchase medical supplies in China.
The joint efforts reveal the fine tradition of the two parties sharing weal and woe, serving as an epitome of the China-Africa comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership and China-Africa community of a shared future.
However, “political virus” is something more dangerous than COVID-19. Instead of focusing on the exacerbating situation in their own countries, some Western politicians and media outlets stigmatized China and even incited the international public opinion to demand “reparations” from it, regardless of the efforts China has made to defeat the virus.
In this regard, the international society, including the African countries, has kept a clear head and strongly objected to connecting the virus to politics or specific countries.
Guangzhou, south China’s Guangdong province was recently caught by a false accusation that misinterprets the city’s containment measures imposed for local citizens and foreign nationals as discriminatory against Africans in the city.
Some Western major countries made hypes on this matter and stirred things up. They even discredited the achievements of China-Africa cooperation to drive a wedge between the two sides for political goals.
In fact, their plot to snatch political interests out of the pandemic has challenged the bottom line of morals and is doomed to fail.
Africa knows the truth and has its own judgement. Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi recently spoke over the phone with Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the Commission of the AU, while Chen Xiaodong, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, met with African diplomatic envoys to China. Besides, Chinese embassies in African countries are also actively contacting African governments. As a result, Guangdong adopted advices from the African side and further improved its health regulation for foreigners.
The importance placed by China on the matter is evident to Africa. The continent believes that China will not adopt racially discriminatory policies against Africans, said Moussa. Africa and China are friends and comrades-in-arms, and nothing can change or damage the friendship between them, the chairperson pointed out.
Many African governments and envoys to China believe that countries are tightening measures to prevent and control the pandemic at present and the policies rolled out by Guangdong province are understandable as they are for the sake of both the Chinese and foreigners’ health.
The achievements of China-Africa cooperation won’t be erased and Africa will make its own choices. Since the 21st century, China-Africa relations, building on past achievements, have made comprehensive and leapfrog progress.
China has remained Africa’s largest trading partner for ten consecutive years, and China-Africa cooperation is one of the highlights in the joint construction of the Belt and Road.
As of December 2019, more than 30 percent of the countries that had participated in the Belt and Road construction were from Africa.
A large number of flagship projects in Africa under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), such as the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway and the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway, have been completed and put into operation, infusing impetus to the economic and social development of African countries.
Africa’s acceptance and welcome for the BRI represent the historical attempt and independent choice made by the people on the continent to seek a development path that suits their own conditions.
The venues and houses, railways and bridges, dams and hydropower stations that China has built for Africa will not be wiped off just because of the provocation by certain Western countries, African scholars said.
China won’t alter its friendly policies on Africa. In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed to build relations with Africa based on sincerity, practical results, affinity, and good faith during his visit to the continent. Four years later, Xi’s proposal became a guideline for China to strengthen cooperation with all developing countries.
During Xi’s 2013 trip to Africa, he also put forward the values of friendship, justice and shared interests based on the new situation of China-Africa cooperation. Then in November 2014, such values were made the basic concepts that China upholds when developing diplomatic relations with all developing countries.
The proposal and application of these new ideas fully demonstrated that the diplomacy with Africa plays a strategic and fundamental role in China’s overall diplomatic activities.
At present, the novel coronavirus pneumonia is spreading fast in Africa, and the Chinese government has vowed to stand by the continent and fight with African countries until the virus is completely eliminated.
Looking back on history, China and Africa have formed a brotherly bond through hardships which will never be disturbed by trivial matters, let alone the attempts to sow discord.
All difficulties will be surmounted as long as China and Africa stick together and help each other. The China-Africa friendship, withstanding the test of the pandemic, is bound to go deeper.
(Zhao Chenguang is a research fellow at the Africa Studies Center of the China Foreign Affairs University.)
On April 18, medical supplies donated by the Chinese government arrive in Conakry, capital city of Guinea. (Photo courtesy of the Chinese Embassy in Guinea)